Catching Up With: Estelle Johnson

April 13, 2011

Estelle Johnson is in her second season with the Philadelphia Independence of the Women’s Professional Soccer League (WPS). The former Kansas star played with the Jayhawks from 2006-09. She finished her Kansas career recording the fourth-most starts of any field player in team history, and the most games started.

The Independence opened their season last week, allowing to catch up with Estelle:

On the differences between her first and second years with Philadelphia:
“I think the biggest difference is that I know what to expect now. Last year I would say was a lot like my freshman year of college, coming in and hoping that I’d fit in and hoping that I’d succeed in that type of environment. I definitely experienced the league last year and how competitive it is and (figured out) how much work you have to put in. I feel so much more comfortable (this year).”

On if she feels like she’s established herself in the league:
“To a certain point (I feel more established). I know that my coach (Paul Riley) has noticed how much work I put in during the offseason and come in (this year) with more touch on the ball. He said that training me this year and training me last year is like night and day. I’m that much better on the ball and stuff like that, which is always good to hear. It eases you a little bit, but at the same time you know what formation he wants to play or who is going to be playing better than you. Job-wise, I feel a little more stable, but making sure I get playing time is always a struggle.”

On if she feels like she earned the coaching staff’s trust at the end of last year:
“The way that we trained last year, I’d never been trained like that before. Especially with the little details, like passing and all the stuff that I never really got into before. Over the length of the season, I picked up a little bit on that and just getting to train with (the team) every day and (Coach Riley) being able to see me improve every day really helped him have a little more confidence in me.”

On what she did to train in the offseason:
“I’m actually lucky, being from Colorado I don’t think there’s a harder place to train (with the elevation). Just being able to run outside helped a lot. I trained with (Craig Deacon), who coaches the semi-pro team that I used to play for and he was willing to do individual sessions with me during the week. When I wasn’t on the ball, I’d go out and run on my own or go play racquetball with my siblings. I did whatever I could to stay in good shape.”

On if she is still in awe of being in the WPS:
“Last year, I was a little unsure of myself; of people (I’m competing with) being that good at soccer. But I think I’ve improved, so now when I see my teammate make a great play, like a bicycle kick or something like that, I’ll cheer for them more than I will be in awe of it.”

On the closeness of the team:
“The fact that we do two-a-days all season – which we’re the only WPS team that does that – is an advantage. We spend so much time together, whether it’s on the training ground or in-between practices. We have a team lounge where everybody goes to eat lunch and hang out or watch movies. I think we’re definitely closer than other WPS teams. I definitely think that training so much together has brought us really close.”

On what she misses most about KU:
“The atmosphere. There is no better feeling than walking into the athletic buildings and seeing one of the basketball guys or one of the softball girls or one of the volleyball girls and knowing that they’re going to be at our game later and we’re going to be at their game the next day. Kansas has such a supportive atmosphere, I don’t think anything can match up to it.”

On if she keeps in touch with many of her former KU teammates:
“I try to keep in touch with just about everybody, but we use Twitter and Facebook and stuff like that rather than the phone. I talked to Coach (Francis) just the other day on the phone. I definitely keep in touch with people from Kansas and let them know when I’ll be in town and all of that.”

On what advice she would give the current players as they go forward:
“(Soccer at Kansas) is easier the more you do it. When you’re a freshman, you feel like you’re never going to live again. You can’t even sleep the night before every practice. Each year, it gets easier and each year you’ll get better.”

On if she misses the spring workouts with Strength Coach Molly McKinnon:
“I do actually! Everybody always asks me if the running workouts (with the Independence) are the hardest workouts I’ve ever done, because it’s a professional team. To be honest, I’ve never ran as much as I did with Molly at Kansas. I’ll tell some of my teammates the type of workouts we did at Kansas and they’ll be in awe of me. Looking back on it, it definitely helped me get to where I am now.”