Adyson Willett is a central defender from California. Before going pro, she played for four-and-a-half years at California State University, Los Angeles.
After college, she made the journey out to Spain to play for an academy team called FC Malaga City. While with FC Malaga City, Adyson and her team won their league but also made it to the semi-finals of the Andalusian Cup. While also in Spain, she was recruited to play for her first professional team in Serbia called ZFK Masinac Trace.
After Serbia, she was recruited to play in Tijuana, Mexico where she currently plays for Xolos of Club Tijuana and has been for the past year and a half.
Off the pitch, Adyson writes for her blog, Authentically Ady, where she shares travel advice, learning new languages, and health.
Wandering eyes, this is Adyson Willett's story so far...
When did you realize you were good at soccer?
I realized I was good at soccer during my sophomore year of high school. This is when I started to believe that I could play in college and began taking steps to get recruited. It wasn’t until my junior year of college that I started being a standout on my team and noticed my potential. After my senior year of college, I realized that I didn’t want to stop playing, and after talking with my college coaches who believed I was good enough to continue playing, I began to think about playing professionally overseas.
Growing up, who did you look up to? Who was your role model?
Growing up, I began watching the US Women’s National Team in high school and my role models on the team were Abby Wambach, Carli Lloyd, and Julie Ertz. I loved how they showed leadership, intensity, and a winning mentality on the field. I was also lucky enough that when I was a newcomer on my high school and college teams, the older girls on the team were my role models. Specifically, a few players named Rachel Smith, Veronika Steen, Sahar Arghandiwal, and Zarette Munoz really took me under their wings and pushed me to grow into the player I am today.
Playing amongst these high-level players and watching their professionalism on the field set a great example for what type of player I wanted to become.
How did you find a club? Were you drafted? Used an agent? Competed in tryouts?
I didn’t have the typical NWSL drafting experience while being recruited to my teams in Spain, Serbia, and Mexico. For the academy team in Spain, I was actually contacted by a recruiter through an Instagram DM. He had seen my highlight tape on YouTube. I initially thought it was a scam, but after talking to him on the phone I realized this was an incredible opportunity that I couldn’t pass up on!
For the team in Serbia, my teammate from college reached out to me and said she had gotten in contact with an agent who was looking to send players to Eastern Europe. So a few of my college teammates and I sent the agent our highlight tapes and a week later we heard the news that the team ZFK Masinac Trace in Serbia was interested in all of us. Two weeks later we were all on a plane to Serbia!
Lastly, I was recruited to my current team in Mexico through a tryout practice game. My college coach got me in contact with a WPSL (semi-pro) team based in LA that was going to scrimmage against Xolos. Xolos was looking for a center back so before the game, my coaches from LA sent the Xolos directors my highlight tape, so they were planning on watching me closely. I was super nervous and excited before the game because I knew this was a huge opportunity and that if I played well, I could continue my professional career in Mexico!
My entire family and group of friends decided to drive down to LA to watch me play because they hadn’t watched me play live in over a year since I was in Serbia. So this also added to my nerves and my excitement. I tried not to put pressure on myself and just enjoy the game. I ended up playing really well and after the game, the coaches from Xolos pulled me aside and said they liked how I played and were interested in recruiting me. Two weeks later I signed with Xolos and began my career in Mexico!
It felt super surreal to be recruited by this team because I finally felt like I had made it as a professional soccer player. Although my first professional team was in Serbia, it didn’t have that professional feel because it was such a small league, with no media or fan base. So being recruited to play in Mexico felt like a massive step up in my career.
What was your first game like? Were you nervous? Did you experience a lot of adrenaline? How did it feel to walk out on the field for the first time as a professional player?
Because I was recruited mid-season, I didn’t get to play with Xolos in preseason and only had two weeks of practice before I played for the first time. I was still adjusting to the style of play, a new country, a different language, etc... so I didn’t feel 100% prepared going into my first game. Because of this, I was definitely nervous because I wanted to prove myself and didn’t want to mess up.
When I walked out onto the field for the first time, all the emotions hit. I felt emotional and so grateful that I had the opportunity to play for a living. This got me so excited and pumped to play. When we started playing, my nerves subsided and the adrenaline kicked in. I ended up playing really well and was put on “the team of the week” after that game.
How has your love for soccer changed over the course of your career?
My love for soccer has changed a lot over the years. Initially, I wouldn’t say I loved soccer, but I loved being an athlete. I played two other sports growing up and throughout high school, so my full-time commitment wasn’t always soccer. It wasn’t until my junior year of college that I could honestly say I loved soccer. This was when I began falling in love with the process of becoming a better player. I always wanted extra practice and would go play pickup games for hours straight or do different drills to improve my touch. I had so much fun doing this. I also began studying the game more and spent a lot of time with my college coach going over game film and learning from it.
My love has continued to grow since college and by becoming a professional player. I now have such a great admiration for this sport since it has allowed me to travel the world, meet incredible teammates, and be my source of income. I also dedicate my life outside of training to becoming a better player by taking care of my body and mind. I do this now because I want to have as long of a career as possible.
What do you think is a universal hardship that all professional soccer players face?
I think a universal hardship is missing time from family and friends. Typically you have to play in a different city or country so being away from loved ones is very common. In addition, with our strict game and practice schedules, taking time off for family events isn’t possible. I think all professional soccer players have had to sacrifice their time away from family to play at the highest level.
What have been some of the biggest life lessons you’ve learned so far in your career?
I’ve learned that making a little effort goes a long way. When playing in a different country, it’s difficult to adapt to a new language, culture, and team in a short period of time. But I’ve found that making little efforts like learning the language and integrating yourself into the team means a lot. Players respect you faster and appreciate you trying. This also makes the experience easier and more fun!
I’ve also learned that my potential is limitless. I never thought that I would become a professional soccer player; that was never a dream of mine because I didn’t think it was possible until after college. Now every year I am growing and realizing that whatever I put my mind to, I can achieve it because I have gotten this far.
You have a blog called, “Authentically Ady”, would you mind sharing why you started your blog and what you hope to achieve?
I started Authentically Ady while living in Serbia because I thought it would be fun to share what being a professional athlete is like and my experiences overseas. I want to reach athletes who are trying to improve their game and make it to the next level by being honest about my struggles on and off the pitch and how I overcame them. I hope younger players can learn from my experiences and that I can give useful advice that I’ve gained from my 20+ years playing soccer. I also use my blog as a way for me to personally learn and grow through writing. It’s a way to keep me accountable because I have to actually practice what I preach!
What do you want to do after soccer?
Before playing professionally, I always thought I would be a nurse. I got accepted into a master’s nursing program after college but decided to decline the offer to go play in Spain instead. I’m not sure if I’ll still have a passion for being a nurse once I’m done playing or if I want to stick with something on the soccer field. I know I have a passion for helping others and connecting with people. I have now started to think about doing online coaching to help athletes with the mental side of sports. So maybe when I’m done playing I’d like to start my own online business doing online coaching!
What do you want your legacy to be?
I want to be known as a leader who inspires younger players and as a role model on and off the field. I also want to be remembered as a great teammate who pushed the people around them to be better players and always brought positive energy to the team. I want to be known as a hard worker and someone resilient through challenges.
Lastly, I’d like to be a part of the first team with Xolos that wins a championship and goes down in history.