Posted by Team, 24th March 2020
Recently Global Image Sports had the opportunity to speak with former West Ham United Ladies and current Washington Spirit player Brooke Hendrix about her career in international soccer. It was a brilliant discussion about her professional journey, love of the game and what she see’s as the future of women’s soccer both in Europe and North America. Brooke’s story is truly unique, and she hopes that her story will help inspire more women to pursue their dreams of becoming a professional soccer player.
GIS - To start off tell us a bit about your journey from the US to Europe and back!
Brooke - Well after playing in college at the University of Southern Mississippi I wasn’t sure what exactly I wanted to do, but I had to complete a years’ worth of internships in order to graduate with my degree. In order to complete these internships, I had to work full time which meant I had to wait until after my season to start. So, because of the time commitment I had to take a year off of playing soccer after college. By this point I figured soccer wasn’t really an option for me anymore, so I decided to apply for graduate school. While applying, my heart just wasn’t in it and I felt like I should pursue soccer again. God blessed me so much by opening doors for me and my college coach introduced me to a man named Alex Pama who trained me and helped me to get some trials in Europe.
Brooke and Alex Pama
I first trialed at SC Heerenveen in Holland and I didn’t make the team. After this first trial, I decided that I needed to really work and get ready for the next trial I would have. I trained with Alex for about 6 months and then tried out for the semi-pro team in Atlanta called the Silverbacks. I made this team and played in their summer season. While I was playing in Atlanta, Alex got me another trial in Holland for Ajax. I traveled to Holland again and again didn’t make the team but this time I had another trial while I was already in Europe for a team in Scotland called Rangers FC. This time I made the team, but I wouldn’t be considered professional because they didn’t pay. After my time in Scotland, I was able to secure an agent named Damon Wilson. He helped me to get my first professional spot on a team in Switzerland called FC Staad. From there I went to a team in Iceland named Fylkir, and then to ACF Brescia in Italy. In Italy, the team was in the Champions League which was an amazing experience. From Italy, I went to England to play for West Ham United Women. After a year and a half in England, I’ve made it back to the states to play in the NWSL for Washington Spirit.
Here’s the letter Brooke wrote to the West Ham Fans: LETTER
GIS - When did you know you wanted to be a professional soccer player?
Brooke - I knew I wanted to be professional for sure when I was applying to grad school and just felt like soccer was actually where I needed to be. As a kid I always dreamed of playing professionally but it seemed to become less of a reality as I got older until I met Alex and thought that I could actually have a chance again.
GIS - Was it an easy decision to go from the US to Europe? Pros/Cons?
Brooke - I think it was tough at first because of all the uncertainty about Europe. I didn’t know if I would make a team or not, then I didn’t know the level of each team or the living situation in each country, and in some of the places I played I didn’t know the language so that was also hard for me. I think it was an amazing experience though not only for soccer but also in life. I was able to meet so many wonderful people and learn so much about different cultures and I think it made me a better person. I think the major cons for going to Europe would just be missing the luxury and convenience of everything in America and more importantly missing people from home.
GIS – I’m sure one the top highlights of your career so far was playing in the FA Cup Final with West Ham vs. Manchester City. What was it like playing at Wembley stadium in front of 43,000+ fans?
Brooke - Playing in front of such a huge crowd at Wembley was hands down one of the best experiences of my life to date. It was incredible how much support we got even with a West Ham United men’s game at the same day and time. The fans were so loud and supportive, and the game was super intense. I think even though we lost it was a good showing for us and it taught me some valuable lessons on playing in front of so many people because that was obviously the biggest crowd I had ever played in front of.
GIS - Thoughts on Women’s attendance and growth of the women’s game in Europe?
Brooke - I think it is growing tremendously and it makes me so excited for the future! It seems like all the time different countries and leagues continue to break attendance records. It’s so nice to see more and more fans of the women’s game. I think the more people realize that the differences in the men’s and women’s games can be the reason that they are exciting in their own rights is when we will see even more people becoming fans of the women’s side as well.
GIS – This past January you secured a transfer back to the US and joined the Washington Spirit. Congratulations! What are your goals now that you’re back in the states?
Brooke - Well firstly, I’d like to be able to earn my spot on this Washington Spirit team. Every day I need to work and earn the right to play for this club. I have the goal of being the best player that I can be, if that means I can play for the US one day then I would love that, but right now I just have to be the best version of me each day.
GIS – Any advice for girls looking to play professional soccer in the US or abroad?
Brooke - This is a good question; I would say that don’t be afraid to create your own path to success and that success looks different for everyone. I had to go a completely different path than most to make it to professional in the US and that’s ok! I’ve learned so much with the experiences I’ve had, and I think it has made me a better player actually. Not everyone goes straight into professional after college and in fact most people don’t. So be creative and just keep pushing! Luckily today there are plenty of professional teams around the world that women can play in.
GIS – To end on a light note… Any fun facts?
Brooke - Fun facts…hmm…this might be the toughest question ha-ha. Well, I’ve broken my nose four times since high school and I have gotten it surgically straightened again three times. I don’t know if that’s fun but it’s interesting ha-ha I also was never a defender until I went to Europe. I had always been a forward or a midfielder growing up and even in college. When I went overseas, they decided to try me at center defender, and I’ve played there since. I guess my last fun fact would be that, I owe everything to God. This journey has taken me all over the place and places I never would have guessed but it’s all led me to fulfilling my dream and I know I am so blessed. Faith is so important to me.
A special thanks to Brooke for taking the time to answer some questions.