English-raised Nolin at home in Cobb County
by William Bretherton
wbretherton@mdjonline.com
June 16, 2010 12:00 AM | 1297 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Much like the other six clubs of Women’s Professional Soccer, the Atlanta Beat’s roster is a melting pot of players from foreign countries like Japan, Mexico, Sweden and Denmark. One player however might as well be a local. Midfielder Rebecca Nolin was raised in England, but came to the States to play at Kennesaw State and has stayed in Cobb County ever since.
Much like the other six clubs of Women’s Professional Soccer, the Atlanta Beat’s roster is a melting pot of players from foreign countries like Japan, Mexico, Sweden and Denmark. One player however might as well be a local. Midfielder Rebecca Nolin was raised in England, but came to the States to play at Kennesaw State and has stayed in Cobb County ever since.
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Born in Hong Kong and raised in England, Rebecca Nolin may not be a local by appearance, but the Atlanta Beat midfielder is certainly no stranger to Cobb County.

The 27-year-old Nolin is an Acworth resident and a Kennesaw State graduate.

Two weeks ago, the Beat hosted the W-League's Tampa Bay Hellenic in an exhibition game arranged after Saint Louis Athletica's sudden dissolution from WPS. The game gave the Beat the opportunity to try out many players off the bench who would not have otherwise been able to start.

Nolin was among those starters, and she proved her worth by scoring the franchise's first goal at the new KSU Soccer Stadium, the facility shared by her former college team and built in her adopted home.

After Atlanta acquired six players from the Saint Louis franchise, the club had to make cuts, and with Nolin's improved play, she was able to avoid becoming one of the casualties.

Now, she is continuing a career on the soccer field that began in her teenage years and brought her across the Atlantic Ocean.

Nolin joined Slough Ladies, a club team in a suburb of her former home in Windsor, when she was 15. From there, she had trials with England's Under-18 national team and was promoted to Chelsea of the English Premier League.

Little did she know, this was where Nolin would be given a golden opportunity to come to the United States - from an English compatriot, Kennesaw State women's soccer coach Rob King.

"Long story short, coach King was looking at some players in England and came across me," Nolin said. "He came to watch my team play, as several of them wanted to come to America. At the time, I had no idea about America. He approached me because he liked the way that I played, and that's when I discovered scholarships."

King offered Nolin a scholarship to Kennesaw State, where she played from 2003-06, in the period when the Owls made the transition from into Division I.

As a freshman in 2003, Nolin was a starter on the Kennesaw State team that won a national title in its final year as a Division II affiliate. She also went on to become an Atlantic Sun all-conference selection her senior year and made the all-conference tournament team the same season.

Nolin had to make many adjustments from the onset after coming over to America. Not only did Nolin have to change the way she played soccer, she had to make changes to her lifestyle and adapt to her new environment.

"I came here in August, which is the worst time to come over here for the first time, especially if you are not used to the heat," Nolin said.

Nolin quickly learned about Southern hospitality, and made friends quickly with teammates at Kennesaw State, allowing her to travel from place to place and live from day to day.

"I fit in nicely," Nolin said. "I'm someone who refuses to quit. There was the good ol' Southern hospitality. All the girls' families were super nice. The girls looked after me, and helped me get where I needed to go because I didn't have a car."

On the field, there were key differences in the style of play between England and the United States. Growing up, coaches taught Nolin more about technical play, whether it was passing, shooting or one-touch play. In the United States, she said that the focus was more on fitness.

"Even though you didn't come across a player that was technically sound on the ball, they were big and strong," she said. "(I) sucked it up. Anyone that has to make that big of a change has to adjust to the situation. I worked hard at fitness, and then tried to get as many as chances as I could."

Although Nolin was able to make adjustments and succeed in her career at Kennesaw State, there was little guarantee it would translate to a professional career. The old Women's United Soccer Association folded just after she reached the United States, and Women's Professional Soccer was still several years away.

"When I came over," Nolin said, "there was no pro league, so my main goal in the United States was to finish my college degree."

After completing her college career at Kennesaw State, Nolin played three seasons with the W-League's Atlanta Silverbacks, and the story went on from there.

"I never turned around and said that I was going to play professionally until I had a good season with the Silverbacks," Nolin said. "Coach King was going to watch me play, and would say that he really thought I could play in the (WPS)."

Without the security offered to many of WPS' other players, be it draft picks or acquisitions from overseason, Nolin had to make the Beat's roster the hard way: through open tryouts the team held before their inaugural season began in April.

Nolin succeeded and was able to find a spot with the Beat and continue a passion that first developed at an early age.

"I really have no idea," Nolin recalled. "The only time I can remember, my mom worked and my dad was in the army. He didn't want to play. My step-dad was a huge (Manchester) United fan. You also had pub leagues. My step-dad used to play in the pub leagues until he got injured. I would kick the ball back and forth on the sidelines, and I think that's where it got started."

Whatever comes about in Nolin's career with the Beat, she is looking to continue her connection with soccer as long as she can manage.

"Until I'm old and wrinkly, I'd still very much like to be involved in soccer, but more on the coaching side. I want use my experience to help watch soccer grow."
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