To make it as a footballer, you need to be habitual, determined, talented and passionate. We spoke to football freestyler Lucia Plado - who has played for Crystal Palace Ladies and is currently one of the faces of our We Are Football campaign - about her love of football, her training and any advice she has for younger players.
How did you get started?
I’ve loved playing football since the age of 2. My dad was always encouraging me to play as a young child, teaching me the basics. From there I played in school football teams and soon progressed to playing for Crystal Palace ladies team at the age of 11.
What is your training like?
My weekly training can vary between different ball drills and intense fitness workouts. Most training sessions cover most areas at one time, including individual ball work, team ball work, fitness and a match towards the end of the session.
Do you have a set goal per day or per week?
My set goal usually changes each week. I always want to work on anything I’m not best at until I’m happy with my progress. For example, if my ball touch isn’t up to standard, so if this is the case, I will make sure I carry out any drills that can improve it.
Can you give us an idea of what your diet is like?
I try to make sure I eat healthy every day as it can really set my fitness back if I don’t. I make sure my diet contains a lot of fruit, vegetables, carbohydrates and protein and avoid any fast food or fatty foods.
What does your daily meal plan typically look like?
I have a filling but healthy breakfast every morning. Usually 2 eggs, spinach and 2 slices of bread. I always have my lunch around midday, usually a sandwich with a mixture of fruit. For my evening meal, I mostly have a choice of meat or fish with a small side of carbohydrates and a large selection of different vegetables which will set me for the night.
How do you stay healthy during your strenuous practice/training schedule?
Again, I always try to eat the right foods as it is a big part of your training schedule. Besides that, I make sure I’m always active, getting the right amount of sleep and keeping hydrated.
What is your post-competition routine versus pre-competition?
My post-competition is making sure I have the right mindset before game time so that I’m feeling confident. I do this by having a good night sleep the night before and eating at least 3 hours before a game to give me energy. I ensure I have a good warm-up beforehand and while doing so, I tend to listen to music in headphones so I don’t get distracted.
My post-competition routine is mostly looking back on my performance and analysing what I did well and what I wasn’t so happy with. I focus on each thing and try to improve on it for next time. I think about how I felt during a game; if I wasn’t confident at certain times, I ask myself what I could do to prevent it from happening again.
What does your recovery routine look like after a tough workout?
My muscles always seem to tighten up after a hard training session so I ensure I have a good stretch before and after a game or training session.
What music do you train to?
I listen to the same playlist every time I work out which includes songs with a fast beat. It really has an impact on how I train so I always keep it upbeat and fun to listen to.
Who was or still is your mentor?
My Dad has always been one of my biggest mentors. He’s always pushed me to be hardworking and to take the opportunities that have come to me. He has helped me to become self-motivated in everything that I do which really helps me in my line of work.
What ambitions do you still have?
I would love to carry on with my football freestyling and reach a much higher level than I’m at now.
What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
Developing onto Crystal Palace ladies first team Reserves while I was a team member.
If you weren't a footballer, what you be?
I would love to coach young people in football, but focusing on freestyling and skills.
What sets you apart from other athletes in your sport?
When athletes are focusing on different achievements, they can start to head in different ways. The football industry can open so many different doors that most athletes can palm off to doing something else which can set you apart from other team members.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
“If you fail, you can either stay down or get back up and try again.”
What advice would you give to girls/women wanting to take up football?
I would say that there isn’t a specific age that you need to be to start to play football, it just takes time and practice. Take every opportunity that comes to you, even if it’s out of your comfort zone because it will end up leading you to where you need to be.
What’s next for you?
I’m aiming to grow my football freestyle career to a higher level and also to teach younger people freestyle skills.