Soccer star Jackie Pope inspires young athletes to kick hard and dream big.
By Gretchen M. Sanders, Photo by Sam Wormald
Jackie Pope is a bona fide soccer mom. She has a 5-month-old baby and she’s one of the best soccer players in Texas.
The fleet-footed forward grew up dominating soccer fields in Austin and later played for the University of Tennessee and Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Okla. She played professionally for the Portland Thorns FC and the Houston Aces and internationally for the Mexican national team, an opportunity that put her on the field during the 2006 World Cup in Russia.
Today, Pope, 33, coaches at North Austin’s Lonestar Soccer Club, where she teaches girls ages 10 to 18 how to dribble and strike like Megan Rapinoe.
“The majority of the girls I coach want to play for the [U.S.] national team, in a World Cup and professionally,” says Pope, who also plays for Lonestar’s semipro team in the Women’s Premier Soccer League.
Here’s how this fierce forward keeps scoring goals.
“I wake up at 7 a.m. and do cardio before I eat anything. That could be interval running for 20 to 30 minutes or a 3- to 4-mile run. Doing fasted cardio in the morning makes me feel and eat better throughout the day. I have breakfast after my run, usually yogurt with fruit and granola and always coffee.”
“From May to August, I practice with my semipro team for two hours four evenings a week. I typically run 5 to 6 miles in one practice. When
I coach, I run anywhere from 3 to 5 miles a night. We have games on weekends. Soccer is very cardio-based, and I don’t lift much weight. My muscles come from the game, from sprinting, striking the ball and dribbling. I don’t like doing the same workout over and over again. I want to shock my body. One day, I’ll do a long-distance run. The next day, I’ll do shuttle sprints, which help me practice cutting. I’ll set up five cones, sprint to the first one and back, then sprint to the second one and back, etc. Shuttle sprints are especially good for the position I play.”
“I try to eat healthy Sunday through Friday: lots of grilled chicken, vegetables and salmon. Saturday is my cheat day, when I enjoy myself. During soccer games, I might have a Clif Bar for energy and Gatorade for the electrolytes. I try to eat a good pre-game meal like pasta so I don’t have to eat much while I’m playing. I drink a lot of water when I’m off the field and stay away from energy drinks. I’d rather get my sugar from natural sources, fruit.”
“Soccer gear is simple. All you need are cleats and shinguards. I prefer small shinguards that are less bulky. Nike sponsored me when I played professionally, and I still wear mostly Nike gear: Nike athletic shorts and long-sleeve tops and even a Nike headband. I coach in turf shoes, and I wear a team uniform from Nike during games. I wear long socks to hold my shinguards in place, and I get new cleats every season. A good pair can cost up to $300. I own lots of soccer balls. I probably have 20 to 30 in my attic.”
“My son and the girls I coach motivate me. I get to inspire them. I want them to see that you can do what you want as long as you want if you stay fit and take care of yourself. I’ve had a baby and I can still play semipro soccer.”
“You can always do more. If you’re not, then someone else is.”
“I’m on a soccer field from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. most nights of the week. When I get home, I put my baby to bed, eat a light dinner, fill the tub with ice and have a bath. I stretch and roll out my quads and hamstrings with a softball. Lights out at 10 p.m.”