Christina Gibbons is now into her second professional year in football and after spending her stint in the W-League with Melbourne Victory, she says she is keen to come back for more next season.
The American has had a round ball at her feet since age-four and concedes she cannot imagine what her life would be like without the game.
The 23-year-old came from the now folded FC Kansas City in the NWSL last season and has started in all of her nine games for Victory with one goal to her name.
Gibbons has predominantly played in midfield this season as a defensive or attacking midfielder, but has not played in the left-back position which she has experience in at Kansas.
She said there was a vast difference in experience coming from Kansas where she played alongside American internationals Amy Rodriguez, Sydney Leroux and Becky Sauerbrunn.
“It’s different for me because it’s strange having girls that are so young. When you play in the US, almost everyone has been through college and they’re a lot older,” Gibbons told FourFourTwo.
“The past year was my first as a professional and I’m playing here with girls who are 15-years-old and they’re professional. It’s different in that sense, gauging where people are at and understanding people feel pressured in different ways and they haven’t necessarily been through everything in the same way.
“I think this team in particular is very young, but as far as talent, skill and work ethic goes, they have all the pieces. It’s just about players maturing and giving them some experience.
“I’ve enjoyed being with Kansas. I was with a very veteran-filled team with heaps of experience, which was awesome.
“I learnt a ton being the young kid, but being here has been cool to be someone who can help guide some of the young players along and to share some of my own experiences, so that’s been really cool.
“I think coming over I wasn’t necessarily sure where I’d fit in, I didn’t know a ton about the team or the style Jeff was going to play other than what we spoke about on the phone.
“I went into it not knowing what to expect, but I’ve been pleased with the way I’ve been able to slide into that midfield role, bond with some of the players around me and to pick up on their traits.”
With football as her full-time job Gibbons likes to spend her free time practicing Spanish, doing yoga and exploring, conceding she tends to overthink games if she does not have interests outside of sport.
She also completed a degree in Visual Media and did not rule out a possibility of pursuing it as a career once she hangs up the boots.
Alright #WLeague fans. Which @victorywleague player has impressed you the most this season?— Clement Tito (@ClementGTito) January 29, 2018
Gibbons has enjoyed the lifestyle in Melbourne so far, living with fellow American Kristen McNabb in Melbourne’s south and is set to join New Jersey side Sky Blue FC once the W-League finishes.
“Natasha Dowie stopped me after we played Boston Breakers last season and she said ‘hey, what do you think about coming to Australia?’ and she looked me dead in the eye,” she said.
“You don’t really say no to Tasha when she does that. I told her I was interested and she put me in contact with Jeff, I spoke to him twice and after that I felt really confident and I just wanted to see what it was all about.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of players that have played over here and seen how many Americans that have come over here. I think it’s a great way to spend the off-season, to explore another country and culture, I’ve really enjoyed it.
“It’s something that now I’ve done once, I know what it’s like and I know the experience. I think it comes down to how my body feels in the off-season and as well as where I’m at with family and personal life.
“Melbourne is cool and definitely different to what I’ve experienced growing up in North Carolina, we don’t necessarily have huge cities.
“There are a lot of places to eat, I’m vegan, so Australia is amazing for me. I’ve really enjoyed the cafes and the weather is awesome, it’s snowing back home right now.
“I’m not really into coffee, but the food is good and I’m big on almond milk, which they have a lot of here.”
Gibbons has spent the majority of her adult life out of home and admits she has matured living in a foreign country this season.
She is yet to make an appearance for her country and with international caps and World Cups on her radar, she said she is not getting ahead of herself.
And after Gibbons’ experience in Australia, she said she has grown confident that women’s sport is progressing every day.
“Just in Australia, coming over to a different country and seeing people rally around a sport that hasn’t necessarily garnered as much attention as it has in the US aside from the national team,” Gibbons said.
“To see people rally around the W-League because of what the Matildas have done is really cool. Also watching the Australian Open women’s final (Simona Halep v Caroline Wozniacki) and two amazing women battle out in such a cool match.
“It’s just the general feeling you get from Australia from the kind of support people have, the love for all kinds of sports, it’s been cool being over here, especially from Melbourne.”
Seventh-placed Victory take on bottom-of-the-table Adelaide United away on Friday night.