Nov. 17, 2006
By Elliott Finebloom
FSU Sports Information
Florida State senior India Trotter has done things no Seminole soccer player has ever done. She is the only Florida State player to ever be named to the NCAA’s All-Tournament team and she has done it twice. Trotter is the lone Seminole to be named a second-team NSCAA All-American and she is the only Women’s College Scholar All-American in program history but it is what Trotter didn’t do that stood out more than anything else she had accomplished.
The Ft. Lauderdale, FL native spent most of the early part of the decade playing and traveling with the U-19 US National Team. When she came to Florida State the calls kept coming for her to continue her international playing career but in a move that stunned her coaches and many of her teammates, Trotter declined the invitations to play for her country.
“I wasn’t really responsive to invitations to go to national team camp,” said India matter of factly. “I was young and I didn’t want to miss out on the things that make college special. I wanted to be with my friends. I wanted to go on spring break. To be honest, I just really didn’t want to go. I didn’t have the passion in my heart to do it.”
It is hard to imagine a player that was named an honorable mention All-American and a first team freshman All-American in 2003, didn’t have enough passion to want to pursue a dream of maybe one day playing for the full US Women’s National Team but as many times as she was asked to come to camp India continued to say no.
“Those people who were committed and passionate about playing for the national team, it would be unfair to me and them if I went into camp and didn’t have that same passion. If you are going to commit yourself to playing for your country, you better go in whole heartedly. It would be an insult to those people for me to accept the invitation half heartedly. That was the reason I decided not to go.”
While India displayed a remarkable sense of maturity in recognizing that if her heart was not in to playing for the national team then she shouldn’t take part, the reasons she was passing up the opportunity seemed anything but mature to the people around her. Passing up opportunity after opportunity to play for your country so you could go to Panama City with your friends seemed inconceivable.
“When you are young your priorities are different,” said India. “Things that seem important at that time really aren’t. The older you get and the more you mature, you begin to discover what it is that you love. Back then I thought my friends and Florida State soccer were a more important priority than playing for the national team. I didn’t think the same way I think now.
“Things change as you get older. Your views and perspectives on life start to differ compared to where they were earlier in your life. My passion for soccer came back.”
India‘s passion for the game returned but after spurning so many invitations to play for US Soccer, she wondered if she would get another chance. Had she blown her opportunity to take that rediscovered passion and use it to play for her country?
“I figured they wouldn’t call again. Back then it didn’t matter to me if they called or not because I didn’t want to do it.”
Lucky for India US Soccer came calling again and this time she wasn’t going to say no. Not only did India get a call she got `the call’.
“The difference for me was getting called in for the U-21’s compared to the full national team. When I was called to come into camp with the full team, I couldn’t pass that up. That is an opportunity I would never get again if I passed it up. I figured the worst case scenario would be me being able to say I went to camp with the full women’s national team. It was a total win-win situation.”
Four days before Christmas of 2005 India was called in to camp with the full US Woman’s National Team. The same squad that won the inaugural women’s World Cup in 1991, took home the sport’s first-ever Olympic gold medal and was home to greats like Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Michelle Akers and Carla Overbeck was now an option for India.
“Thank God that they did ask me to come into camp and that I got the opportunity to play because it was a life-changing experience.”
India‘s life-changing experience began in January of 2006 in Carson, CA, which is the home of the US National Team camps. She was one of 28 players called in by new head coach Greg Ryan and she was the first Seminole ever to even be in the pool of players considered to play for the full team.
After years of spurning invites to national team camps, on January 3 India finally arrived for her first day with the full national team. She was called in to compete for a spot on the roster for the Four Nation’s Tournament to be played in China.
“It sounded great at first,” remembered India. “After I decided to go, I started to wonder what I had got myself into. I kept telling myself I had nothing to lose. If I played bad, I would come home. That isn’t that big of a deal. I would also get a chance to play with players who are on posters I had up on my wall. That was a big factor.”
Those players that were just posters on a wall to India were now her teammates. Some she had played against in college like Cat Reddick Whitehill, Lindsay Tarpley, Amy Rodriguez, Heather O’Reilly, Jill Oakes, Johanna Lohman and Lori Chalupny. Others though were legends to her and none more than Kristine Lilly, the most capped player in the world.
“Kristine Lilly just has amazing leadership qualities. She is a pioneer of the game. The way she treated everybody around her was phenomenal. I have so much respect for her on and off the field. Never did she act like she was above anybody else. She makes everyone around her feel at home whether it was their first camp or their 35th.”
India went from the girl looking at pictures of these players on a wall to their teammate to realizing she was good enough to be among them as well.
“The most surprising thing was that these players that you looked up to are just normal people. They are fun and I realized I could actually play with them. It is amazing to realize that you can play with these players you have looked up to most of your life.”
The fact that she could play with players on a national level shouldn’t have surprised India since she had played against at least seven of the full national team pool players in her first three years of college. It also shouldn’t have surprised her when she was named to the 20-man roster for the Four Nation’s Tournament in China.
“Traveling with the US National Team is just amazing. You get to have new experiences as you are exposed to new cultures. Getting to play soccer over there makes it that much better.”
While she was on the roster and got to travel to China, playing with the full US National Team is a whole other story. On January 18 Trotter became the first Florida State Seminole ever to play for her country with the full national team when she took the field in a 3-1 opening game win over Norway. It was the first cap ever earned by a Seminole.
“The fact that I even got on the field was surprising to me. They give you a little ball afterwards to mark your first cap. Hopefully there will be many more. It was fun. I actually get to say I played in a game for the US Women’s National Team. That is a great experience.”
It was her first and only cap for the full national team so far but it wasn’t her last tournament. Trotter was a member of the travel squad for the 2006 Algarve Cup in Portugal. India was first named to the full team before being removed from the active roster after roommate Stephanie Lopez returned from injury and replaced her. While she still traveled, for a player that has started for four straight seasons at college and hasn’t sat on the bench since she first began playing the game, it really wasn’t a problem for India that she was now just a supporting member of an all-star cast.
“It wasn’t weird to be a bench player because I knew that was coming when I decided to go. You are playing for the US Women’s National Team. What do you expect? There are so many amazing players that aren’t just talented but who have also paid their dues. It was nice to be able to go and learn from some of the best players in the world. I started to pay my dues and started the process of working my way up form the bottom. It was a different experience for me and a new challenge.”
“I got a great sense of what it is like to not be a starter, to come off the bench and work hard to earn playing time. I came back with a lot of respect for the players that bust their butts just to get on the field. I came back with a better understanding of the hard work that the reserve players put in and the pressure that comes along with being a starter. I know both sides of that equation now.”
She not only came back with a better understanding of what it meant to work hard for a spot on a team but she also found her passion again. The girl who didn’t play for her country because she wanted to go on spring break rediscovered that spark and love for the sport being immersed in an environment that was full of nothing but players who were passionate for soccer and playing for their country.
“The people I played with and the fact that I actually felt like I could compete with them helped spark that passion again. That combined with the fact I am a little bit older and more knowledgeable about the game helped me enjoy the game more. I learned so much about myself as a person. I thank God that I was able to meet those people and have them in my life. They helped me grow up so much in a span of six months.”
It is ironic that the player that spent so many years turning down opportunities to play for her country, now hopes she gets more opportunities and not just for her either. India wants Florida State to begin a tradition with the national team that programs like North Carolina, UCLA, Portland and Florida have already built.
“I wore a Florida State t-shirt once in the locker room and when I got back it was all taped up and said `Gators Rule’. There were three Gators in camp. The fact I was the only Seminole didn’t help. I talked smack back but there is nobody there to back you up.
“I just hope there are more national team players that come out of our program and I think there will be. With (head coach) Mark (Krikorian) and the coaching staff we have there are going to be tons of players that can compete at that level. I think we have some now. It may take a few years but in the future I think there will be more.”
There is only one other thing India hopes for.
“I just hope when we get more players I am there with them.”
That is quite a change from just a few years ago.