San Angelo Teen Selected for Olympic Development Program
Faith Webber never considered herself one of the best. In fact, she’s rather modest about her spot on a national soccer team and the place she holds in the top tier of competitive club soccer in Dallas. After eight years of training the San Angelo native has now been invited to join the Olympic Development Program in Canada this summer at the Women’s World Cup. And she’s only 15.
Faith started playing soccer when she was 7 with the Ladybugs, a local recreational team coached by her father, John.
“We were like the worst team in the league,” she said modestly. “I played in that league for two years and we ended up being undefeated for two seasons. That team, we changed and went select, which is a traveling team and I played for San Angelo FC for two years and now I play for Liverpool Barnes…”
Liverpool is a national football club with hundreds of teams all over the United States as part of Liverpool America. The American side of the club is a branch of the original English club that spread across the Atlantic to the U.S. Faith plays for two Liverpool teams that compete in the Dallas area, one of which is for girls born in 2000, the “00 Girls Barnes” team, and the other is a group of girls one year older than her, the Liverpool 99 Girls team.
John Webber coaches his daughter on the Barnes team and, as a member of Liverpool, Faith is allowed to play for other teams within the club. When coach BJ Guerra noticed her skill and talent on the field, he invited her to play for his team as well.
John explained that the Liverpool girls club in Dallas works on three different tiers, beginning with the Arlington league his team plays, followed by a Plano league and the top tier Lake Highlands league. The team Faith was picked up to play in is in Lake Highlands, the highest league in Dallas.
“From there, things just kind of started falling into place for her,” John said. “She…did so well with this coach he recommended her to play NPL, which is National Premiere League. That’s basically a national league that she got picked up to play in for that.”
As an athlete in the NPL, Faith has had the opportunity to play in larger metro areas and out of state, including in Oklahoma, Houston and Dallas. At the beginning of the year she tried out for the Olympic Development Program and received the good news mid-April that she was picked as one of the 17 girls from Texas to attend the Women’s World Cup in Canada this summer.
“To be completely honest, I had like three or four trainings with this ODP team and the last one I had, I just finished one of my games, I went straight to it and I had a really rough start to that training session,” Faith said. “That was the last training session where they got to see if I made the team or not and I had a really rough—I went home really defeated because I was like, ‘I’m not going to make it at all,’ and then I get the list in my email.”
Faith said when she read back her name on the list, the reality of it didn’t immediately register. Several hundred teen players from the region had competed for the spot, and despite her successes thus far, she still struggles with confidence. Just making the team wasn’t a guarantee she’d be able to participate either, as the family had to consider whether they’d be able to afford the flights, hotel stays, food and other expenses for the week she’s gone.
With help from a GoFundMe account and her grandmother, Sue “Mema” Webber’s determination to see her granddaughter walk through all the doors opening for her, Faith said “yes” to the invitation and is preparing for the experience, which will run from June 25 to July 2.The family is still actively trying to raise the $4,500 they’ll need to finance the trip, but all agree the opportunity is one Faith can’t afford to miss.
“As the doors open we continue to go because she’s pursuing—she wants to play D1 college,” John said. “Really, the competitiveness of those places at that level, you’re building a resume. And that’s what she’s doing right now, she’s building a resume and out of thousands of girls you want to have a big enough resume that you’ll get these college coaches coming in.”
Being a part of the ODP team means she’ll play an international tournament in Canada and train with the Montreal Impact Major League Soccer Team. Faith will also get to attend a quarter- and semi-final game at the World Cup, where she will see some of her favorite female players in action, like Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan.
“I’m really excited about that,” Faith said.
To the Top
The Webbers live in San Angelo and make the drive to Dallas for games at least weekly, if not two or three times a week. Because Faith plays for two Dallas teams, it isn’t uncommon for her to play in multiple games over a weekend or even in the same day. Gaps in the busy weekend schedule are further filled with NPL games.
Although she’s been playing since she was 7, Faith realized how seriously she takes the sport last year when she was faced with a busy school schedule that would cut back on her field time and some hard facts about the future.
Some 80 percent of scholarships for female players are awarded to club players, John estimated, not those playing for high schools. At age 14, Faith could either make the transition into a high school setting or keep moving forward in her club career with the hopes of one day landing a scholarship to a top school in California or Florida.
“That’s why I haven’t gone to Central,” she said. “I was going to go, but then I didn’t go because I travel on weekdays and it would be so hard mixing school and soccer. The only reason I wanted to go to Central was to play Central soccer and I figured it was not possible for me to do both, so I had to choose club and stay home schooled.”
As her father and her coach, John Webber admitted it isn’t always easy trying to find a balance between the two roles, but he tries to push his daughter to excel in sport, but to also do it for the right reasons and remain a role model for younger kids.
When things started getting intense last year with invites from Guerra’s team and the NPL, Faith knew it was time to step it up and did so with her father at her side.
“She basically came to me, said, ‘Ok, dad. What do I have to do to progress and go on and move forward?’” John recalled. “I said, ‘the bottom line, it’s going to be your fitness. I mean, that’s what it’s all about as you get older.’”
John has coached at both the high school and college level and has seen the difference strength and speed make in a player’s game. In order to take his daughter to the next level he recommended she start doing Crossfit, which she has been doing an hour a day for the past several months. The idea was “if she can handle this, she can handle any collegiate workout” and the success has been measurable.
“It changed everything,” he said. “Like, we were not friends at all the first two months.”
“The first two months there wasn’t a day that I wasn’t, like so sore I could barely walk,” his daughter smiled. “But now I like it a lot. I love the atmosphere and it’s just great.”
The change was difficult, Faith said, but when she was selected for the ODP she finally realized “I can do this”. A shy and humble teenager, both Faith and her father admit she does struggle with confidence, and her other coaches have also commented that her mental game is what needs the most practice.
“[The hardest part] is probably just mentally challenging or tiring,” Faith said. “Being coached by so many coaches, it’s hard because they all ask for different things from you, they all have different personalities. It’s hard because I’m a very emotional person, so I get my feelings hurt very easily.”
Faith said it’s tough for her to go out on the field and know that if she doesn’t do her best, she could be substituted with a more-than-ample line of girls who would love to take her place. To overcome that inner fear, she said, she tries to look at things from a greater perspective.
“It’s very mentally challenging and draining,” she said. “Just going up there so many times, it just gets tough and sometimes I’m like, ‘why am I even doing this?’ and then I remember that it’s not just about soccer. It’s about all the people that are watching me and like how I could grow up and show people, kids that I could be a good influence for. I have to remember stuff like that.”
“It’s definitely a big sacrifice but it’s always worth it because I know every game I go up there and play I’m a better player and more mentally strong,” Faith said.
As a former Central and collegiate soccer player himself, John Webber said he’s proud of what his daughter has achieved, and watching her success has been extremely rewarding.
“The key with her is that she is one of the most humble young ladies I’ve ever met,” he said of his daughter. “Through all of this she’s never changed her attitude…it scares her more than anything. She already understands when these younger players already look up to her what kind of impact she can make as she continues to go further and further. I know that soccer is just a means to open up doors for her to change lives.”