Over the past couple of weeks, MLS got back to action with a one of kind tournament in Orlando, FL at ESPN Wide World of Sports. The since dubbed “bubble” is a concept and idea (also adopted by the NBA) to restart and finish their league. I was able to get access to what I now call the “Inside of the Outside of the Inside of the Bubble” to shoot pitchside photography for a handful of matches in the group stages of the MLS Is Back tournament.Continue reading
Difficult times often bring out the best in people. This can be especially true with art. Creativity is spawned in difficult times, and this custom sneaker project from Jeff Waskowiak (aka @get.kickrich) is a shining example of that.Continue reading
During the launch of the new adidas Predator earlier this year, we had an opportunity chat with newly signed adidas athlete and World Cup winner Abby Dahlkemper. We caught up with Abby on a roof top just outside of Downtown LA on the set of her adidas shoot. KTTP fam Jamia Fields linked up with Abby between shots to get her thoughts on the new boot, joining the adidas family and of course winning the World Cup.
Be sure to follow Abby on Instagram at @abbydahlkemper
Teased last year at Nike’s innovation summit, this week Nike hit us with their full 2020 South Korea national team collection. The collection has everything from game day kits to limited Air Maxes. At first glance it looks like an all in all great collection, but come to find, out opinions on the collection are a little mixed.Continue reading
For this Kit Stories presented by World Soccer Shop, we sit down with Andrew Medina. Andrew is a LA native with a passion for soccer and everything sneakers and streetwear. Drew worked with KTTP as a writer, podcast host, and as on-screen talent. Since the filming of this Drew got a job with LAFC working in the marketing and fan relations department.
We chat with Drew about his love for the game, the US National Team, Real Madrid and LAFC. We revisit key moments with key kits that along his journey with the game.
Be sure to follow Drew on Instagram @drew_near_post
For this edition of KTTP Unboxing Denise Jones and Rich Gordon open up the latest street soccer release from New Balance, the Audazo 4.0. We take a look at the details of the shoe as well as discuss the versatility of the silo. New Balance comes correct with a shoe that work equally as well on street courts as it does in the streets at large, blending functionality and aesthetics. Audazo means “bold” in Spanish and the kicks we open here definitely live up to their namesake. This pair comes in a vibrant combo of red suede and leather and sits on a gum outsole.
Have you ever heard of the “Red Sneaker Effect?” It basically says that if you wear red sneakers you are viewed as a noncoformist and a leader. People will respect you more and hold you in high regard. Here is a dope pair of red sneakers. Try them out and see how the people around you respond. Wearing these will get more passes sent your way when you are playing futsal, get you that job you are interviewing for, and will you secure a date with that attractive person in the produce section at Whole Foods, it’s science. Make sure to head over to newbalance.com to grab a pair.
Recently we talked to Southern California native and River Plate forward Jordan O’Brien about her soccer journey that has taken her all over the country and now across continents. She talks about everything from growing up playing with the boys to her love for checkered Vans. Peep the BTS video, photoshoot and convo below.
Follow Jordan: @jordanobrien
Where are you from?
I’m from Huntington Beach, California.
Tell us how you got started in soccer.
It has always been a thing since I was little. I have an older brother who also plays professionally, currently in the NISA. My dad played as well. So, I was always surrounded by it growing up and that’s an understatement. I literally like consumed my life. but I always saw my brother playing…so obviously I have to do it because I’m super competitive with him. When I was three years old, I started playing at a place in Garden Grove, CA called Garden Grove Arena—it was indoor, it was coed, and it was primarily boys.
What was your transition like from playing indoor to playing outdoor?
From indoor, I think my skills developed really nicely there. When I transitioned to outdoor it was in one of the Mexican leagues in Anaheim. I did that with my brother because he was doing it so naturally, I wanted to do it as well. I would play with his team or a team that was a year younger.
I think my skills translated appropriately because my skills developed nicely because of the futsal that I would be doing.
You mentioned playing and competing against your brother a few times. When you were growing up playing soccer did you often find yourself in the position of being the only girl on the pitch?
Yes, most definitely. Especially in the Mexican league, I’d be the only girl like quite often. It was a normal thing for me. And then once I started getting a bit older than I realized that there are women that play. It is common in Southern California. I started getting involved in that when I was six or seven, which, was great.
Tell us about your soccer journey. How did you get from a Mexican youth league to River Plate in Argentina?
I was at a club called ASC. My dad was the coach. I was with the team until I was about 12, 13. Then I made the transition to Slammers, which, is a really well-known club in Newport Beach. I stuck with them throughout my whole high school experience. I was playing at Marina High School…Marina and Huntington. Throughout my youth, I was getting called into ODP Southern California and then the regional camps.
And after that did you go to college or straight to playing professionally?
It was college. I went to school in the Midwest at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma. It’s a really small private school. For me growing up, college wasn’t really a focus. I was always like, “I’m going to play professionally.” Then I realized when I was leaving high school that that wasn’t really a thing. My parents educated me on that. They were like, “Jordan you need an education because the women’s game is not going to foot the bill for the rest of your life.”
So I ended up going to college and getting my degree in psychology. As soon as I was done with college I said, “I’m outta here. I’m going to go play professionally.” I started out with the Houston Dash.
That is inspiring. You always had the mindset, ever since you were young that you were going to be a professional soccer player, even at a time when the path for women to have a professional career was not well established?
The thing is growing up I never really saw gender as that big of a deal. I thought, “my brother’s gonna play professionally and obviously I’m going to play professionally too. And I’m going to be better than him.” This was always my mentality. I always told myself, “I’m going to be better than him.” He always like inspired and pushed me to want to be more.
Throughout the course of my childhood, you can ask anybody that I grew up with, what I’m known for is soccer. Like everything that I do, my whole being was soccer. At recess, I’d be playing soccer with the boys every single day. People would write down what they wanted to be when they get older. Every single time I would write, “professional soccer player.” I attribute that to me seeing guys doing it and I’m like, “this is the thing that I’m going to do.” I never saw it as, “This is the guy’s thing.”
Were you aware of the women’s game outside of the United States when you were growing up?
I had no idea the world that it would open me up to after college. I obviously saw someone like Mia Hamm and that was really exciting—her being super successful and that was cool. But I don’t think I ever really like idolized any players like in, in the sense that put normal people do. I feel like I always just played for the pure enjoyment of playing. When I became a pro I was like, “I can literally travel the world. I can see the coolest teams in the world.” The coolest clubs with the most historical backgrounds and be a part of that. For me when I became a professional that was a really big pull for me.
That’s amazing. You really are an inspiration to kids, girls, and boys, that want to follow their dreams. Soccer more than any other sport can take you all over the world.
Let’s switch focus and talk about things off the pitch. How would describe your style?
I’m obsessed with checkered Vans. I always have a pair…I definitely have always had an appreciation for vintage jerseys. I have quite a few of those. I have a Norwich one that I’m obsessed with. It’s a nineties print. I then there’s this 1990 England jersey that’s my favorite. It’s massive but I love it so much.
I have always loved the vintage vibe. I have a bunch of old t-shirts. My dad used to play beach soccer and they created this shirt called “O’briens Pub.” It has him on the back with a beer in his hand and it’s the coolest t-shirt I’ve ever seen. It’s this weird pink color but I am obsessed with it.
I’m big on things that are super worn-in. I like my shoes clean but everything else really worn-in and looking really dirty. I feel like that’s the vibe I give off with my style, which isn’t necessarily a good thing, but I think I might love it. I love the fact that off the vibe that I might be slightly dirty. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. My hair is normally pretty crazy. Nothing is that tame ever, which, is how I like it. I’m a slightly messy person, so I think it represents me appropriately.
Thank you. That is a refreshing answer. One thing we try to do at KTTP is to highlight the different personalities of those in the game so thank you for keeping it real. Vans are definitely an Orange County staple. Their headquarters are in Irvine. Lace-ups or slip-ons for your checkered Vans?
Slip-ons normally, I just recently branched out and got a pair with laces. There’s also one other shoe that has been a staple throughout the course of my life and it’s Sambas. I like any opportunity to play pickup. I jump at it. So if I am wearing Sambas I’m chill. I’ll be wearing them and I’m just prepared if anybody happens to want to play pickup.
I love it. You are ready for soccer 24/7. On the rare occasion you are not playing footy what do you like to do?
I definitely love being outdoors. I love being at the beach. Anything beach-related, honestly. I would go surfing all the time with my friends. For the record, I’m not that good but I love being out there so much. I used to longboard quite a bit. I love slack-lining, that’s another thing I really enjoy. Yoga is another thing. All beachy, hippie, chill things.
The women’s game is definitely growing here in The States and abroad. The on-field product is obviously one thing that helps it to grow but also learning about the individual stories of the women involved in the game will help people connect with the game even more.
So each and every individual person has their own story to tell. And I think that’s so beautiful. I highly value every interaction that I have when it comes to my experiences with this game because nobody’s path is the same. You may see a little bit of overlap, but it is actually incredible.
Style-wise, too. Every single person’s style is so different and has a story to tell. I feel like each and every individual that you see and how they present themselves and even their sneakers show an incredible story they have to tell. There are so many people out there that deserve this type of spotlight and to share what they’ve learned and grasped from the game.
We agree. That’s one of the things we are trying to do. There are so many stories that should be told both on the women’s and men’s side, especially in the US. The more we tell and share these stories the more young people are going to connect and see their reflections in these stories and think, “maybe I can do that, too.”
One kid might read a story about me and think, “that resonates with me.” This is my story and I’m not her. She has a whole different story to tell but maybe she’ll see something I’ve said and think, “She went through this struggle and she made it through so I can make it through and continue on with my story.”
Now your story has taken you to Buenos Aires, Argentina and to one of the most storied clubs in all of football, River Plate.
It is so crazy, it was actually insane to be here. Yeah I’m in the preseason and we have a tournament coming up and we actually play Boca, so it’s a big deal. We got smashed by them 5-0 last time but I actually sat in a bombanero and watched from a box. I actually get to play and hopefully we can get something good going and get some goals this time around.
Photos Cred: @Bybrando
The phrase “Going Pro” is a phrase that drives aspirations for young athletes around the world no matter the sport. It is also a phrase that could to be used to describe one’s aspirations for whatever field they are in and their goals to master it. But that being said, while many have the aspirations, few reach that actualization of those dreams. Our latest Female is Football feature has done just that in not one, but two separate worlds. Chelcee Grimes is blazing a path less traveled and has reached the pro level in both the beautiful game and with the music she creates. From signing professional women’s soccer contracts in the UK to writing music for global pop stars, Chelcee is definitely setting an example for young women all over. Check out our conversation with Chelcee below, as she takes us from where it began on the pitch in Liverpool to being in the studio with the likes of Dua Lipa and many more.
Make sure to follow Chelcee @ChelceeGrimes
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got introduced to football.
I’m Chelsea Grimes. I’m a singer, songwriter, and footballer from Liverpool, the best city in the world.
That’s quite a list Singer, Songwriter, and Footballer. Let’s take them one at a time. Tell us how you got into football.
Yeah, it’s honestly, I think it was one of those things that I fell into. I grew up with no brothers and sisters until I was 16. So when I was a kid if I wanted to play outside, play in the street, there was only boys who lived in my street, so they only wanted to play football. So it was kind of just one of those things. Unless I wanted to stay inside, I’d have to go and play football with the boys. I got good quite quickly and I just fell in love with it. And then the first club I played for was Liverpool. My granddad saw article in the newspaper for an Ian Rush soccer school. To be honest, I think the only reason he wanted me to go is so that he could meet Ian Rush, the legend. So I went down and I was the only girl and it just so happened that way. Where we played for the soccer camp was the same place that Liverpool ladies trained on. Someone just scouted me there and asked me down for trials and I went the next week and then I signed for Liverpool and I was there ’til I was 17. So it was crazy and very fast. I think I didn’t even own a pair of football boots when I went for the trial, I was in a pair of trainers but it all worked out.
What was the women’s game like then when you were playing for Liverpool?
You know, I spent the whole summer for the World Cup living in France and that was super emotional for me because there were 45,000, 30,000 people per game in a stadium. And I what I was used to was like, you know, parents on the sideline and the coaching staff, but I think they were quite voluntary when I grew up and it was completely different to now obviously, but you know, it still gave me a place to go. It was still there. It was still available. But yeah, it was, it was definitely 150,000 miles away from what the game is now.
So that’s pretty incredible you were in France for the entire Women’s World Cup. How did that happen?
I was doing BBC Television. I think it was about two months before the World Cup. I had a three episode show commissioned from the BBC, which was online much of the day. And it was a small segment, where they basically said, “Hey, you like football and you like music, why don’t you come and make a show about it?” So I was taking my music friends to football games and just trying to get them more into the game. And then the heads of the BBC said, “Listen, we want to take you out to France. You get to live in France for a month for free and travel the whole country. Watch the women’s tournament on basically just shoot what you want and we’ll put it on at half time.”
Which was obviously amazing because back home it broke records. I think it was the most watched sporting event in England ever. So even though for the women, you know, I was speaking to a lot of the England team and they couldn’t believe it, because their support back home was just incredible. I didn’t know really what to expect going out there to France, you know, having so few women’s games I thought maybe, you know, 50% maybe 25%, hopefully like 75% of the stadiums there would be sold. But it was a sellout each game. And it was honestly a super emotional experience for me because I didn’t think that as I’ve got to experience that, you know? And it was, yeah, it was just such a proud moment for me to know that I was there and it’s a story that I’ll be able to tell my grandkids one day, hopefully.
So you have already told us the other thing you do is music, When did you get involved in making music?
People often ask me what came first. It’s kind of like chicken or the egg, was it football or was it music. And it was 150% football first. Now it’s mostly music because that’s what pays the bills for me. And I make a lot more money and music rather than female football right now. I always wanted to be a footballer. And I played, like I said, from the age of 10 to 17 for Liverpool and I went on to play for Tottenham as well as Tranmere center of excellence with the most capped English female footballer ever, actually men or women. Fara Williams. She was a Tranmere with me and Izzy Christianson who went on to Manchester city. Now she’s at Lyon. And that’s all I wanted to do.
But then very quickly, at the age of 17 you know, people are starting to think about longterm careers and there was just no money in the game. You know, we were at the age of 15/16 and the male team, the boys, they would get a salary then and we would get nothing. We were lucky if we even got a team bus to a game and away game. So I had to very quickly think of something else and I just loved music. It was kind of like, whenever I wrote a song it kind of gave me the same feeling of scoring a goal, when I knew it was really good. It was the only other thing that fulfilled me. So you know, I’d done it for a minute and within a year I got a record deal and a publishing deal and I made a lot of money and I went from having no money with another passion of mine, which had done for seven years, eight years. Then this other thing which gives me the same fulfillment and I was getting paid. So, you know, I had to leave football behind unfortunately for many years, for like four or five years and I focused solely on music and songwriting and creating a name for myself in the industry until I literally could not not think about football. I just had to play again.
So are you self-taught or a classically trained musician?
Yeah it was self-taught. I just did it in school for GCSE(General Certificate of Secondary Education). So you pick three options and I picked PE for football. I picked science in case I had an injury. A lot of girls would go into physiotherapy and stuff like that around the game. And then there was one more option and it was between like history, geography, or music and I was rubbish at the other two. So I was like, “Okay, I’ll give music a go.” Within like the first few music lessons in school I picked up the piano really quickly and my music teacher, Mr. Quinn, shouts out to him, he just really liked he championed me a lot and told me, “You’ve got a gift, you’re talented, you should stick on it.” And so it did. And I play every single open mic night that was available every weekend. I’d play in bars and just doing small gigs until more and more people started coming down and then the record labels came and yet it just grew and it was super organic. Yeah. I never really thought that I’d end up doing it. It was just another thing that I really loved.
That amazing you got signed pretty young then and essentially made it to the pros in music. Tell us about your first record deal.
I think it is every kid’s dream when you pick up an instrument or you make a demo or when you go into a studio for the first time; the one thing that you want is a record deal. It’s like signing for a club in the Premier League. It’s big news, but then as people say, hard work happens and you know you kind of need every star to align at the right time. And I use football analogies constantly throughout my music career and people can’t shut me up about them, My first record deal, I always say it was kind of like Paul Pogba signing with Manchester United and then he got let go and then he becomes something, then they resign him back.
‘Cause the first record deal I was signed to was Sony and I was only signed there for about a year maybe. But I didn’t really know what kind of album I wanted to make. They were trying to make me like an Alicia Keys, because I was young and I was playing a piano and I was British and they were like, “okay, we don’t have anyone like that.” It was quite contrived and I just hated the record I was making. I absolutely hated it.
So I didn’t release any music, but I got paid, you know, a nice advance and it kept me living for a good two years. And then I traveled and I got to just really find the person and I wanted to be. Because at that time I was 18, 19, and you know, I don’t even think I had fallen in love before properly or anything. It was a massive learning curve for me. And we parted ways and then I was like, “I’m just gonna write songs for a bit.” So it’s kind of like I went out on loan for a while. A year later I made a name for myself with songwriting. Right. I wrote for Kylie Minogue and Dua Lipa. Then they resigned me back for even more money. So it was kind of a weird place. And then I released the first single with them, which did really well. And then I just, yeah. And then I got back into football obviously at that point. The past two years have honestly just been crazy. It’s just been nonstop about prioritizing football and TV and songwriting and then for my own album. So it’s just, yeah, it’s nonstop.
So tell us how and why you got back into football after starting a successful music career.
So it was not this World Cup, but the World Cup before that, I think, Fara Williams was the captain and I was sitting home, I remember it clearly. I was watching pretty much half of the team on the England squad and I played with them on some level and I was just sitting on the sofa eating Doritos and getting chunky. And I was just like, “What am I doing?” I picked up my laptop then and there and at halftime I looked at teams that were close by.I contacted clubs and and told them, “I played for this club and this club, and you know, I’m not really that fit, but technically I think I’m still good.” And I got to trial at a few Sunday League teams who wanted me, and then I got a trial for West Ham, Tottenham, and Wimbledon but then I didn’t travel for Wimbledon, but I did travel West Ham and Tottenham and they both offered me contracts, which was crazy because I didn’t expect to be at that level. That was just one league below Super League, which I felt was quite high considering I hadn’t played for the past five years. And I signed for Tottenham and played two seasons there, which was amazing. And then they went up to super league and got promoted. And at that point it was too much. It went full time then. And I also had this other career. I was gigging most nights and I was in the studio. This is the difference with all the people that maybe have a nine to five job they can leave and make training. But if I’m in the studio with Dua Lipa the Grammy winning best new artist in the world, I can’t just pick a bag up and go, “Sorry, Dua, I’ve got training.”
Because you know, that one song could make me $1 million, it could make me 300,000 pounds. And you know the women’s game still isn’t at that level; one season you’re not going to retire off that money. It’s such a difficult decision always will be. It’s about priorities and you know, I’m at Fullham now, which is two leagues below the super league, but it gives me time to balance a little bit better. You know, if I miss training a few times, then I’m definitely not in the squad, and the manager makes a point that no one’s better than anyone and you’ve just got to keep training and get yourself back in the side. So yeah, it’s a lot, but I love both.
At KTTP we talk a lot about the intersection of football, fashion, and culture. What are your thoughts about how the game has grown off the pitch?
One of the leading guys right now in English football, I think for fashion, is obviously Hector Bellerin from Arsenal. That guy is in Vogue now. And you see Mbappe and all these guys in front, when I was in Paris. He was everywhere. Not only in sports sections, but also in like high end fashion places. And I think the of the fashion world maybe being a little bit snobby over the years and also British football was saying, “it’s too flamboyant for our sport.” But I also think the fashion world has awoke and they’ve thought, “You know, actually those guys, they’ve got fashion and they can offer us something that we don’t have.”
And I think there’s new crowds being built through music, fashion, and football all coming together. It’s opened this whole new level of what even fashion is, I think. So it’s super inspiring when you see all the football shirts now. that The way PSG have done theirs, with BAPE and stuff like that. It’s super exciting for everyone whether you’re in sport or you’re in fashion to be able to go out now on a night out and you can actually rock a football Jersey being designed with adidas or someone else it’s just sick.
What do you think about Nike partnering with you hometown club, Liverpool?
I’m ready to go obviously because I’m a fan and Nike anyway, but I just think in our squad now we do have some flare players, you know, Virgil van Dyke in anything looks like a supermodel so imagine him when Nike and Liverpool come with some fire new releases. He should just do his own runway show for the whole thing.
What are your thoughts on the future of the women’s game in England and abroad?
On a personal note, I’m just super excited to see what happens. Obviously hopefully the growth keeps going. I’m now a Barclays ambassador with Kelly Smith, who is an Arsenal legend, and Ian Rice. They’ve put, I think, seven years of money now into the women’s game, into the WSL. So that’s amazing because they’ve never had someone jump on with that funding before, and it’s the same as the men’s. So Barclays run across the premier league and now the WSL. So that’s super exciting to see where they can take the game.
Thanks so much for your time. Maybe you can leave our readers with what you got going and what you are looking forward to in 2020.
Liverpool, my club, we’re world champions now, after that win, and we are looking very good for the Premier League. So hopefully that will be the first time I’ve ever seen my team win the Premier League, which will be unreal. For me on a personal note, career wise, I’m super excited. Match of the Day is back on the BBC in March. And so that starts again every Thursday night in England, which is just a dream come true for me to even be partnered with the BBC and have an anchor role is just crazy. I actually can’t keep a straight face when I talk about it. Songwriting-wise, I’ve got a new song on the new Dua Lipa album coming in the summer and two on the new Kesha album, which lands in January, I believe. A lot more music for myself coming. I’m just back in the studio after Christmas. I’m at Fullham and we’re on a Christmas break right now, but I’ll be back playing for them. So there’s a lot going on, but just hopefully 2020 brings more good stuff.
For Maxine Goynes, sports were part of her DNA. With her mother hailing from the UK while having a love for athletics and football (soccer) heritage and her Father playing American football at UCLA, Max was almost destined to be on a field or track. Maxine takes us through her story from growing up in and around the Bay area, to playing college soccer, to moving to LA to pursue a career in acting, fitness, and modeling. Check out our conversation with Maxine as well as the Photoshoot and BTS video.
Thanks to Nike for providing a few NSW pieces for the shoot.
Follow Maxine: @maxinegoynes
So to start things off could you give me your background, where you’re from grew up and how you got connected with the sport of soccer.
I am originally from Modesto, which is in the Central Valley of Northern California. I considered the Bay Area as a second home as I would commute from Modesto to Pleasanton and play on the club soccer team there. My classes would finish early in high school and then I would commute to practice with the hope of having more opportunity and exposure to continue playing. I earned a scholarship to play soccer at Santa Clara University. I also played in the Olympic development program and was fortunate enough to travel a bit.
My parents met through sports. My mother is British, from Salisbury in the UK and my father actually played American football for UCLA. After winning the Rose Bowl UCLA decided to send several players over to the UK to teach people how to play American football. My mother was overseeing Sports Promotion for the county Department of Parks and Recreation and one of the facilities happened to be where my father was visiting. Reluctantly, my mom was given the duty to give him a tour and happened to quickly appreciate his sensibility, integrity, and charisma. It reminds me that the universe works in miraculous ways and you never know when you will meet the love of your life. They stayed in contact back and forth after my father left. Eventually, my father went back to the UK where he and my mother got married and had my older sister Danielle. They moved back to the USA and that was that! I like to say, soccer and sport especially became part of my DNA.
So there is something really powerful about sport, based on the story of your parents, I would assume you would agree?
Yeah, you really realize the power of athletics. My parents would have never met, let alone started an interracial relationship at that time had it not been for sport. You have two people from completely different sides of the world with completely different upbringings, but they understood each other.
So do you have siblings? And if so did they play soccer as well?
Yes, I have three sisters and I am the second oldest. We all played soccer. I truly feel that my older sister was probably the best soccer player out of all of us. She actually broke her ankle playing competitively, so it wasn’t really something that she continued to pursue after the injury. We all had very different temperaments and personalities. Sasha my younger sister very much the girl picking flowers, wanting everyone to get along, my baby Erica was the strategist and I was always just very intense; a run and gun type. My father coached our teams and I always subconsciously thought of it as an opportunity to prove to him having daughters wasn’t a consultation of any kind. It was our chance to prove to him that, having athletic daughters was a big win. We really tried to play very strong and I think my mother in fact the foundation of us being strong women.
I always felt at a crossroads because I wanted to cheerlead & dance. My parents wanted us to be able to play a sport that they felt was gonna would give us permission to take up space in an aggressive manner. Not to say you can’t do those things within the arts, but soccer is just different. Now I can appreciate that as it was very forward for women’s empowerment. I did always try to find a way to marry those two things; femininity & masculinity. I was a player that was very assertive but I wore a ribbon in my hair while doing so. I always wanted both and I think that soccer was a way that you can still explore femininity and masculinity. That’s really cool. That’s really the way I kind of put it into perspective.
So can you talk a little about your transition from playing in college to moving into things and career off the field?
I played in college and then while I was in college, the league for women at the time both opened up and also folded. So this was a time where you knew there may be potential to play and then quickly also realized that it may be fragile.
Looking back I definitely start to recognize how fear and a scarcity mindset can start to affect your decision making. I knew how much my family had sacrificed for me to get an education and wanted to know that I would be able to support myself financially immediately following school. That can be intimidating, most of us had dedicated our whole life to playing. Emotionally I decided regardless of pay I was ready to leave playing the game. I was ready to use everything that soccer taught me off the field with new challenges. I very much recognize that there were women that I played with and I grew up playing with such as Julie Ertz, Christen Press, Kelly O’ Hara and Alex Morgan, all women who are on the full (USWNT) team that were hungry to play. When I witnessed the level of commitment that they had, I had so much respect for it, but I also knew that it was not for me to continue playing. The plan was to use the sport as a foundation and a stepping stone to build character & relationships. I left soccer in a way that respected, the sport and respected everybody that was still playing.
So what did you study and get your degree in and how did that lead you to where you are and what you are doing today?
So when I was in school, I studied communication. I was always interested in business but I actually started to take a communication major because we had a family friend at the time who had a very successful family company and they shared with me how the most difficult thing for them in the hiring process was finding people that really had the social skills to connect with other people. Following soccer, I earned an internship in the spring of my senior year. IMG was a huge talent firm in sports & hospitality in San Francisco.
And while I was in school, I was asked to be in the NCAA commercial on behalf of women’s soccer. This was the first time that I was working in film and I was in my full kit, but I had hair and makeup on. I was like, what is this? What is this world? What is this about? At the time, I thought I was interested in commentating and hosting. I love film and people but wasn’t sure how I would combine the two interests.
I will never forget, I had a meeting with Ted Griggs the now president of Comcast Sports Bay area.
He asks me, “Okay, you wake up one Sunday morning and there’s a sports section open of the newspaper and on the table next to it there’s a Vanity Fair. Which one do you pick up first?” I didn’t even have to answer. I knew and he knew. Sports weren’t really what I wanted to do. He looked at me and said, “Go to LA, you love film, you love people, you have the tools to be successful at anything you do but sports in this capacity isn’t for you. Carry it with you, it’s a part of you but not ALL of you.” So I left and I moved to LA. I’m so grateful for that conversation. I moved to LA, to pursue entertainment and film, and I started my first job with a modeling agency shooting lifestyle and fitness shoots while working as a remote recruiter for visual artists.
How have you seen the industry change since moving to LA as well as what have you seen change in women’s soccer since you stopped playing?
I think that technology, in general, has allowed athletes, specifically female athletes to connect to an audience and allows us as an audience to see how complex, dynamic and layered the women are.
It’s been beautiful because we would all tune in and watch the World Cup or watch the game and we knew a player for their position. But we didn’t know their position in life. We didn’t know she was a mother, girlfriend, sister, thought leader, and advocate for things that she’s passionate about in society. I feel like it has really allowed us to see the holistic transparent beauty in a human being. It’s moving when you can know anyone’s backstory. When you know a little bit more about what moves them in the world or what fear/concern they have outside of being on the field then you become invested in them even more so. Yes, people are more connected to their individuality, but I think that also can create a community. I think that when we can collectively appreciate individuals, it strengthens the community.
Do you see elements like players loving sneakers helping the popularity of the game grow?
I think that sneakers allow people to have conversations that maybe they wouldn’t have otherwise. Sneakers act as an ice breaker. They allow us to connect with someone that didn’t come from the same walk of life. When I see someone in this sneaker and now that allows me to have a conversation with her, to feel like she understands different parts of culture outside of her own, and vice versa that’s special. I feel that seeing women able to show and express themselves through their sneakers can be something very intimate. This is something that we use as a tool to physically move through the world. And so I think it’s just something beautiful no matter if she’s the type of player that wants to keep her classic sneaker on her or she’s wearing something that’s like a collab or whatever it may be. She has one and there’s a story behind why she wears what she wears and what she’s drawn to. And it’s something that allows us to start to explore and be curious about each other.
To stay on the topic of sneakers, what’s your favorite to wear?
Anything that’s a knit material I really love. But also my view has changed a little bit. My father, in 2017, passed away from cancer and it changed the way I see the world. Now when I think about my favorite sneakers and I think about a classic sneaker like low top forces. For me, I’m really drawn to minimalism and focusing on less being more. How I can wear that sneaker in a versatile way is something that I really appreciate. I think that a lot of that has been shaped by life experience and for me.
That is so great, and I have to ask, on the fashion side of things what designer are you rocking the most lately?
I love Jerry Lorenzo and everything he does with Fear of God. When I see his shoes as I’m like,” Oh my goodness!” I am truly moved. What a beautiful way to merge high fashion with streetwear and make it in a timeless kind of look and style with earth tones and color palettes. I really respect that approach of mixing the minimalism and the contemporary. I love it.
Switching gears a little bit, I wanted to ask what are your about your thoughts on the importance of making the game of soccer more accessible to more communites that might have not expereinced the game before?
I think that any time you can bring a more diverse group of people together and that might mean diverse in perspective, culture, race, socioeconomic group, spirituality, any time we can do that, I find advantages to us all evolving and growing as people. I went to Santa Clara University, which is a private Jesuit university. It’s an expensive university and a beautiful one. There were not many women on the team that looked like me. I remember playing in games and having, little girls come up wanting to get my autograph and what it meant for them to be able to see me on that team.
Wherever there’s a team and a potential for resources, for finances to be made through sport, it means that those people have more opportunity, not only for them being an athlete but for them as a person. So I absolutely do feel that one of the beautiful things about soccer is that it is the biggest and most global sport and you can go to any other country and see people playing, even with a beaten up ball, on dirt fields. In comparison to other sports like wakeboarding or snowboarding or something of this nature, that requires a lot of expensive tools and equipment, soccer is accessible. I do think that is what’s so beautiful about this sport and so many people of different backgrounds are connected to it.
The more diversity that we can get to the sport, the better. It’s also important because the conversations that happen amongst teammates and in the locker room trickle into our lives. There were times that I would have a teammate that grew up in an area where she wasn’t used to being around women that came from my culture but she and I, we loved each other. We were in the fields fighting for each other. We had an appreciation for each other and that trickled into our friendships and to our families and it seeps into the world. There’s this beautiful flowing, essentially like a union that happens through the sport that can be continued into how we treat each other in the world.
Last question—now that you have been away from the sport as a player for a bit—how do you see soccer having a role in your life going forward?
I personal train women that work in the creative space and want to use my background in storytelling and film to create space for us together. I am focused on MG METHOD which will be a lifestyle brand and extension of my private clientele. I’m not physically playing soccer anymore, but missed most of all the sisterhood and being able to encourage somebody through adversity and triumph. I enjoy that. Working with the private client whether it be in training or media allows me to do that with women and still remain a teammate and supporter. I’m a system for them to have success in their life.
I also am still very much involved in acting and film. I’ll always find ways to do that. I have been creating original content most recently and know in my heart I will continue to act. For the last couple of months, we have been training for a feature film directed by R.L. Scott, where we have action choreography. My trainer for this movie, Chyna McCoy was the body double for Morpheus in the Matrix. The interesting thing is that this has been really fascinating to also be able to use my body in new ways. I was a former Division One athlete. I can do this. I have so much respect for how movement, with regard to film and choreography, is VERY different. I feel like a child in the sense that I am completely starting over and it’s been very new, but I am also looking forward to the potential of doing any sort of action in a movie.
Ask any soccer player in Los Angeles, and there is a good chance that they have had some sort of experience with the soccer retailer Niky’s Sports. Whether that is buying boots or products at one of their stores, attending one of the many events that they put on, or seeing their presence at countless soccer events around the city. Niky’s is an institution in the Los Angeles soccer scene and the people behind it are equally passionate about the beautiful game as they are their brand.
Thirty three years after Niky’s opened their first location, the company now counts eight locations throughout the greater Los Angeles area. The store locations are as diverse as the City of Angels itself and further prove that Niky’s understands not only its customers, but the city they call home.
We sat down with Luis Orellano to talk about all things Niky’s: where they have been and where they are going, what it’s like to grow up in and around soccer stores, and why a genuine love for the game is at the heart of what Niky’s does.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about Niky’s and how it started?
Luis: October 30th, 1986 is the day my dad opened the doors of our first store. The first store is about two blocks west of the store we are currently are sitting in. We’re a family owned business. The majority of the stores are owned jointly by my dad and my uncle. The other two stores are owned by other brothers. Everybody in our family works at one of the stores. The entire family in involved with the business.
Q: So six stores are owned by your dad and brother, and the other two stores are owned by other family members. But the entire Niky’s organization is run under the same umbrella?
Q: What is your role or title within Niky’s sports?
Luis: I guess you can label me the CEO. I don’t like labels, but I am the one that is in charge of putting the plan together for the businesses. Where we want to grow. How we want to go about it. Where our biggest opportunities are and what are the biggest threats to the business.
Q: You have eight stores. Has it been steady growth or has expansion been in more recent years?
Luis: We had two stores for I think eight or ten years. When I graduated from college and I really started diving into our business, I felt like we had a huge opportunity to expand. LA is huge and there are so many people that play soccer and I always felt there was room to grow. We couldn’t reach everybody at that point as we only had two stores.
In my opinion, to reach more people you have to have a physical footprint to really affect those communities. Online is a great tool that we utilize, but there is nothing like going into a store and trying on new boots. That is such a unique experience that you can’t have online. The things that we specialize in, we feel we have to have a brick and mortar experience for that.
Q: You went to school at Cal Poly Pomona, but what were the early years like for Luis? Did you play soccer? Spend lots of times at the stores? What was that like?
Luis: All I wanted to do was play soccer. I started playing when I was four. I played high school. I played a little bit of club soccer. But when I was younger my dad started this organization that was meant to give kids from El Salvador an opportunity to show their talent to not only professional teams from El Salvador but also to the federation. Unfortunately because of the civil war, a lot of people left El Salvador and came here to LA. So there is a massive Salvadorian community here and my dad saw that as an opportunity, so he and a couple friends created an organization where if you were a kid of El Salvadorian descent, you could play. And we became really, really good. We would play professional teams from El Salvador. Our first team was like a little academy. Unfortunately that doesn’t exist anymore, but it was a great opportunity for a lot of kids.
Q: What was it like growing up loving soccer and being able to go into a soccer store everyday and see all the latest products?
Luis: It was awesome, dude. I would see all the new boots before everybody else. I remember being on the phone at like 14 or 15 years old and calling people in places like Spain and Argentina. Trying to get Atletico Madrid jerseys. Trying to get Boca Juniors and River Plate jerseys. Products like that didn’t exist here. There wasn’t a licensed jersey business here. But we had people asking for them so we would try and get them.
Every aspect of my life revolved around the store. I would come here after high school. Every day after school I would come here. In the summers I was here everyday. When I would have a game on a Saturday, I would play my game and then come back to the store. And it never bothered me. I always wanted to do it. It was awesome.
Early on my dad bought one of those massive satellite dishes. Not the small ones they have now. But the giant ones that were around back in the day. That was the only way back then that we could get all the European games. We would watch them all at my dad’s store.
At that time Serie A was the league. My dad and I would get up super early to come and watch games at the store. There would already be like six or eight of his friends outside waiting to watch the games with us.
Q: Your dad sounds like a staple of the community. He had his stores. People would come in to the store to hang, watch games and be a part of what was going on there. He helped start an organization that helped young Salvadorian kids to play soccer. How important is that sort of community role been to the success of Niky’s over the years?
Luis: I think it’s been vital because our communities understand that we are invested in them. Sure we are here to service you when you need cleats and balls and shinguards. But we’re also trying to inspire some kids or give some kids a chance. The object of that program that my dad helped start was to give kids a chance.
We want the communities that we are involved in to understand that we are more than just a soccer shop. We do events and we try to give back to local schools and community organizations because we’re not just here to sell you products, but we’re also here to help grow the sport that we love.
Q: It seems like this is an example of the better that Niky’s does as a positive member of the community, the better the business does overall.
Luis: I also think you have to be authentic when doing it. This sport means so much to so many people and you have to try and do things the right way. The soccer community here in LA is so knowledgeable and so diverse and they have been around a long time. Futbol in LA isn’t new here. What is happening here with the local MLS teams is incredible but the sport has been a huge part of the community for a very long time here.
Q: In the years since you have worked at Niky’s full-time, the sport has grown quite a bit here in LA. What are some of the ways in which you have seen that are maybe more specific to LA?
Luis: There’s more attention to it now. There’s more national and global eyes on LA from a soccer perspective. But if you look at what futbol means to this city, it’s a super important part of this city, it’s been vital. It’s instrumental. Because of the large immigrant community. It’s a diverse community. The Central and South American influence is huge. That’s always been here. Now, there’s just a lot more eyeballs on the sport and a lot more investment as well. From the league perspective. The brands are making bigger investments and making it a focus globally. That’s all helped grow the game to new heights. Thats the only difference. The passion and love for it hasn’t changed.
Q: As the game has grown here, have you seen an overall rise of awareness from people who maybe aren’t core soccer fans?
Luis: I think the biggest difference we have seen is from a more casual fan. A large part of that has to do with LAFC. There are a lot more fans that are casual fans. They might not know as much about the sport. They might not have really played the sport as a kid. But something about the experience is helping them gravitate to soccer. We started working with LAFC pretty much as soon as they were announced. That investment for us and working with them has really paid off for us.
Interesting though, we have also seen a rise in Galaxy jerseys as well. That’s awesome to see too. LAFC really galvanized the Galaxy fanbase and they have come out and supported their teams and made sure people know that they have been Galaxy fans for a long time.
Q: You spoke about the diversity of LA and the local immigrant community. LA is a very diverse place and soccer is sort of an extension of that notion. The way that you guys have grown kind of seems to follow that. You’re downtown, you’re in the inner cities, but you’re also on the westside and in the valley that may be more suburban. As a brand, you guys seem to be a representation of what soccer culture looks like in LA. Is that something you find to be true and is this something that you guys plan and strategize around?
Luis: Thats exactly what we do. Soccer doesn’t discriminate. It is inclusive for all types of people and social status and class. If we want to service every soccer playing person of this huge community then we have to be in all these places. So we have a store in West LA where it might be a more affluent customer and it may be a different customer than a customer here in downtown. It doesn’t matter where you live or your social class, the soccer community needs to be serviced the right way. We’re very proud and very confident that we have the knowledge and the experience to service the soccer community in a very unique way.
Our biggest objective is that everyone that walks in our store walks out with the right items that they need to enjoy this game.
Q: I imagine that is based on a fundamental love that you all have for the game.
It’s about futbol. That’s all. If we don’t care about the game we’re not going to be successful in this thing. But everyone that works for us has a love for the game. It’s instrumental. If you want to do what we do you have to love this. If we’re not true to the game then we’re done. If we don’t display that every time someone comes in our stores, that this is about futbol/soccer, then we are done. That’s our biggest opportunity—show everyone that we are authentic to the game and the city and that we know what we are talking about. I think that’s really, really important.
Q: You mentioned earlier that you went from two stores to eight in a relatively short period of time. And its seems that you guys did that in a time when other retailers are closing doors. What makes Niky’s successful in a time when other retailers are struggling?
Luis: First of all, let me say that nobody here at our business takes any joy from seeing a competitor go out of business. That genuinely bothers me. I know how much blood, sweat and tears people put into something like this. It’s not easy, man. I feel for them. I really, really do.
I think we’re successful because we’re authentic and through our hard work and persistence in the market place, we’ve been able to get people’s vote of confidence. They know that when they come into our store they are going to get treated right and that they will find what they need. I think our service and knowledge sets us apart. It’s not easy. But I think our experience, knowledge and the shopping experience make a huge difference for us. We’re proud of the stores and how we have created a new shopping experience for kids. Why can’t kids in the inner-city have a great shopping experience? Every consumer deserves that and our goal is to provide that for everyone.
I remember being a kid and trying on new boots and what that felt like and what that experience was like. We want to create that for every customer that comes in the door.
Q: When I look at Niky’s it seems that you guys connect with the city and the cultural aspect beyond just the sport. Is that true and does that make you guys even more unique as a soccer retailer in Los Angeles?
Luis: You are 100% correct. Futbol in this city cuts deep and there are so many creatives in this city and that gives us an opportunity to work on special projects that might have nothing to do with a cleat or a jersey. I’ve been a big proponent of soccer culture for years. I’m all about taking risks with local brands and with local artists to create special items and deliver them to the community. I believe there is an appetite here for that kind of stuff.
We’ve worked with LAFC, we’ve done popups with local brand FC Dorsum. We’ve done collaborations with local artists like Nevermade, he’s a graffiti artist that did a great collection with us for LAFC. We’ve done stuff with Guillermo Andrade from 424. All these things have a huge cultural impact. Not only to the game but quite frankly to the city. These are real LA stories—and if we can tell these stories and reach some kids. That’s the best, man.
Q: Speaking of LA stories, you did a project with PUMA that explored LA neighborhoods through footwear. Tell us about that.
Luis: That project was 18 months ago now. About three years ago PUMA came to us and said they wanted to do a project with key specialty soccer partners around the globe. For the US part of this, they wanted to partner with Niky’s and they wanted us to do it around LA. I think there were only four accounts across the world that were a part of this project. I told them from the beginning that this has to be about LA and they were super supportive of that.
We worked with another local artist, Qudo. The idea of the pack was that our first store was in downtown LA. In downtown LA there are a lot of different districts. We chose three to focus on: the flower district, the jewelry district and the garment district. We made three shoes inspired by those districts. We were really proud of that collaboration. It was promoted globally by PUMA. Antoine Griezmann wore one of the cleats. He was supposed to wear them for one game but he ended up liking them so much he wore them for like four or five games. That was a great project and we’re actually working on the second version of that now.
Q: How did it feel when you saw Griezmann wear something that you guys created?
Luis: CRAZY!! I couldn’t believe it. It gave us a great sense of pride. All the work that we have put in as a family was recognized globally. That was really special.
Q: You seem to have a great vision of where you see Niky’s going in the future. Can you talk a little about that?
Luis: I think we have a huge potential as a company. We have ambitious plans leading up to the Olympics and World Cup coming here. We’re hoping that the Women’s World Cup will be here soon. We’re bullish on our brick and mortar presence. We understand that we need to invest in digital, but we want to invest in digital to help it grow our brick and mortar and for both to compliment one another. We want to open more physical stores in cities that have asked us for a store. Continue working on collaborations with the local teams. Bring energy and differentiation to the soccer experience. And continue to show our love for the sport and our love for LA.