Interview with pro soccer player Josh Smith

How did you get started in soccer? My whole family was really into sports. My oldest brother, who is nine years older, was a great soccer player and hes the one who told my parents when I turned 11 that I should be playing rec ball. I started getting serious then.

Did you just play soccer growing up? I played basketball until my junior year. I played baseball a lot when I was younger; I ran cross- country and track. Id say I was pretty good at basketballmight even have potentially started on the varsity team as a point guard. But I realized pretty soon that soccer could actually take me somewhere.

Did playing other sports help improve your skills as a soccer player? Well, playing point guard is the same concept as a midfielder in soccerjust with a smaller playing area.

Good point. Who were some soccer role models you looked up to when you were coming up? Hmmm.Pele, Maradona, Joey Best, Dennis Bergkamp, John Harts, Tad Ramos, and Cobi Jones to name a few.

As an Arsenal fan I appreciate you mentioning Mr. Bergkamp. Can you share with us any lessons you learned from soccer that you could later apply to life off the pitch? Work ethic. I wasnt a great student all the time but its good to put your time toward something you know you will get great results from.

Also being able to chill with certain people- being able to understand the dynamics of the team and the individual. Appreciating and getting along with other people is key to life. You have to get along and learn to adjust to a large variety and background of people.

What is the soccer scene like in Atlanta? It is HUGE. There are all kinds of club teams and youth players in the area. Georgia, South Texas, North Carolina, and Florida--these are all really big soccer hotbeds. Atlanta is the main place where the top players in Georgia come from. We've got Hispanic leagues associated with the Silverbacks and there are adult leagues in Atlanta playing seven days a week.

What is the fan base like for the Silverbacks? It's a smaller stadium so the fans sit right up by the field. If you're in the front row, youre on the field. There are a lot of kids and I think there are a decent amount of Hispanic players/supporters.

Youth soccer players and parents come out. They are always there afterwards. The Silverbacks do a great job reaching youth fans and making it enjoyable for families. (We love giving autographs to the parents and players who are there after the game.) The field is artifical turf and is without a bad bounce.

Soccer is a great participatory sport in the United States but doesnt always translate those players into a devoted fan base? What do you think we need to do to increase soccer interest in this country? We need to focus on promoting younger American players. They had something with Freddy Adu but he didnt pan out as much. The same thing with Donovan. I think if they could get the youth system doing better and connect them with the older American players, that would be great.

It's great bringing over Beckham and Renaldo--but once they leave who is left to carry on the legacy. Are people coming to see the player or the team? We need to have more rivalries happening in the sport. Need to have a relegation and promotion system. In MLS there's no penalty for finishing last. There should be an opportunity to move up/down. Itwould bring in an older and broader audience. That being said, more and more youth are playing soccer and then becoming spectators. There are more spectators today than 20 years ago.

Thank you so much for your time, Josh!

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