The Players: Jodi-Ann Robinson

Soccer observers knew Jodi-Ann Robinson had talent: raw talent. A house league rookie at age 12, it took her but three years to make the national youth team and win a gold medal at the 2004 CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship. A year later, she was making her debut with the full national team, at the time (and still to this day) the second youngest player to ever suit up for Canada.

Soccer observers knew Jodi-Ann Robinson had talent: raw talent. A house league rookie at age 12, it took her but three years to make the national youth team and win a gold medal at the 2004 CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship. A year later, she was making her debut with the full national team, at the time (and still to this day) the second youngest player to ever suit up for Canada.



Six years on, she remains one of the youngest players on the Canadian squad, still only 22 in the month leading up to the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011. She is already somewhat of a veteran, with both a FIFA Women’s World Cup (China 2007) and Women’s Olympic Football Tournament (Beijing 2008) under her belt.



All that experience has served her well, especially in the last half year over which time coaches have observed her further transformation both on and off the pitch. Come Germany 2011 this summer, it will be a new Jodi-Ann Robinson making her re-entry on the big stage.



“I’m not going to be as nervous as I was for my first time at each tournament,” said Robinson. “I have experienced it (a big tournament) and know what to expect, so I am going to go in confident, mentally prepared and focused.”



In 2007, she came off the bench in Canada’s three group matches. The team nearly pulled off a dramatic victory in their last group match against Australia, but the drama was reversed in the 92nd minute before Canada was bounced from the tournament.



One year later in 2008, the 19-year old Robinson was penciled in as an alternate, but she was then called to the squad after veteran Amber Allen pulled out with an injury less than a week before the opening match. Robinson saw action in Canada’s first three matches en route to the team’s quarter-final appearance, a 1:2 loss after extra time to eventual champion USA.



“It was a bittersweet moment to make the team because (Allen) got injured,” said Robinson. “It could have been her first Olympics after she had been with the team for a long time.”



Allen was 33 at the time, already previously twice injured in the lead up to two FIFA Women’s World Cups (2003 and 2007). The Beijing 2008 Olympics was the third big tournament she missed because of injury.



“I got in some matches and I was very grateful for that,” said Robinson. “I just wanted to compete for my teammate and help the team win.”



Robinson said her experience growing up with the national team was very positive, in part thanks to the encouragement she received from her teammates along the way. They taught her what to expect, teachings learned that now in turn Robinson can pass along to the younger players on the team.



On top of her participation at the big tournaments with the full national team, Robinson has won a couple of gold medals at the CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship. She was the only Canadian present for both confederation youth titles in 2004 and 2008.



She has also played in two CONCACAF women’s championships and two FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cups. She missed the 2010 CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifier when Canada won gold, but she counts the team’s accomplishment as one of her favourite moments in sport.



Next up, Robinson will have the chance to compete at another big tournament when Canada dresses for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011. Rest assured, the young talent will be ready when the games begin on 26 June.



Local talent



In just her second year of football, Robinson’s head coach in Richmond was then-active player Andrea Neil. Neil taught Robinson well, so it was no surprise that Canadian national youth coach Ian Bridge took notice when he first saw Robinson in a match a year later in Port Moody.



Things moved pretty quickly from there, as Robinson made the Canadian U-20 team and even enjoyed a brief call up to the full national team where Bridge served as an assistant coach.



When Robinson made her debut with the full national team on 21 April 2005, she counted Neil as her teammates in Canada’s red and white. Robinson played just a few minutes, coming on as a substitution for Christine Sinclair.



Less than a week later when Robinson made her first start, she actually exchanged handshakes with Neil (and Amber Allen) during a double substitution in the 68th minute. (It was 0-0 at the time, but both Sophie Schmidt and Neil scored in the final 20 minutes for a 2:0 victory over France).



Two years later on 15 September 2007, Neil made her final appearance for Canada at the FIFA Women’s World Cup China 2007. Robinson and Neil had seen action together in 13 matches for Canada. Then a year after Neil’s retirement, she returned to the national program as one of Robinson’s assistant coaches under the new Carolina Morace regime.



Said Robinson about Neil, “yes, she is a coach, but she is also there to help me out, not just in soccer but in life, too.”

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