Bowdoin women's soccer midfielder/forward Rebecca Silva '11, who was born in Santiago, Chile, and holds dual citizenship, will take a leave of absence from Bowdoin next year to play for the Under 20 Chilean National Team.
Bowdoin: How long have you played soccer?
Silva: I started playing soccer in recreational leagues in preschool and then I moved to playing club soccer at age nine.
Bowdoin: What different types of teams have you played for over the years?
Silva: My first club was Tony Glavin, named after the retired professional indoor player who ran it. I played for that club for two years, but name recognition is very important in keeping teams together at the club level, and this wasn't a well know club. So even though our team was one of the best in Missouri for our age, I switched to a nationally acclaimed club, JB Marine when I was eleven. I have stayed on that team ever since. Except for my junior year if high school, where I received a full scholarship from the US government (Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange or CBYX) to do an exchange year in Germany. I ended up in a small town in what had been East Germany where girl's soccer was a nonentity. But I couldn't imagine not playing, so I practiced with the town's men's team in addition to playing in free time tournaments - where I was also the only girl. In Missouri, I also played for my high school team, Ladue- a public school- and I was on the Missouri state team for ODP (the Olympic Development Program) because it was another good way to get seen by college coaches. But my favorite place to play is on Wednesday nights with my papa and his team. They are the over 50 state champions for two years running now. The pickup games are a lot of fun, but intense at the same time. My dad and I always play on the same side and its fun to dissect the game on the car ride home.
Bowdoin: When did you find out you'd been selected for the Under 20 Chilean National Team, and what was your reaction?
Silva: I found out that I had been selected on Thanksgiving, actually- so I really had something for which to be thankful! While the coach was talking to me, I managed to control my emotions pretty well and just grinned from ear to ear...but once I was back in my hotel room, I will admit I did a little dance and then called my boyfriend, parents, and close friends.
Bowdoin: Was there a "try-out" process behind it? What did it involve?
Silva: I found out about all of this really arbitrarily. I was wearing the Chilean national team jersey my cousin Jose Manuel had given me last year for Christmas at a tournament in Iowa when a guy came up to me and began speaking in Spanish. I was slightly confused because I forgot that I was wearing the jersey and I don't have dark skin, so not many people notice I am Latina. I told him that I unfortunately didn't speak Spanish. He asked me why I had the jersey and I explained that I was born in Santiago. My father's family lives there and we frequently visit them for Christmas. He said he was Chilean too and that he was taking a team down there for Christmas and after asking on which club team I played (he had heard of my team) he asked if I would want to come guest play for him. The timing worked out perfectly because my family was already going to be in Chile then, so I ended up playing on his team. We played against the national team and some university teams. The national coach took my and the coach's daughter's information because the U20 women's world cup is being held in Chile next November. I was born 8/8/88, and have dual citizenship, so I will be eligible. I didn't hear anything from them until the week before Thanksgiving, when I got an email asking if I would come to Miami the following week to play with the team.
Bowdoin: When did you officially decide to take the team's offer, and what primarily influenced your decision?
Silva: I officially decided the second she offered! The real question was if I wanted to take a leave of absence for a whole year or just next fall. The coach claims that they are training six hours a day, and with Bowdoin's strenuous course load, I can't imagine that I would have time to get my fitness where theirs is. Another consideration of mine was the language. I now speak fluent German but very little Spanish, so I wanted to immerse myself for as long as possible to learn Spanish- and what an incredible all around adventure!
Bowdoin: Did Bowdoin's soccer program influence your decision to attend college here?
Silva: Yes, once I really started thinking about college, I decided that I wanted to play Division III to keep the fun in the game. And NESCAC is a strong conference, so I knew it would be high level soccer. I had heard that all of the players loved their coach, and when I met Coach Cullen on my visit here over minority weekend, he was so warm that I could instantly see why. Then I found out that he had retired and Maren was replacing him. Maren and I talked on the phone a few times, and she was very intimidating, since she had been assistant coach at UVA and obviously knew her stuff. But I was even more excited to learn from her...assuming I made the team. (I walked on, I wasn't recruited.) She is by far the best coach I have ever had.
Bowdoin: How has your experience on Bowdoin's team been?
Silva: I think that being a college athlete is a wonderful experience. From my club team, everyone except for one player went on to play in college and I know that a few girls probably would not have gone to college at all if not for the sports. I think it is great that soccer gave them that opportunity. Then from my high school team, I am the only graduating senior who is playing in college. The others cried at our last game, but for me it was just the beginning of a new chapter. I just can't imagine life without soccer. This season was absolutely wonderful- our team has great chemistry and great leadership. I can safely say there was no hazing on the women's soccer team. We had dance parties in the locker rooms before games, team dinners, and there was a team get-together just about every weekend. Tryouts were very stressful because it seemed like there were a million freshmen and the numbers kept dwindling as the week progressed. I remember on the second to last day, Maren announced that there would be a team BBQ at her house and I made it my life goal to attend that BBQ- since that would mean that I had made the team. To crown off such a fun season, we went to the NCAA tournament and made school history.
Bowdoin: What has been your proudest accomplishment, both in soccer and in life?
Silva: Being invited to join the U20 Chilean national team!
Bowdoin: What do you do to prepare for a game on game day? Any special rituals?
Silva: My mom always tells me to "be everywhere." So if I don't talk to her before the game, I imagine her saying it. Then while warming up and when the ref blows the whistle, I chant "win, hold, distribute" silently to myself to break the game down into basic ideas and calm my nerves.