How one of the worldís best athletes is taking her sport to the next level
By Kim Goss
Published: Summer 2003
Now that Mark McGwire has inspired young baseball players to hit the weights as much as they hit baseballs, the next sport discovering the value of serious strength training is soccer. Leading the way in the womenís division is Canadaís Charmaine Hooper.
A member of the Atlanta Beat professional soccer team, Hooper has led her team in scoring for the past two years. She is one of the top scorers in the Womenís United Soccer Association (WUSA) and last year tied the league record for scoring a goal in five consecutive games. A midfielder-forward for the Canadian National Team, she is Canadaís all-time goal and caps leader. She has played on menís professional soccer teams and hopes to play for the Canadaís National Womenís Team in the 2006 Olympics.
Although she was born in Georgetown, Guyana, Hooper calls Ottawa, Ontario, her hometown. She attended North Carolina State, where she majored in Food Science while leading the Wolfpack to the Atlanta Coast Championships and breaking the record for most goals (26) scored in a season. She is married to Chuck Codd, a soccer coach who played professionally.
Charmaine Hooper is known for her commitment to athletic conditioning almost as much as for her success on the soccer field. Here are some of her perspectives on playing and training:
Advice for Young Players
You should play as much as you can, because the more you touch the ball, the better your skills will become and the quicker your skills will become better.
Value of Agility Drills
Again, the most important thing for a young soccer player to do is play, play, play. When you get older, then maybe you can do the plyometrics and jumping and bounding exercises.
What I have found with 18-year-olds and younger is they feel they need a lot of carbohydrates and calories to play, but they really donít. Also, you have to experiment with food to see what works for you, such as what foods are best to eat before a game.
Weight Training for Soccer
I do a lot of different forms of lunges with dumbbells, and I do power cleans for explosiveness and jumping. But most of the strength training I do is against my bodyweight: push-ups, pull-ups, dips.
Upper Body Training in Soccer
Upper body strength is important for keeping the opposing players away from you when you have the ball. You donít realize how important upper body strength is until you come up against some physical players. When defending players bump you from behind, you have to be able to withstand that and keep the ball at the same time. Sometimes when you go up for headers, you fall on your back or on your side, and having strong shoulders and arms helps cushion the fall.
Developing ďHooper AbsĒ
Iíve been doing abdominal exercises since my freshman year at the university, and now itís a habit that after practice I do some abdominal exercises. And genetics has to play a part in it, because I can go for months without doing any abdominal exercises and still have some definition.
When youíre in your season, itís really important to do a lot of short sprints for sharpness and that burst of speed. When youíre out of season itís okay to run the longer distances.
Training While Traveling
When Iím traveling I always find some way to work out or run.
If you do too much then youíre not going to be motivated. Either your body will be sore or youíll be discouraged because it may seem like too much work.
Itís important to listen to your body whenever you train or work out so you donít train with pain.
Playing on a Menís Professional Soccer Team
The men were much faster, much stronger, so it made me sharper, quicker. I had to be very disciplined, especially on days when I didnít feel like playingóI had to be at my best on those days too. Iíve never been pushed every day like that beforeóit was a great experience for me.
Opportunities for Women Soccer Players
Over the past year or two the economy has not been great, so a lot of companies are hesitant to put forward sponsorship dollars. But opportunities are definitely out there for women soccer playersóand even more so for American players than for other players, as they have definitely put their name on the map with their success.