Video Spotlight - Colleen Webber

LANGLEY, British Columbia - For Colleen Webber, Joy is her middle name.  

Literally but, also very much so, figuratively.

And this year especially, the Spartans central defender has embodied, and embraced, her middle moniker.

If you get the opportunity to meet her, you’ll get it. The soft-spoken Webber is a delight to chat with, as teammate Jilian Dietrich says, is “an animated” character in the dressing room, is a self-defined mother-to-be, as coach Graham Roxburgh says with a bit of a laugh, “is a little crazy sometimes,” and is simply a smiley “Joy” to be around.

“She’s having lots of fun for sure this year,” Roxburgh said. “She likes joking with people. But she’s just got a real good blend of times when she gets serious and focused, and shows that in how she plays, and other times when she’s very bubbly. She’s become a real big part of the life of our team.”

This season, the proud Calgarian, who grew up playing soccer with the Calgary Foothills under Spartans men’s assistant coach Troye Flannery, has taken her game to yet another level and has been a dominating presence on the back end.

Through the first 10 games of the year, the Spartans “Back Six” as they like to call it – a group that includes defenders Nikki Byrne, Jilian Dietrich, Jennifer Castillo and Webber, goalie Kristen Funk and coach Erin O’Driscoll – has allowed a meagre five goals. And with such a quality group at the back Webber is having a whole lot of fun shutting down the opposition.

“I feel that I’m at my best right now,” Webber said. “I think it’s the love of the game again and every game I go out to play for my team. I didn’t really have that before. In high school, everyone was playing for themselves and here we’re all playing for one common goal. It’s to win but it’s for each other.”

“She’s so steady and so calming in her influence on the game that she probably doesn’t get the credit she deserves,” Roxburgh said. “The last few weeks we’ve seen her step up her intensity and her on-field leadership. I think maybe sometimes when we’re not clicking she wants to be the one to say, ‘OK, we’re going to sort this out’ and we saw that on Saturday when she was by far our best player. She seems to be enjoying soccer right now, which is important.”

But on-field enjoyment wasn’t always the there. Before arriving at Trinity Western, there was a whole lot less joy in Webberville.

Growing up playing, and loving, soccer, Webber always had her sights set on playing NCAA soccer upon graduating from high school.

And at age 14, playing with the Foothills, she seemed on track to do so.

In the summer of 2006, she went to a soccer camp hosted by the North Carolina Tar Heels – a school that has won 20 NCAA women’s soccer national championships in the last 33 years – and, while there, she was named the tournament’s top defender and after the event, legendary Tar Heels coach Anson Dorrance personally asked her if she could come back the following year. The pieces seemed to be falling into place.

But then, just four months later, her soccer career took a disastrous turn.

With just 30 seconds left in an indoor league match, Webber, playing with the Calgary South West United Soccer Club, was hit by the terrible triad.  She tore her anterior cruciate ligament, her medial collateral ligament and her meniscus all in one shot. Basically she blew out her knew about as bad as she could have imagined and surgery was the only option.

Suddenly no one south of the border wanted her. They weren’t interested in a player who had already had surgery.

And with that knowledge, soccer became more of a chore for Webber.

“I didn’t like soccer after my knee surgery,” Webber said. “I loved it before but the knee surgery put a damper on things. My surgery really affected me mentally because it made me feel weaker and less athletic and less confident than everyone else.”

For the next three years, she struggled to find excitement in soccer. Her dream of playing in the NCAA had been dashed and while she still was an impressive player on the pitch, the joy in the game was gone.

But then, with Flannery advocating for Webber, along came Roxburgh.

“I didn’t get any good offers from any schools but then all of the sudden I think God worked it out for me to come here,” Webber said.

“I just came out here and I was like, there’s no way I’m going anywhere else. It’s so beautiful out here and the coaches were different. They didn’t just want you to come for the soccer. They wanted you to come because they know that it can change your life. And it does.”

After going to public school her whole life, Webber was a bit skeptical about coming to Trinity Western,. While on the pitch, she was just starting to regain her passion for the game, she wasn’t exactly sure what she was getting into off the field.

“I came here and I thought it was a little bit of a joke,” she said. “It was small. People were a little different. But I guess God changed my heart and in my first year when we went to Paraguay I became a Christian and it was then that my Grandma, [who’s name Joyce is the inspiration for Webber’s middle name] told me my middle name was finally being shown in my personality and my face.”

And in that first year, Webber also became a local Langley legend when she first scored the shootout winner in the CIS national championship semifinal over Queen’s and then duplicated her efforts in heroic fashion when she scored the shootout winner over Montreal to win the CIS national championship.

From there, she has continually developed confidence in her own ability and has been one of the Spartans strongest defenders for the last three years.

This past summer, a trip to Ottawa for the Athletes in Action National Training Camp helped her develop even further both on and off the field and, at the same time, she discovered what it’s truly like to play with joy.

“I’ve learned play and play free,” Webber said. “Playing free is the main thing that has made it exciting for me this year. My time at NTC made me realize where my motivation or lack of motivation was coming from or wasn’t coming from. Now I’m totally motivated to play for God. I can look out on our field and be reminded about how beautiful it is and how beautiful the game is and how beautiful life is to be able to play. So there’s no reason why you should not go out there and give it your all.”

And now that she’s regained her passion for soccer – something she says hasn’t truly been there since she was 14 – she’s also become that much more competitive.

This year, the women’s soccer team has an acronym that they think about every day.

O.G.T.B.B.

Operation Get The Bean Back.

The Bean referred to is the Gladys Bean Memorial Trophy given to the CIS national champion.

After the Spartans lost in last year’s Canada West Final Four, following back-to-back national titles, Webber is hungrier than ever to help lead her team complete O.G.T.B.B.

And now, wouldn’t that be a joy.

Last Updated: 2011-10-21
Author: Mark Janzen