Sonia Maria O’Neill

Catching up with Sonia we look to see how her lifestyle and approach to football has matured her playing career over the past two years.

Team: Pink Bari

Division: Serie A

City: Bari

Country: Italy

Q: It is your second season playing in Italy. How does the football culture differ from Toronto?

“In Italy, soccer is everywhere. They truly live, eat, and breathe soccer. In Toronto the football culture is growing, but in Italy it’s been their way of life for a long time.”

“Besides TFC (Toronto Football Club) many clubs don’t have those type of fans and supporters. Here in Italy even the small towns will have such passionate supporters, who will show up to the stadium every game with flags, drums, smoke, and so on.”

Sonia added insight about how the game is approached in Italy.

“ football is very tactical and technical - almost all running includes the ball one way or another.”

Q: How do you approach playing for a new coach and team?

“I always approach it with an open mind and do my best to get to know the girls on the team, the language and culture - as quickly as possible. This helps with forming good relationships off the field with the team.”

I try to learn my role on the team, the style of play, and what they expect from me as quickly as possible.”

Q: Knowing what you know now, with the experiences you have been through. What would you tell yourself coming out of the NCAA?

“Playing in the NCAA and moving to another country when I was 17 really helped me develop as a player and person. It was just as professional as my current club in Italy. But now, with no classes or obligations besides soccer, I’ve had a lot more time to focus on soccer and a lot less stress.”

“I would tell myself coming out of the NCAA to really take care of my body and to be patient. It sounds corny or simple, but I really learned the importance of eating clean and the difference it makes fitness wise, injury wise, and with your overall performance in the field. Every athlete’s body is different. So it’s important to find out what foods and eating habits work best for you specifically and your performance on the field.

Approaching patience, Sonia says,

“In Europe there are tons of players who have been playing for the club since they were young, but your opportunities will come and you have to stay ready for them. Your first team will be your first mark in the football world in Europe, it’s when you’ll begin to show yourself as a player both on and off the field. So make sure to leave a good impression no matter the circumstances.”

Q: How would you breakdown your current lifestyle?

"My current lifestyle is based around football and my training/playing. Whether it’s what I’m eating, doing extra band work and stretching, going to physio, the gym, practice, or games,

each day is focused on football one way or the other."

“Relaxing and sleeping are really important to me and I make sure to spend a lot of time doing both. I love my daily nap as well. It’s important for me to let my body recover and also, to spend time doing things that aren’t football related, like laying out by the pool, “netflixing”, shopping, going out to eat and so on. When we have a free weekend, I like to travel to see somewhere new in Italy. - I try not to go too far during season. At the end of each season I spend a month traveling Europe before heading home and continuing my routine. This lifestyle is not all lollipops and rainbows, but I do love it. I never wake up unhappy to go to “work.” I don’t consider this a job at all because I enjoy playing. Also, I love the people I’ve met, the places we’ve seen, and just all the experiences that have come with it.”

Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

“In 5 years I see myself in Europe with a top football club I can call home. There are a couple clubs I have in mind that I hope to end up at. For now, I am focused on continuing to grow as a player, my goals, and improving every day. If I focus on these things, I do see myself playing for one of my favourite clubs.”

© 180 Degree High Performance Inc., Toronto, Canada.
Specializing in biomechanics for the development of the elite level athlete.