Alice Walker is a former Washington Spirit Maryland forward who just concluded her collegiate career at UNC Asheville. A USL Experience alumna, Walker also interned in the Creative Services department at USL HQ and is now preparing to play in the USL W League.
Some pieces of this interview have been edited for clarity.
1. You recently graduated from playing at UNC Asheville, a few years after your experience playing in Super Y League. How do you feel that experience has affected your collegiate career?
Playing in Super Y League was incredibly important for my development. It allowed me to continue to grow as a player over the summer, work with different players and coaches I would not have ordinarily played with and opened amazing opportunities through SYL Finals, the regional scouting events and USL Experience. I was exposed to a level of professionalism that I had not seen before, which certainly helped prepare me for college.
Playing under different coaches and with diverse groups of teammates made me a much better player by introducing me to distinctive styles of play and encouraging me to work harder. I also became much more comfortable putting myself in and adapting to new and challenging environments, which was a huge help, particularly at the start of my freshman year when adjusting to a new team and new coaching staff.
2. Do you still speak with any of your coaches and teammates from Super Y League?
I still speak with many of my coaches and teammates! Some of my Super Y League teammates are still great friends of mine and I have received nothing but support from my former Super Y League coaches. They all have been great resources to lean on in the offseason and summer when looking for additional training and when looking to make further connections both on and off the field. It is also always encouraging and motivating to see my former Super Y teammates succeeding with their college teams and I have even found myself playing against girls I met through Super Y in college, which is such a cool experience!
It is amazing to follow what they are all doing now and it is inspiring to see the difference they make for their teams. I am confident many of my former teammates would be there for me if I ever reached out and I would do the same! Even with girls I may not keep in touch with regularly, it is comforting to know that there is a community of support and we all truly wish the best for each other.
3. There is a growing list of opportunities in soccer off the field. You've pursued some of those, how were your experiences there?
Off the field, I was lucky enough in college to find something I am passionate about that has allowed me to stay involved in the sports and soccer community. I started working as a marketing assistant in my school's athletic department and eventually began working in graphic design, creating visual content for all our sports teams. This opportunity gave me an incredible experience, helped me develop my skills, and opened many doors for me. The work I was doing at UNCA introduced me to the world of sports design, something I am now confident I will want to pursue full time when my playing career is finished.
I was fortunate enough to work for USL last summer as their graphic design intern and I had such an incredible experience. I was able to learn from an incredibly talented creative services team who helped me grow as a designer and as a person. I am unbelievably grateful for that opportunity, as it gave me my first experience working in professional sports and introduced me to a group of people who not only supported me through the internship but continue to offer their support now, even a year later. I cannot thank USL enough for the experience with the internship, as it solidified that pursuing a career in soccer off the field will be the right choice for me.
4. Do you have any advice for players currently playing in Super Y League and for those looking to possibly work in soccer off the field?
Don't be afraid to ask for help and make all the connections you can! Playing soccer will introduce you to amazing people who will be able to help guide you in your career and if I have learned one thing working in the sports community it is that everyone genuinely wants to see others succeed and will go out of their way to provide any advice, connections and support they can. Skills you learn on the field will transfer to a work environment, particularly with careers in sports. A strong work ethic and the ability to function in a team setting and work under pressure are all things I have noticed that I have been able to take from my playing career to help me succeed off the field. Working in sports while being a college student and playing at the Division I level was not easy, but it was worth it. Lean on your teachers, coaches, and teammates for support, and take pride in your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem!
It was sometimes overwhelming and often incredibly challenging, and I had to make sacrifices and difficult decisions along the way, but I am very proud of myself. I was able to graduate from UNCA a semester early with a 4.0 GPA, find a career I am passionate about, and continue to play the sport I love.
5. You have recently joined a USL W League team. What does it mean to you to continue your playing career in this league?
This summer, I will be playing with the USL W League team NoVa FC. After graduating, I made the decision to continue my soccer career and I have hopes to play professionally. It is extremely rewarding and exciting to be a part of the inaugural season for the W League and I cannot wait to get started!
I am particularly excited to see this league succeed after meeting and working with all the incredibly talented and dedicated people at USL who worked so hard to make the W League a reality and I am proud to play within an organization dedicated to furthering the women's game as USL is. I know the W League is going to be very competitive and challenging, will help me develop as a player and prepare me for the next step in my soccer career!
Pictured above: Alice Walker, now in the W League, and graphics she made while interning at USL HQ