Interview | Lisa De Vanna

Lisa De Vanna has enjoyed a unique career as a professional female footballer, with incredibly successful stints in the U.K., USA, Sweden, Australia. During this time, she has become one of the worlds most accomplished and popular soccer players.

One of "The Matilda's" highest scorers with 40 goals in 121 appearances, Lisa has played at the World Cup twice and the Olympics twice, and has won a host of accolades at the elite level, including winning the 2010 Womens Asian Cup, being nominated in 2007 for FIFA World Player of the Year, named in the 2007 Team of the Year, and nominated in 2013 for the FIFA Puskás Award.

We spoke with Lisa to get her thoughts on sport & nutrition as one of the world most successful female soccer players:

Olympics, World Cups are great to be part of but I am never satisfied about just taking part. I still have the burning desire to win
— Lisa De Vanna

Lisa, thank you for joining us! We have spoke to a few athletes from a lot of different sports about the 10,000 hour rule: as a successful, professional footballer, do you think that success is a matter of genes, training, or a mixture of the two? "I think as you get older the genes certainly take a part. I believe as you get older you adapt to training and playing in a more mature manner. As a young player I would sometimes excerpt more energy than necessary, looking back now and where I am I feel that I know where and how to use my energy and body in the best way to prolong my career".

Arsene Wenger said, 'to perform at your maximum you have to teach yourself to believe with an intensity that goes way beyond logical justification. No top performer has lacked this capacity for irrational optimism; no sportsman has played to his potential without the ability to remove doubt from his mind' - as a top performer, how do you rationalise/bounce back from missing out on a medal or trophy? How do you stay optimistic after a poor performance "I feel that its all about unfinished business. I’ve been fortunate to win national trophies, cups and honours that many would not have the chance to have won. Yet when I look back I still have burning desires, Olympics, World Cups are great to be part of but I am never satisfied about just taking part. I still have the burning desire to win".

So how has the area you've grown up in, shaped you as an athlete? "Growing up in Perth and Melbourne I have been lucky to be surrounded by some of the best nature around. Playing in some countries made me realise that I am lucky enough to be able to surround myself by land and sea. I can hit the countryside for a long run or just relax on the beach. It’s been a good balance for my athletic career".

You've been incredibly lucky in that you've had the opportunity to play around the world. What was it like moving abroad to play? "I have been fortunate to play in some amazing countries and seen things that I would not have had the opportunity to see if I was not a football player. My first move was quite scary, leaving behind your friends and family is never easy, especially when you know its a short term move. But as you get older you realise that the world is there to be explored and the travelling helps shapes me as both an athlete and as a person. Challenging yourself to learn a new language or experience a new culture is nothing but good for the soul".

My first move was quite scary, leaving behind your friends and family is never easy, especially when you know its a short term move. But as you get older you realise that the world is there to be explored and the travelling helps shapes me as both an athlete and as a person
— Lisa De Vanna

A lot of athletes, as they become more successful & famous, find their time split between training & commercial appearances (either in a private capacity or on behalf of their country), how have you coped with the fame? "I’ve tried to keep myself focused on the sports side. You don’t see me endorsing product after product on social media. I am here for the game, not the fame. For me the legacy I want to leave behind is people saying “She was a great ambassador for our country and sport”, rather than what products I was famous for advertising".

Talk me through what it was like competing at a World Cup and an Olympics; from the moment you got up in the morning, to stepping off the pitch? "Nothing but Adrenelin. The World Cup is the pinnacle of our sport, to pull on the national jersey, to step out knowing people back home are watching, and listening to the national anthem is the highest honour. The Olympics, for me, is more special. it’s the ultimate Sporting occasion. To be part of that historical moment, to be there with the best athletes in the world is the highest sporting honour. From waking up to going to sleep, you are caught in a very spectacular moment".

So how do you handle the pressure & expectation that comes with competing, now that you are recognised as one of the best soccer players in the world? "I’ve never felt to much pressure. Maybe that’s just part of who I am. A game is a game, its 90 minutes 11 vs 11. I tend to give 100% no matter if I am playing in the Olympics or having a kick about in a pre season friendly. I always want to give total commitment regardless of where I am or who I am up against".

Moving on to your nutrition; how does your diet change in & out of season? "I tend to eat healthy throughout the season. Having Portuguese in me I eat a lot of fresh chicken, fish, pasta and watch my diet carefully. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy a good ice cream or pizza! But I always watch what I eat".

I’m not saying I don’t enjoy a good ice cream or pizza! But I always watch what I eat
— Lisa De Vanna

Do you prefer to eat before you compete, or do you prefer an empty stomach? How early do you have to eat before a game? "I like a good breakfast. Something that I know can get me through the day without feeling hungry or low on energy. Usually some cereal, fruit with some carbs sets me up perfectly on match day".

What are your thoughts on protein shakes/bars/gels? "Its a growing industry with nutritional products taking more and more place within sports. I think there is no harm in replacing used energy but always within moderation. I’m quite old fashioned so feel that I would rather have a good meal than a energy bar".

Are there any foods you actively avoid? "I like heathy fruit, white meat etc. I tend to avoid heavy food such as potatoes or those I cannot shake off easy!"

What is you cheat meal & what meal(s) are the most common in your household? "As mentioned before a good balance of fish, chicken, pasta and rice. I like to eat healthy fresh food whenever I can.  Cheat meal could be a pizza!"

How important is a strong support network at the elite level (coaches, physio's, analysts, etc)? "I think each person is unique, but there is a need for full support within a network. As a young player, with a growing body then it is important that the athlete is looked after, monitored and encouraged to be better".

How do you maintain your motivation over the year? "It is hard to get motivated during the year, especially during the winter playing in Sweden! But I find that surrounding yourself with friends and family can get through those times when you are not motivated". 

Has there been a performance in your career that really stands out for you? "2007 World Cup I gave my all, also the goal I scored for Sky Blues will always live in my mind as two of the best performances I have ever given"

Keep up with Lisa on Instagram & Twitter