Raising Soccer Stars

Oh, to have two such talented soccer players in one family … is it nature or nurture? We talk to mum, Julie Wood, about raising her two children and their life of soccer in the early years. Her son, Chris Wood (now 19-years), played for the All Whites in the 2010 World Cup and is looking forward to the 2012 Olympics, and sister Chelsey (now 20-years) has represented NZ in the FIFA U-20 years World Cup team twice.

What were they good at in school? What were their favourite subjects?

Chelsey has always been an excellent all-round student, but that’s girls for you. Christopher struggled with dyslexia but maths was always his strong point, and his favourite subject … PE!!  Their sporting ability always gave them great “mana”, so they never had any problems at school.

Were they good eaters with healthy appetites?

They both love their food, but are aware of the side effects of over-indulging. With both parents constantly battling their weight, the children knew they had to be careful. Sport helped with this, as nutrition is part of an athlete’s life from a young age. Christopher was an awfully fussy eater but he knew he had to put the right foods in his body if he wanted to achieve. Sometimes he would gag trying to eat salad!

Did they have time for other sports/hobbies?

Both children adored cricket, with Chelsey playing for Northern Districts, but to excel at one sport you have to concentrate solely on the one discipline. They are still avid followers of all sports – it’s the only channel on in our house!

Who started playing first?

Chris always wanted to play football and at the age of 4 he went off to Onehunga Sports. Chelsey was dragged down to watch the practices and games. She was scared of the ball at first but soon decided to join in when she was 5.

Did you actively encourage them to play soccer once you realised they were both good at it?

We wanted something that would keep them active throughout their lives and thought that even if they didn’t excel at a particular sport, it would give them that love of fitness to carry into their adult lives. We tried a number of activities, always with the proviso that they had to complete a term.

At what ages did you realise that they both might have something more than the average soccer-mad kid?

I never realised – I just thought they were kids that loved their sport. Chris was always the star up front because he scores goals, but that’s just a “glory boy” striker for you! Everything that Chelsey achieved at soccer was through hard work.

Did you have a big backyard to practice in?

No, we only had a full section when we moved to Cambridge. Organised coaching was always a big part of our lives. Both kids were happy to train most nights after school.

With such a big soccer schedule between the two of them, did you need to schedule in family time?

Wednesday night was always family night – no TV and the children got to choose which activity (if any) we would do as a family.

Who were their role models?

For both of them their coaches played a big part in their lives. Mike Groom, a teacher and ex-All White, gave them the gift of love and fun of soccer.

What are the qualities you think are most important to instill in your children?

They both know that to succeed in anything you have to be the “full package” skill is not enough; you must be dedicated, respectful to your coaches and team mates. Respect and family are very important to us. They are both very supportive of each other and we have never suffered from sibling jealousy.

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