I want you to meet Savannah Jordan of the Portland Thorns, and here’s why: not only does she have a promising career ahead of her in women’s soccer, but she took a rather circuitous route to reach her spot. We can learn from her—especially those of us who lingered on the sidelines of our futures not sure where to funnel all of our energy.
Savannah didn’t start playing soccer as a tot. No, she actually excelled first in martial arts, taking home three U.S. Junior Olympic gold medals in sparring and earning a second-degree black belt in Korean style Taekwondo. Far from the pitch, she honed her ability to strike with confidence—a real asset as a forward. So, let’s talk with Savannah. I’m sure you will be hearing more of her in the future. (Emphasis placed by the editor.)
- Savannah, what was your parent’s reaction when you chose Taekwondo at eight years of age and were punched in the eye by an angry boy during a match?
My parents were actually very supportive. They wanted me to do what made me happy, and at that time Taekwondo was what excited me so they supported that! It was kind of cool being one of the only girls at my Taekwondo School. My competition during training was always tough because I would fight older boys, which prepared me more for competitions. Honestly, it was kind of fun…I knew if I could beat a boy three years older than me, then I could beat a girl my age.
Everyone was a little shocked when I got punched, but I basically treated it as if I were one of the guys. I didn’t get mad at him for it, he was just competitive. It is illegal to hit to the face so he was punished accordingly, but as for me being a girl and getting punched by a boy—I didn’t think anything of it. I was one of them!
- Have you encountered hostility on the pitch?
Absolutely. That is the sport we play in. Honestly, if there isn’t a little bit of hostility in every game, then you aren’t competing hard enough. I kind of enjoy games like that; it keeps my energy and competitiveness high. I obviously do my best to keep my cool and not retaliate in a disrespectful way, but I like to compete and be aggressive!
- Do female soccer players ever dive?
I have definitely witnessed some diving. I will say I have never been much of a diver. Sometimes I don’t fall enough—I like to fight through it. But I am sure it has happened many of times.
Oiling the machinery
- How would you describe your diet?
I don’t follow a specific plan, but I do try and eat healthy overall. It just helps me feel good and play at my best. However, I love food, so I try not to be too hard on myself and eat things that I enjoy sometimes too (especially when it comes to sweets).
- What’s your go-to breakfast? Are you a coffee drinker?
I LOVE coffee (I have at least two a day) and I love breakfast food. Almost every morning I have eggs, toast, some sort of fruit and coffee.
- As a forward, what training do you do specifically to increase your aerobic endurance?
Yes, I run a lot. For my position, it is typically a lot of stop-and-go…from a slow jog/walk to a full sprint. So during training, I like to work on sprint endurance—that allows me to go from 0 to 100%. I also like to run long distance. This is just something, personally, I enjoy. It helps me stay lean, while also helping me on the field with long-term endurance to last 90+ minutes in a game.
- Please describe a typical training day for us:
I like to wake up fairly early, normally around 7:30-8:00 am. I have my breakfast and coffee then will go to practice. After training, I’ll have lunch and probably go get another coffee from somewhere—I will do my own workout later. Depending on the day, I will either do a longer run (30-45 minutes) or a speed workout with sprints. Then have some dinner and if I feel good, potentially ice cream.
- How do you keep in shape during the off-season?
I basically stay on the same schedule as in training. Actually, I do more and get in better shape because I do not always have to recover fully for games on the weekends. I do more running and lifting. Also, I go to the field and do ball-work, finishing and soccer fitness. As much as I can, I play pickup with old teammates and friends.
- What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to go explore different coffee shops and write & read there. Since I graduated, I have so much free time, but I like to keep my mind stimulated by reading and I have always loved to write. I also can binge watch Netflix; just depends on my mood that day.
Savannah’s path to greatness
- Your route to soccer greatness seems to make a case for cross-training, and possibly even for postponing a soccer career while working in other disciplines. Although you have said that you began your soccer career rather late (13 years) if you could start over, would you have started soccer earlier and skipped other sports?
I don’t think that I would. I honestly think it was one of the best things for me to have not started soccer until I was 13. It never gave me time to burn-out of it or lose the excitement for the game. I also learned so many things from the other sports that I played and really enjoyed them. I still play basketball in my free time and enjoy watching other sports too (often times more than soccer). It gets my mind off of just being submerged in soccer all of the time.
- You played for Glasgow earlier this year, making a big splash with a hat-trick in your debut game. Surprisingly, your time there was cut short. According to a Scottish newspaper, this had to do with the difficulty you had training and playing on artificial turf. What would you say is the hardest part of playing on artificial turf? Would you like to say anything else about your early return to Portland?
I had been dealing with an injury that had been lingering for a while and it wasn’t getting better continuing to train on that surface. I knew that it wouldn’t help my career to stay and force it. I needed to go home, regroup and get back to 100%. Glasgow was very understanding of that and super supportive, so I am very thankful for that. Portland had drafted me earlier in the year, despite me going to Glasgow, so once I recovered to 100%, I chose to sign with them for the remainder of this year in order to be in a good training environment and build for next year.
- What is your best advice for the prevention of/recuperation from injuries?
Just take care of your body as much as possible. I never realized until I started getting older (and through college) how important recovery is. So I would focus on doing more small muscle strengthening and stability work for injury prevention and just recover your body after hard workouts.
- What are your personal goals for this season? What do you hope for the Portland Thorns?
Honestly, my goal is just to continue to get better, get more confident with things I may not be as strong at, and to have fun. I hope I can just keep enjoying playing soccer without external pressures of reaching certain goals. I am always competitive, that is just in my nature, but I never want that to take away from just having fun playing. That is when I play my best: when I am around people I love playing with and playing for and I am enjoying it.
- When things don’t work out like you originally planned, what, or who keeps you grounded?
My college soccer coach and old teammates.
- Who are your biggest fans?
Uhm…I would probably say my closest friends, girlfriend, and family.
- You have lots of soccer shoes. Is there anything else you go shop-a-holic over?
If I had a lot of money I would say just clothes and shoes. Shoes, in general, are my favorite, so probably just a variety of different shoes.
- Name one thing/place/activity on your bucket list.
- If all of your soccer dreams come true, how will Wikipedia describe your accomplishments?
Hopefully, Wikipedia could describe me as someone who constantly worked hard and brought the players up around her. Someone who was an even better person than a player. That is honestly what I hope people can say about me. It isn’t just about the accomplishments of awards or titles, but the person you were and the relationships you created through it all.
- What is the best advice you can give to a young girl or boy that wants to play professional soccer?
Don’t take it so seriously. Not in the sense of not working hard or being lazy (you should always work hard), but don’t exhaust yourself. Have fun with it. That is why we all started in the first place, right? Because soccer is fun. So have fun!
Train hard, work hard, and always remember to make your teammates look good. You need the person next to you to succeed. If they succeed, you succeed. But most importantly, enjoy it. Make friendships/ relationships—that’s what this beautiful game brings us—the memories and people that last a lifetime. So work hard, play hard, stay humble, and enjoy yourself. Everything else will come.
- Describe being part of Portland Thorns in one word.
This was an exclusive interview of Savannah Jordan conducted by Julia Valentine for Soccity. You can check out her previous interview with Seattle Reign’s Elli Reed here.