Brazilian National Team Player-spends winter break training at Universal Soccer Academy!

The Brazilian Women’s National Team midfielder and University of Texas at San Antonio senior – Laylla da Cruz, spent her last week of winter break working out at the Lumberton, NJ training center.

A longtime fan of US Women’s National Team midfielder and Universal Soccer Academy veteran, Carli Lloyd, Laylla learned about James Galanis (President and Director of Universal Soccer Academy) through Carli’s posts on social media. She quickly realized if she wanted to be the best, she needed to train with the best.

“I’m a big fan of Carli’s and I’ve always followed her on social media. The more I saw her play, the more I wanted to be as good as her someday,” admits the business major from Ouro Branco, Brazil. “I did some research and came across James’ name. I learned that Carli has been training with him at Universal Soccer Academy for the past 10 years. I knew then that I needed to train with him. I reached out but didn’t really expect a response.”

Before long, James replied to Laylla’s request and the two formed an instant friendship. Despite a distance of over 4,000 miles, James was able to help prepare Laylla for her first ever appearance with the Brazilian National Team last November.
“We would talk on the phone every night after my training with the full team,” Laylla recalls. “I would tell him what we worked on that day and he would tell me what I needed to do to stay sharp. James really focused on my mental preparation, as well as fitness and nutrition, which was new for me.”
Known for his commitment to building well-rounded athletes, James’ core curriculum is centered on improving his students’ technical skills, tactical awareness, physical power, mental toughness, and character. Knowing she was about to face the biggest game of her life, James decided to focus on building Laylla’s self-confidence and mental toughness.

According to James, “The mental part of the game is everything. There is no athlete if the mind is not serving the body right. Mentally I started preparing Laylla for the game against USA as soon as we knew she was elected into training camp. I encouraged her to be fully focused and perform at her maximum to prove to her coaches that she was a contributing member of the team. Laylla went one step further than that and won selection into the starting eleven. Prior to the game, I encouraged her to enjoy the experience, stay involved in the action, and have fun.”

After she recovered from the excitement of her national team debut, Laylla booked a flight to New Jersey for her first in-person training session with James. She arrived at Universal’s indoor training center in early January. When asked what it was like to train with one of her biggest inspirations, Laylla admits she was slightly intimidated.

“Oh man, training with Carli was great. At first I was so nervous because I didn’t want to mess up in front of her, but then she started helping me and I immediately felt better. Not only is she a great athlete­—the best midfielder in the women’s game, in my opinion—but Carli Lloyd is also an awesome person. She was there giving me advice the whole time and helping me to get better. It was really cool.”

As if training with one of her favorite soccer players wasn’t enough, Laylla was also overjoyed with the amount of knowledge she was gaining. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘I’ve learned more in 2 days here than I have in my whole life!’ I was surprised how much I was learning from James. Most of the time you see coaches give direction and then let you run drills, but not James. He’s there to give tips every step of the way.”

“Our goal for Laylla during her first week at Universal was to feed her with as much information as possible about the habits of a champion athlete,” noted James. “I see a lot of passion and potential in Laylla—she’s loaded with exceptional ball handling skills and mature tactical awareness. I really wanted her to see that playing at a world class level requires a plan, hard work, and sacrifice.”

While spending a winter break running two-a-day training sessions with one of the premier soccer coaches in the women’s game may not sound like a vacation to some people, Laylla can’t wait for more.
“I had so much fun training with James in New Jersey this week,” she said. “The facility is so nice and everyone was so friendly. I can’t wait to come back this summer and continue to hone my skills so I can work on being the world class player James tells me I can be.”


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