By: Joe Cardoso
Hip-hop is one of the dopest forms of music, and yes it’s my favorite so maybe I’m a bit biased but one of the coolest parts of it is freestyling. The beat drops and you just come off the top of the head with the best bars you got. Well, freestyle isn’t just music anymore it has spilled into sports, and one of the hottest freestyle groups is futbol aka soccer. Sounds simple but it takes HOURS of practice and imagination to get the tricks down and be in tip-top shape to perform. One of the top freestylers in the USA is out of Los Angeles and making a name for herself in the game. Keep an eye on the ball and meet Lizzy Calderon.
JC: First things first how did you hear about freestyle?
LC: In 2012, my mom dragged me to the Soccer Nation Expo in Los Angeles after one of my soccer games. Tired and grumpy, I was walking around without really taking an interest in anything until I heard all this commotion coming from the back of the room. When I got to the booth causing all the buzz, my jaw dropped. Keep in mind the only person at that time who I had seen juggle past 10, was my dad, but these L.A. local freestylers were doing handstands with the ball, sole stalls, headstalls, and tricks I had no idea were even possible. I got hooked. For a whole year, I taught myself how to juggle and worked on improving my touch. By the time the Soccer Nation Expo came back to Los Angeles the following year, I kept my fingers crossed hoping the freestylers I met the year prior were performing there again. I stayed in contact with Alexander Mendoza, the current 3x USA Freestyle Champion; he introduced me to the world of Freestyle Football.
JC: What is a typical training day like for you?
LC: I start my day off with classes and work-study as I am currently a full-time undergraduate student at the University of La Verne. I squeeze my breakfast and lunch somewhere around there. In my spare time on campus, I watch freestyle videos, edit film from the training session the day prior or schedule posts for my social media. After, I spend a few hours doing homework, replying to emails, messages, and taking calls. By 3:00 pm, my day is barely beginning. If I’m on my own, I look for a quiet area in my neighborhood to train and film for about 2 hours. Then I spend about another hour at the gym working on my core, upper body, or other muscles in my leg not necessarily targeted during my training session. Days I train with the LA Freestyle Crew, which happens very often, I spend the rest of my day all over the Los Angeles Area, depending on the training spot everyone agreed on. We train for about 4-5 hours, sometimes longer, depending on the size of the group. Freestyle meets are no joke.
JC: Us east coast peeps don’ get it do we? What is the passion level for futbol like on the west coast?
LC: The community may be small, but the passion on the West Coast is incomparable. It is a feeling you need to experience to fully understand.
JC: We all have that “Is This Really Happening” moment. Where and when was yours?
LC: Aww man, the “Is this really happening” feeling never really goes away. I think the moment reality slapped me in the face was during the summer of last year at Superball in the Czech Republic. It was late in the afternoon, the battles for the day had finished and the panna battles had just begun. There was a crowd surrounding the panna cage, freestylers scattered across the track field training, and then other freestylers having a relaxed session on the stage. I was sitting on the stage watching Ricardinho, Boyka Ortiz, and Maarten Van Luit, elite competitors within the freestyle community, go back and forth trying various complex tricks barefoot and in socks. Awestruck in the moment, it hit me. I was miles away from home, in a foreign country, connecting with people from various countries & backgrounds, and competing in the Superball World Championships, representing my country, all because of a sport no one is aware exists, Freestyle.
JC: What do you have planned for the rest of 2017/early 2018?
LC: For the rest of year and early 2018, I am putting my energy into growing, improving, and innovating to prepare for Superball 2018. I also want to put more time into developing an influence on social media specifically on Instagram and YouTube, by creating content with my own creative flare.
JC: With the amount of traveling and practice you do, how do you handle fitness and diet?
LC: I try to balance my calorie intake with the amount of exercise I do as best as I can by swapping out junk food with healthy snacks, consistently eating 3 meals a day, and staying hydrated. Apart from training, I spend time in the gym or doing workouts that focus on strengthening muscles in my legs, core, and upper body. Along with exercises to improve my balance, stability, and agility.
JC: What brands and companies do you work with? And how important to your brand are partnerships?
LC: I have worked with various brands over the course of my career, more often so with Adidas, Nike, and small clothing brands. All brands and companies share a common value; to gain a competitive advantage over its competitors Each is unique in their approach to utilizing freestyle football skill showcases to appeal to their designated target market, ranging from product launches to social media campaigns. Partnerships play a role in the company’s process to differentiate itself. With few freestylers within the United States doing commercial work, it is important to maintain strong ties with brands we work with to continue growing within the industry.
JC: As someone who has suffered a major injury and bounced back what advice do you have for someone trying to do the same thing?
LC: Decide to Rise. It sounds cheesy, but I have held those words close to my heart during my lowest moments. Some people have the support of family and friends during recovery, others depend on themselves. Regardless of what the case may be, the first step starts with you. It is one thing recovering from an injury physically, but it’s a whole other challenge to recover mentally and emotionally. The comeback is not meant to be easy, but the moment you decide the type of athlete you are, the game changes.
JC: Why Freestyle? What does it mean to you?
LC: Why Freestyle? Because Freestyle is Freedom. It is the freedom to create, innovate, and grow without rules or limits. It is self-expression and self-discovery. Freestyle introduced me to myself; it taught me discipline, self-motivation, and self-love. Freestyle is more than a sport to me, it’s a lifestyle.
JC: Who are some of the soccer players and fellow freestyler’s you would like to work with?
LC: Soccer Players: Messi, Neymar, Marta, & Ronaldinho,
Fellow Freestylers: Liv Cooke, Clem Keym, Boyka Ortiz, & Gautier Fayolle
JC: Name a funny/random thing about you people would never guess.
LC: I can sleep anywhere and at any time. My biggest weakness is car drives. When I was a baby, my parents would drive me around if I was being fussy. Now I can’t spend more than 25 minutes in a car without falling asleep or fighting sleep.
JC: What has been the reaction from family and friends on your success?
LC: Initially my family was upset. After recovering from my injury, I had less than a year to get recruited by colleges. From coaches to family, everyone except for my mom did not believe I could make it happen. I discovered freestyle during that time. After all the hard work I put into getting recruited, I declined several scholarships offers to play soccer at the collegiate level to pursue Freestyle. It took my family a while to understand my decision and warm up to my new lifestyle, but now they are very proud of my accomplishments.
Freedom of expression is something we sometimes take for granted. That’s what freestyle is all about and taking her passion for soccer and flipping it into what she has is pretty cool. Lizzy is making moves and only getting started. I want to thank Lizzy for her time and we at TEAM NBS are going to be keeping an eye on her career. Next time I’m in L.A. got to get a lesson in but I’ll do the driving hahaha. Follow her journey via social media and see what’s next for her
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