By CHRIS RAIMONDI
Former Kennesaw State University soccer player, and current Trinidad and Tobago women’s national soccer team captain Maylee Attin-Johnson did just that during her time with the Owls. Born in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Attin-Johnson never knew what her life had in store for her until she reached the United States.
“Where I came from was not glitz or glamour,” Attin-Johnson said. “It was more of a struggle, so coming to America was a turning point in my life.”
A bumpy road to the south
Attin-Johnson’s journey to KSU began as a senior in high school. She left Trinidad when she was 17 on a student exchange program to attend Notre Dame High School in East Stroudburg, Pennsylvania. After she set the school record for soccer goals in a season in her only year at Notre Dame, Attin-Johnson moved south to NAIA member Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee.
The SATs prevented her from entering KSU directly out of high school, but head coach Rob King was persistent in his pursuit of Attin-Johnson.
“Coach King was very supportive and influential in me making that transition to a Division One school,” Attin-Johnson said. “He was tremendous in keeping updated in my progress of getting the required credits.”
After the help of King, Attin-Johnson transferred to KSU in the fall of 2006.
“I had seen her play as a young 16 year old,” King said. “As soon as she was on the radar, she was one that we watched very carefully.”
A New Challenge
After leaving her home country and transferring to KSU, Attin-Johnson was faced with a new challenge of balancing school while playing soccer for two teams.
“It was difficult at first because football was my passion and representing my country was an honor and privilege,” she said. “But my priority at the time was getting my degree and gaining an education.”
Attin-Johnson struggled with having to skip out on tournaments for Trinidad in order to maintain her studies. But through it all, she graduated with a 3.5 GPA and a bachelor’s degree in Sport Management.
“For me it was a huge achievement because one of the greatest pleasures in life is accomplishing something that someone says you can’t,” she said. “A lot of odds were against me and I came out the winner through it all.”
Becoming a “Soca Warrior” Leader
Attin-Johnson first represented Trinidad at the senior level when she was 15 years old. From that time, she has been a part of the tremendous growth of the program, including being named the team captain in 2007.
“That moment meant a great deal to me knowing where I came from and the obstacles that I faced,” Attin-Johnson said. “However I was still young and didn’t really understand the magnitude of that position and I just led on the field rather than leading off it as well.”
In Trinidad, the team has the nickname “Soca Warriors.” This mindset couldn’t fit the team captain’s character any better.
“Honestly I used to be a rebel, meaning I said what was on my mind and didn’t care who I offended,” Attin-Johnson said. “Coming to America matured me tremendously and the coaches entrusted me with the responsibility of leading the national team. Even though I’m still a rebel with a cause, I’m more sophisticated and intelligent with my approach.”
Since being named the team captain, Attin-Johnson has led her squad through some grim times.
“In my country, women’s football is not respected and poorly funded,” Attin-Johnson said.
Training sessions without water, players without money and sleepless nights in airports are a few of the battles the Trinidad team has faced recently. Somehow, the women Soca Warriors persevered and found themselves a game away from becoming the first ever women’s Caribbean team to make the World Cup, before heartbreakingly losing 1-0 to Ecuador in the 90th minute.
“Now that we are doing great things, things are looking up for us,” Attin-Johnson said. “I have made tremendous amount of sacrifices to reach to this point and I will not allow anyone or anything to distract me from attaining my dream.”