Jenna McCormick never really had a plan to go overseas in 2016, but she somehow found herself over 15,000 kilometers from home atop the winner’s podium.
Joining UMF Stjarnan of the Icelandic Úrvalsdeild League midway through the season, McCormick and Stjarnan were able to secure first place and win the league. Despite her misgivings to head abroad, McCormick was central to the play, a fixture in the starting lineup week in and week out.
“It wasn’t really on my radar to go overseas. It wasn’t in my plans at all. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I had an opportunity last year and the year before to go places but it just didn’t feel right,” she said.
The opportunity came about in the W-League offseason when her initial plans to stay at home, work, and play for a local club didn’t pan out.
“I just thought I’ve got nothing to lose. I’ve got nothing holding me back right now.”
“I’ve got the chance to do anything if I wanted to do it. There were a couple of other overseas options, but this was the one that came to me first and something just felt right about it.”
This just happened, we are the champions ??? pic.twitter.com/dRI5bYwgfD
— Jenna McCormick (@jen_mccormick) September 30, 2016
Moving to a Non-English speaking country by yourself can be a difficult environment for anyone to handle, let alone succeed in, but McCormick has been able to do just that.
“It was very different for me, I felt like I jumped straight into the deep end with a country like this just given that the language is so difficult. It can be hard in training to rely on so many things other than hearing. It’s been tough at times, but I think I have really risen to the occasion. I have really enjoyed the experience here. Everyone here wants to do really well. It’s as serious of a league as any other in the world.”
The Úrvalsdeild League consists of domestic players as well as many international players from Canada, Mexico, Italy, and others proving to be a league that attracts high quality players from all over. Playing overseas on her own for the first time combined with the caliber of the league, McCormick believes she has been able to learn from this experience.
“The biggest thing I’ve had to learn is how to handle myself independently without too much support around me,” she stated.
“I’ve always got my friends and family at home, but they aren’t here with me. It’s kind of just me. You are pretty much just fending for yourself outside of football.”
“It was just such a different environment. I think I’ll be a little bit more independent as a player and as a person. I can assess a game or a training and tell myself what I need to do better and what wasn’t good enough.”
At 22 years old, McCormick has been playing in the W-League for four seasons and is back with Canberra United for a second season. Each season the defender has improved and found confidence within herself and her position.
For Season 9, along with her continual independence as a player, McCormick wants to add consistency to her play.
“I just want to put in a consistent performance every week that I know that I can. I’m the only one that can tell if I’m living up to the goals. I know where I can perform and I know where I should be. ”
“I want to focus and be able to put that effort in whenever I get the chance to play and not be disappointed in what I put out on the field. I just want to give my best every single week and if any rewards come from that then great, but that’s not my goal. I just want to be consistent and contribute to the team the best way I know how.”
Early in October McCormick announced that she would be not only playing in the W-League, but also be joining the newly formed AFL. Like many Australians, growing up McCormick played and embraced several other sports including AFL and as an above average cricketer.
McCormick was picked up by hometown club Adelaide Crows in the recent AFL Women’s Draft. While a surprise for some, McCormick has been hoping to be a part of the AFL for as long as she hoped to play professional soccer. In 2011 and 2012, McCormick was ranked in the top 10 Aussie Rules footballers are strong performances for South Australia in the U18 youth girls national championships gaining an invitation to the the AFL women’s high performance academy.
“I have been a part of the AFL system for a few years now. I was always wanting to do it. My AFL club is just really excited to have me onboard. A bonus for them is that I am a cross over athlete and I do have soccer up there as a priority as well as AFL. It is one of the other things that I have always dreamt about and it’s really big for AFL.”
— Adelaide Crows (@Adelaide_FC) October 12, 2016
Becoming a dual sport professional athlete may seem to be a daunting task, but McCormick feels she is up for it and even invites other soccer players to join the AFL.
“I can manage to do both because I’ve grown up with both and it’s made it a little bit easier for me. There are a few soccer players who have also tried their hand at footy and given it a go and been able to translate those skills really well.”
“I think if others want to have a go at it they should. It’s a really good opportunity to be involved in another professional league. People growing up with that football background may find it a little easier to transition into AFL if they wanted to give it a go, but in saying that people who have never played AFL before have came out and absolutely killed it.”
Jenna McCormick’s desire to play in all three leagues is not just for this year. She hopes to continue to play soccer and Australian football as long as she can.
“My goal for AFL is to play competitively and play well as this year is just the start, it’s just the beginning. The league is set in stone and will be there for a very long time now. I would like to be involved with that for as long as I can and do as well as I can.”
“I have also really enjoyed playing overseas this year. It’s been life changing for me and it’s been really amazing. I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to do it and I think that I would love to do it again next year whether it be back in Iceland or somewhere else.”
Over the past year McCormick has gone from being just a player of the W-League, to winning a league across the world, and now a dual sport professional who’s a part of a new league. It may not be certain what Jenna McCormick happens next year but she is on a unique journey that is one of her own making.