Wales’ women’s football superstar Jess Fishlock took time out of her pre-season preparations to spend time with our Wales U15 girls on camp this week.
She led a session at the Welsh Institute for Sport, in Cardiff, and held a fascinating Q&A session with the girls, who are preparing to travel to Ireland next month to compete in the Bob Docherty Trophy.
Here’s what came up in the Q&A session…
When did you start playing football?
When I was seven. My sister went to a soccer camp and my mother didn’t want her to go alone. She wanted us to do the same thing. It turns out she was terrible and I was OK. It was all because my mother didn’t want me to do soft play or something.
Who was your inspiration growing up?
My mother. She was my inspiration and she always believed in me even when there was nothing in women’s football for me. She took me everywhere and gave up all of her times and just believed.
Do you still play the same position you started in?
I have played in lots of positions. I’ve played wing, midfield, striker and even centre back and full back. When you’re growing up it will take time for your coaches or yourself to realise what position suits you best.
When you understand the game, learn it as a whole, not just from one position. If you understand and learn the position from a whole, it will be better for you.
Coaches like to pick players who are versatile. If somebody gets sent off you might have to shift across, so understand football as an entirety.
Goalkeepers go up in the last minute and some of them score goals.
What do you think the most important quality is for a footballer?
In a team environment, it’s work-ethic because you need each other to be successful and if there’s one person not working hard then the whole think just doesn’t work.
You are only as strong as your weakest player so when youre in an environment like this, everyone has to give everything. Wales might not be as technically as good or strong as the likes of USA or France but if you give everything and work, you can always get far. In football, sometimes the underdogs win and that’s how they do it.
You have to trust each other and if you don’t have that its not going to work at all.
Does hard work beat talent?
100% If you have talent and you work hard, you can go and do whatever you want to do. If you don’t have talent but work hard, you’ll get further than the talented person who doesn’t work hard. I’ve seen that throughout my whole career.
What does playing for Wales mean to you?
Everything. I’ve played for Wales for over 10 years. It’s hard because I don’t live here and I have to travel from Australia and Seattle and its hard but I’d give up all of my personal achievements if it meant Wales could go to a major tournament and be successful.
Every time I put the jersey on its like my first cap all over again. You never know when you might not be there again so you should play every game like it’s your last. That’s what I've done and thankfully I'm still here.
I leave for Seattle on Tuesday and then I’m coming back for two friendlies. I could easily say I’m in season and I can’t come but playing for Wales is one of the biggest achievements of my career and it will continue to be like that until I retire.
What advice would you give to your 15-year-old self?
Always work hard. I didn’t get that memo until a few years later. But understanding the game from more positions than one was something I didn’t get until I left the UK and moved to Holland.
That’s when I had to forget everything id learned and start again. I learned football from a wider perspective and it helped me a lot. Listening to my coaches has been huge.
I don’t mean standing on the pitch and pretending to listen, I mean trying to understand why my coach was telling me what it was.
When you understand the why, football becomes a lot easier. Don’t just do things because somebody tells you to, understand why and you’ll start to read the game and then you can go wherever you want to go.
Always ask yourself why. I didn’t get that until I was at least 20, so I wasted 10 years.