So many players today seem to be stuck playing only one position. Chicago Red Stars defender Whitney Engen mostly played central midfield growing up, but over the course of the last five years has been shuffled all around the field. She has played center forward, center back, and left back.
Engen shares her advice for young players on the importance of being versatile in the second edition of Tips from the Pros .
“I was (guest playing) and my coach told me ‘Don’t ever be married to one position. Play where you’ll be needed.’”
She has played where she was needed throughout her collegiate career at the University of North Carolina, starting first at center forward and then center back for Anson Dorrance's Tar Heels. Now in her professional career with the Red Stars, she recently made the transition to left back.
Engen reminds young players that it’s important to develop all aspects of your game and that being versatile helps you to stay on the field.
She wasn’t on the youth national teams growing up like some of her collegiate teammates and "barely made my state ODP team." Being versatile allowed her to get on the field.
“You have to be able and willing. If you’re willing to try it, you will stay on the field,” said Engen. “You never know where you’re going to be needed.”
But I think that the most powerful way that she was able to make a statement was in thinking about her own situation, and what may have happened had she not made the positional switches.
“To know that if I had protested switching to forward, I wouldn’t be here today. I wouldn’t have gotten a whole lot of minutes (my freshman year) because Anson doesn’t sub in the middle,” Engen mused.
“I would have virtually missed a season and wouldn’t have gotten the experience. As a player you to need to be on the field because it’s all about getting experience. As a junior if I would have said absolutely no (to switching to play in the back) small adjustments would have been made, but I wouldn’t have developed into the player I am today.”
“Who knows what would have happened?”
So for the youth players out there who aren’t sure about trying a new position, give it a chance.
You may just find the place on the field where you excel the best. Who knows what opportunities you may get because of that transition?
Photo courtesy of the Chicago Red Stars