This winter Canadian Women’s National Team forward Jenna Hellstrom made the big move to the Washington Spirit and the National Women’s Soccer League. The 24 year old striker who has played her entire club career in Sweden will be joining one of the top young sides in women’s club soccer.
In an interview with our Sean Maslin she talks about her experience abroad, what prompted the move to the Spirit, and her goals with CANWNT.
Sean Maslin: It has been a big offseason for you in making the move to the Spirit. What’s this whirlwind experience for you been like?
Jenna Hellstrom: I have had a pretty good offseason. At the end of last season I got a knee injury and so I have been on working my recovery and going through rehab. I also had the opportunity to go to Vancouver and train before National Team camp just to see where I am at and to run some tests. The knee surgery that I had this offseason wasn’t a major surgery but they were doing some cleanup on my knee. So it was great to work with the National Team coaches and see where I am at physically and to work with them on my goals for this season. So I think I am back to where I was before the injury and I am feeling good and I am ready to start the season with the Spirit.
SM: What made you decide to sign with the Spirit this winter?
JH: So I have played the last few seasons in Sweden and I was kind of looking for a change and was looking at playing either in another country in Europe or the NWSL. The NWSL is one of the best leagues in the world and I felt like playing in the NWSL would give me more opportunities with the National Team. I feel like my role with the National Team has over the past few years been the same role and at this point in my career and at my age I felt like ‘ You know what I want to make that next step in my career to see what I can do.’ So after the World Cup I played for about a month and a half until I came home and had the surgery. At that time I then talked to my agent and told him to send my information out. Washington was the first team that showed interest and offered me a contract and I think at this point in my career it is the right move for me. It is a young team and I think this is a great league and I am excited to get started.
SM: In terms of style how do you think your strengths fit in with how the Spirit play?
JH: Two of my biggest strengths are my speed and that I am very physical. In my conversations with coach Richie [Burke] and Tom [Torres, Washington Spirit assistant coach] those were things that they were looking for, especially on the wings. As a player, I love bombing down the wings and I love putting crosses into the box. Those were two things had expressed that the club needed and that is definitely the type of player that I am.
SM: Growing up what got you into soccer?
JH: Oh gosh that was so long ago! So originally my parents were from northern Canada where hockey is the main sport. My dad tried to get me into that but I didn’t really want to play so I never really played for a team. I also tried tee ball and gymnastics and finally at about the age of 4 I got into soccer. Looking back on it I remember being speedy and I didn’t really pass the ball much-I really wanted to keep the ball to myself. But I definitely wasn’t the kid picking dandelions!
SM:Who was your favorite player growing up?
JH: Growing up I didn’t really watch a lot of soccer because hockey was the big sport in my house. But when I was young it was Messi and then when things started getting more competitive and I started watching my team, which is Manchester City, I loved Kyle Walker.
SM: What’s the biggest life lesson that you learned while making the transition from to college to playing professionally in Sweden?
JH: I think for me the biggest that I learned was knowing your opportunity will come. The first pro team that I played for in Sweden [FC Rosengard] was one of if not the best team and Sweden and had made the Champions League. So joining Rosengard was a huge step for me. Plus I went to Kent State which is in the Mid American Conference and it is not a big school and that’s not a huge conference. So that also was a huge step for me in and of itself. There was also a point in the season where it was looking like I would start due to some injuries and then that got taken away. The thing that I kept reminding myself is that everything happens for a reason and shortly after that I got called into my first National Team camp. Especially when you are younger and fall short you can’t put your head down. You don’t have time for that. You have to keep working and when your opportunity comes you have to make the most out of it.
SM: What are some of your goals entering into this season for the Spirit and for the Canadian National Team?
JH: With the Spirit I am not sure what my individual goals are yet because I don’t know what to expect since it is my first year with the team. Obviously I want to fight for minutes and I want for us to finish at the top of the table. We finished fifth last year so the goal is to do better than that.
For the National Team it is a big year with the Olympics this summer and training camps throughout the year. But for a player the first thing to come is playing well for your club team so I definitely want to get used to playing in Washington and that will hopefully lead to getting called up before the Olympics. The Olympic roster is a much smaller roster than the World Cup so I need to push and leave everything on the pitch so I can make the squad.
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