Spokane SC Shadow Goalkeeper Alisa Crooks [Erick Smith Photograph]
The WPSL is blessed to watch a wide array of talented soccer players — From veterans that have already experienced playing overseas to young high school athletes preparing for their collegiate careers.
Alisa Crooks is a star goalkeeper for the Spokane SC Shadow and has become one of the brightest young goalkeeping talents in the United States. Alisa has spent time playing within the U.S. National Team system and will be taking her talents to Tuscaloosa, Alabama this fall to play for the Alabama Crimson Tide.
After tearing her ACL in May 2018, Alisa has gone through a rigorous rehabilitation regiment to get herself physically prepared to return to the field. This past Saturday, she played in her first full game in more than a year, shutting out Vancouver Island FC in Spokane’s inaugural WPSL match.
Alisa spoke to me about her excitement to play in the WPSL, her road to recovery and her upcoming collegiate career.
Tell us a little about your high school and club career
I’ve been playing competitive club soccer for almost nine years, and I started out by playing two-or-three years up. I always trained and guest-played with the boys in our club growing up, and I think that’s what helped me develop so quickly because the level and pace of play guys play at is a whole new level. I also played as a discovery player for Colorado Rush for about three years.
I’d constantly be traveling all around the country to play against some of the top teams in the nation. It was a great experience that got me a lot of exposure. As for high school, I started as a freshman and played pretty much every game leading up to my injury, which was right before my senior season. It was such a great experience being able to make connections with everyone on the team and being able to represent my school.
Describe your experience thus far in the WPSL
Being in the WPSL has been great. The opportunity to make gains over the summer while you’re away from college is something very valuable to me. The WPSL is a lot more competitive than the previous league than (the Shadow) were in, and I'm excited to see how we match up against other teams.
When did you start playing goalkeeper, and what drew you to the position?
I started playing goalkeeper when I was about five or six years old, and nothing really drew me to it at the time. I got put in there because I was the tallest on the team. Once I started playing it more and more though, I began to really love the position because I love being able to be there when my team needs me most, and I love being able to get the opportunity to perform under pressure.
What are your greatest strengths as a goalkeeper?
As a goalkeeper, I think one of my greatest strengths is being a leader. I’ve always been the type to get things going in a group of people, and I’ve always loved motivating others and pushing others to be the best they can be. Another strength of mine is being comfortable with the ball at my feet. It’s becoming a little more common nowadays, but you don’t really see a lot of goalkeepers who are completely comfortable with the ball at their feet or be able to play a 30-to-40-yard ball accurately while under pressure. My coaches have implemented distribution into my trainings ever since I can remember, and I am so thankful they did.
Describe your experience with the Shadow. What is your relationship like among your teammates and coaching staff?
Being a part of Shadow is great. Before I graduated high school, I was a part of the 2001 team (that just recently won their 3rd straight state championship), and our bond was amazing. Our whole club is one big community that continuously supports each other. I’ve grown up with the majority of these people and coaches and it’s been so great to see us all grow into better people and players.
You recently suffered an ACL injury. Describe the challenges and rigor of recovering from such an injury.
Recovering from an ACL injury was easily one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through. I’ve been blessed to where I’ve never really had to experience adversity too much, so once I tore my ACL it was a mentally challenging journey. I took on the rehab and recovery with a really positive attitude, and that’s what got me through most days. It was hard, sitting and watching everyone play while I felt helpless. Coming back and regaining my strength and confidence was a lot harder than I expected as well, but I honestly wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Tearing my ACL was one of the worst/best things to happen to me because I learned so much about myself, how mentally and physically strong I really am, and I’ve gained a lot of compassion and empathy for others who go through this injury.
What were your emotions returning to the field on Saturday to play in your first full game since the injury?
The emotions I felt coming back for my first game in over a year were indescribable. I was excited, nervous, and eager. Before the game, I felt sick to my stomach because I was so nervous and I felt like I had so much to prove. Once I got on the field, though, it felt like I never even had anything happen. I felt like my normal self and everything felt so natural and so great.
Alissa you’ve spent some time as part of the US Women’s National Youth roster pool. What was this experience like?
Being able to get the opportunity to represent the country and play and practice with the top female soccer players in the country was amazing. I learned so many new things from the experience, and I made a lot of connections with people from all over the U.S. It was a very competitive environment, the standards are very high, and I really enjoyed being in that atmosphere. Going to those camps really gave me motivation to become an even better athlete because I was surrounded by so many great players.
As you prepare for your first season with the Alabama Crimson Tide, what are you most excited for?
I think I’m most excited to compete for a starting position. Being able to spend a semester there already and make connections with the girls and coaching staff was such a great opportunity for me. Graduating high school early allowed me to adjust to college athletics and academics, and I'm so thankful for that.
Who are the coaches that have taught you the most about goalkeeping, the game in general, and how to become the best person you can be?
I’m not sure if I can name every coach that has had such a huge impact on my career, but there are a few that I am so grateful for. Sean Bushey, Abbas Faridnia, Michaela (Mo) Herbert and Kevin Moon have all taught me valuable things whether it comes to soccer or life in general.
Sean Bushey was a coach that I had while playing for Rush, and he is so intelligent when it comes to the game of soccer. He taught me so much while I played underneath him, and I am so thankful I had the opportunity to learn from him. Sean also taught my team and me how to bring respect and value into everything we do.
Abbas Faridnia is someone who played a huge role in my development as a young player. He was the one who was so persistent with distribution, and he pushed me to always be the best I could be. He continuously gave me the opportunity to train with his boys teams, and it was so helpful.
Mo helped me as a young goalkeeper growing up and taught me so much about being a goalkeeper and being fearless while playing. She helped build my confidence as a player and really helped me become the goalkeeper I am today.
Lastly, Kevin Moon is someone who has not only taught me a lot on the field, but off the field he taught me a lot of leadership skills and life skills. Kevin has always been a great resource for me to train and get better whenever I need him.
I’ve been blessed to play underneath and learn life skills from some of the best coaches.