Among the first eight international players who will compete in the WUSA is a young British woman named Kelly Smith.
Forward Kelly Smith
has played five years for the English National Team but most U.S. fans will recognize her for her standout collegiate career at Seton Hall University. Smith tallied 76 goals and netted 174 points in just 51 games for the Pirates. She was Big East Player of the Year all three years she competed and led the NCAA in scoring during her last two seasons. An All-American in 1999, Smith is only the third female to have her jersey number retired by Seton Hall, where she is currently an assistant coach. She has been a member of the English National Team since she was 16 and owns 21 caps for appearances in international play.
Kelly Smith grew up in Garston Watford Herts, north of London. She began playing at age 6. When she wasn't kicking the ball against a wall in the backyard or playing with a neighor in the park, she was watching men's football with her father Bernard.
When Kelly was 7, there were no girls' teams in her area. Her only choice was to play with the lads on her school team and for the Garston Boys Club. Smith totally dominated those games. With her short haircut she blended in with the boys, and no one even thought she might be a girl. Eventually Smith caused quite a stir with the opposing teams' parents; so much, that some refused to play Garston.
"The parents were jealous of me bring a girl and being the best player in the park. They didn't want their sons to be beaten by a girl. They wouldn't field their teams to play us, so the only thing for me to do was to leave the team. I was hurt but didn't let it bother me too much. I just did my own thing after that," said Smith.
At age 10 Kelly Smith joined the Watford Ladies team and played among women who were more than twice her age. Six years later she was asked to train with England's national team and a year later Smith played her first NT match.
Smith was attending West Herts College at home when she met Seton Hall University coach Betty Ann Kempf. Shortly afterwards, Kelly Smith became star striker for the Seton Hall Pirates.
Smith's skill and speed leave opponents and fans in awe. Her one-on-one skills are tremendous and many of her goals are scored when she makes 30- to 40-yard run with the ball, beats two or three defenders, weaves between another two defenders and the GK, and places the ball in the net.
"Although the skill level is better at home, the pace is much quicker in America." Smith muses, "Because there is more emphasis on conditioning, the players are more fit and stronger, which makes for a faster game."
I first saw Kelly play when I was doing research at Columbia. Since then I had tried to attend as many Pirate matches as I could. In April 2001 Kelly Smith will join the Philadelphia Charge (WUSA). I wish her good luck and look forward to seeing her play against the New York Power.