10 Questions with Tina Frimpong Ellertson

What a year it’s been for two-time Pac-10 player of the year and Husky standout, Tina Frimpong Ellertson. What a year it’s been for two-time Pac-10 player of the year and Husky standout, Tina Frimpong Ellertson. Although she missed the Olympics after giving birth to her second child last spring, Ellertson has worked to quickly get back in shape and not only earn a spot on the St. Louis entry in Women’s Professional Soccer, but also a place in the U.S. National Team for its series against South Korea this week. Before going back East, she took time out from her training and role as mom to share her story of perseverance.

Were you surprised that both you and Hope Solo were allocated to the same club?
Yes, I was. All of us girls were asked by the league about our preferences, but Hope and I hadn’t talked about that. So when I saw she was going to St. Louis, too, I said, ‘No way!’ We were both really excited.

And why was St. Louis your preference and what’s your plan for the move?
It just seemed like a good fit. St. Louis, San Jose and L.A. are the closest teams to my home in Vancouver (Wash.). I had visited there following the Victory Tour a year ago. I really like the city. Lori Chalupny is probably one of my better friends on the national team and she’s always raving about St. Louis. We’re going to gradually work our way there, to St. Louis. Mya and I, we’re going to go in March or April, when preseason starts. We love MacKenzie’s school here in Vancouver, so my husband will stay back with her. In June, she will come to St. Louis and we’ll treat it like a vacation. We’ll be staying with Lori Chalupny.

Your career path has been rare in its direction. Are there many people with shared circumstances?
My story is unique in its own way. There are other moms on the team and there were other moms who paved the way. I can be a mother and still play the sport that I love. Joy Fawcett and Carla Overbeck painted a picture for the national team of how to do it. Now, there’s me, Kate Markgraf and Christie Rampone. We have children and we’re still playing at the national level. It’s not easy but we rally together and get through it.

People often believe there’s just one route to reaching a dream, but is that the case?
No, and that’s what I’ve learned through this whole process. Having MacKenzie at an early age, taking her with me to college, getting through college, having the opportunity to tryout for the national team, making the national team with Mackenzie all along the way, my husband coming along and being part of this whole thing and now having my second child. My dad, he is a huge force in my life with soccer, coaching me when I was younger, he really believed in me. You have an idea of how things will happen. When things didn’t happen that way, my family said, ‘OK, what can we do differently and still achieve the goals I’d set out for myself?’ I got through it by my faith in God, No. 1, but also my family support. Having my husband there, his family there, and having my family there–I looked to them and leaned on them for advice. I think that’s why I am where I’m at today, because of their support.

What were the most trying times early on?
When I was 18, almost 19, and went to U-Dub. I was going with a 6-month-old, with a class load, being a freshman on the team, all that. I don’t think I was ready for that. It was a good thing because I just dove in. It was hard but I think I learned quick and, again, the support that I had was huge. Studying late, staying up late with a child and then having to be at my best physically on the soccer field–those were hard times then. But I think I got used to it, thanks to all that support. But I’d have to say my freshman year was pretty hard.

Has it been smooth sailing since then?
I wouldn’t say smooth sailing, but whatever struggle came along, I knew how to handle it. I was given the tools to handle it. God really enables me to stay focused, to just do the things I have control over, such as my studies, caring for Mackenzie and playing soccer. I’m so excited to be where I am today. I hope I can show somebody or some girl that things may not go how they’re supposed to go. But you can still achieve your goals, you can still do what you want to do. You just have to grit down a little harder, and really keep your eyes focused on that goal. Don’t let anything get you down. If it does, pick yourself right back up and keep going after that goal. I think that’s the huge story I always want to portray.

What is the opportunity at hand now?
I’m so excited to be a part of the league. I know it’s going to be successful, and I want to be a huge part of that. I want to be a part of a league that–when my 7-year-old daughter or my 6-month-old daughter comes of age–they can play in one day. I never would’ve thought I would still be playing soccer. Playing for the national team has really opened up that door, and I feel so blessed and lucky. I want to make an impact at that level. That’s my goal. My goal is to keep playing the game I love as long I can.

This league, WPS, may not make you rich. Why do people feel WPS will succeed while WUSA could not?
I was still in college when the WUSA got going, so I don’t have a picture for how it all went down. I do know we have Kristine Lilly and Kate Markgraf, people who been through it, to help people make good decisions. They have a picture of how it didn’t work out, and they have learned from that. Now we can go forward and make something great.

How often have you and Hope really been teammates?
As a freshman with MacKenzie, I really didn’t have much time to be as social as most freshmen in college. Hope was always an awesome teammate, always a leader and someone I looked up to. We’re rekindling our friendship on the national team. We’ve been through a lot and it’s such a blessing that our paths keep crossing. From U-Dub to national team and now St. Louis, I think we were meant to be teammates. I’m so excited to be her teammate and be her friend again.

You had Mya and now you’re looking to get into playing shape. How is that going?
Right now, Gary Osterhage is training me again. He’s one of the best trainers ever. He trained me before I went to college and he’s helping me again 1-on-1. Technical, tactical, he’s helping me get my quick feet back again. Then I train with U18 guys premier teams, here in Vancouver. Getting called back to the national for the Victory Tour games will help get me back to where I need to be. Coming back from MacKenzie, I was a lot younger in recovering from having a baby. Now I’m a little bit older, but I’m getting there. I can’t wait to really test myself with the national team.