World Cup 2014

The Love of the Game

The author of the Soccer Sisters series talks to TFK about the sport and her characters

June 05, 2014
COURTESY IN THIS TOGETHER MEDIA

Andrea Montalbano talks about her Soccer Sisters, and her love of the game.

Many of the world’s best professional male soccer players will compete in the Men’s World Cup this summer in Brazil. Next summer, in 2015, women will get their shot at the Women’s World Cup tournament in Canada. But every year, millions of boys and girls of all ages play the game on organized sports teams.

Author Andrea Montalbano played soccer growing up and was captain on her team at Harvard University. Now, she coaches her kids. She taps into these experiences in her current middle-grade series, Soccer Sisters, which is a follow-up to her book Breakaway. Each book—the first two are Lily Out of Bounds and Vee Caught Offside—follows one girl on the Bombers soccer team as she plays tough on the team and deals with different challenges off of the field. Publisher In This Together Media, which aims to tell stories about realistic female characters, will release the third book, Tabitha One on One, this fall. TFK spoke to Montalbano about the series.

Andrea Montalbano played as captain for her Harvard University soccer team in 1989.

COURTESY ANDREA MONTALBANO
Andrea Montalbano played as captain for her Harvard University soccer team in 1989.

TFK:

What inspired the Soccer Sisters series?

MONTALBANO:

I decided to follow the old adage of “write what you know.” Deciding to write about a soccer player was easy, and I really didn't see many books in that genre for girls. There are sports books [about boys] but not that many about girls.

TFK:

Which Bomber girl do you relate to most?

MONTALBANO:

Lily is probably my truest voice. I often get asked if I am writing about myself, or my daughter because her name is Lily, too. It’s really probably a little bit of everything—a lot of my own personal soccer memories and a lot of my own voice in Lily.

TFK:

How did you come up with the Bomber’s Soccer Sisters Team Code?

MONTALBANO:

I wrote a version of it, but I'm a mom now and so my version was very mom-sounding: don’t do this and don’t do that. So I sent it to a friend of mine whose daughter was playing soccer [on a team] in Alexandria, Virginia. I thought it would be more authentic, and they did such a great job. They wrote it based upon what I was trying to do. One of my favorites is “always bring your snacks,” which I think is about responsibility. And the other one is “beat the boys in recess soccer.”

TFK:

Would you encourage a real youth team to try to adopt the code?

Montalbano (right) and World Cup soccer champ Brandi Chastain (center), who is the official spokesperson for Soccer Sisters, meet with fans.

COURTESY ANDREA MONTALBANO
Montalbano (right) and World Cup soccer champ Brandi Chastain (center), who is the official spokesperson for Soccer Sisters, meet with fans.

MONTALBANO:

I think they could either adopt them or make their own. Every team has their own needs. If they were to make their own, they would probably feel more connected to it.

TFK:

In Lily Out of Bounds, Colby tells the girls they need to play dirty. What advice would you give kids about that?

MONTALBANO:

There was a scene in the last Women's World Cup [where a player faked a bad injury near the end of the game to try to gain an advantage]. It made me so upset. I took that scene pretty much directly and used it for Colby. I know that gamesmanship is a part of sports—it’s ok if you are going to run out the clock—but sportsmanship has to trump gamesmanship anytime.

TFK:

What tips would you give kids for improving their game?

MONTALBANO:

Play with the ball. Play with it in the yard against the wall. The more comfortable you are with the ball on any part of your foot or thigh or head, you’ll feel better on the field. And keep it fun. Sometimes you see games get out of hand [from] competitiveness.

TFK:

What kind of reaction have you received from boys who have read your books?

MONTALBANO:

I think sometimes they shy away because it’s [called] Soccer Sisters. But I think when they read the soccer action, I get a little street cred because it’s clear that it’s written by someone who has played a lot of soccer. Once they read it, they are more enthusiastic than some of the girls. At the end of the day, it’s about the game.

TFK:

What issues will Tabitha face in the new book?

MONTALBANO:

In Tabitha One on One, I am trying to take the message a little more global because of the World Cup. She goes to a sleep-away camp and one of the coaches there is a Brazilian player and they just struggle to get field time. The beauty of [the U.S.] is that girls can take it all the way to the professional level. In every town, you can see girls playing soccer in groups. They have so much support. It’s about Tabitha’s one-on-one struggle with not taking her opportunities for granted.

TFK:

Why do you think soccer is so popular around the world?

MONTALBANO:

It’s played everywhere and anywhere and all you need is a ball! In some places they just take a bunch of fabric and tie it up with rubber bands to make a ball. There’s beauty in simplicity. While soccer can be complicated =and take a lifetime to master, at the end of the day it's really about running around and kicking, and it’s a lot of fun!


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