‘Come on, it’s what I do!’ Skipper’s (not so secret) gift

Since she was a child, Isabel Hodgson has had a ball at her feet and a song in her head.

Together, both football and the performing arts provided Hodgson with an outlet to expend her boundless energy, with supportive parents encouraging the pursuit of her two passions. 

A four-year football scholarship in the United States allowed Hodgson to immerse herself in both theatre and sport, where skills fostered in both vocations helped prepare her to ascend into the role of Adelaide United captain for of the 2021/22 Liberty A-League season.

“Growing up I watched a lot of Disney shows, old-school like Mary Poppins and the Sound of Music,” Hodgson told KEEPUP. “I just loved the fact they would suddenly start singing. When I was really little I was obsessed with it.

“I was five at the time there was an open call audition in Adelaide for The Sound of Music. Mum said: ‘How about you have a go and see what it’s like? You like watching The Sound of Music, how about you go and have a look?’ 

“We went there thinking nothing would happen, and then I ended up getting cast as Gretl von Trapp, the little five-year-old, and it kind of took off from there.

“I was put into soccer because I had too much energy. Mum realised I was actually pretty good at it, I was keeping up with the boys and I wasn’t off in the corner doing cartwheels like other people were, I was actually invested.

“The best thing about it was for a long time I didn’t have to choose between playing sport or performing arts. I think people would say pick one or the other, but my parents said: ‘You can do as much as you feel capable of doing’. 

“It meant for them driving me around like a crazy person on weekends. I got to rehearsals, then to my soccer games, then back to rehearsals, but I always had the option to do as much or as little as I wanted.“

Hodgson (left) in a production of Annie at Annesley College in 2007.

Hodgson made her Reds debut as a 17-year-old in 2013. Whilst completing her high school studies, she would juggle her budding football career with musicals and school plays. Rehearsals and football training often came on the same day, with shows and games filling her weekend schedule.

Those commitments escalated when Hodgson received a football scholarship to attend East Tennessee State University, where she concurrently completed a theatre major between 2015-19.

“In my first semester the college had a performance of Rent, which is quite a famous musical,” she said. “I auditioned for that as a freshman thinking ‘I won’t get anything, but let’s see if I can juggle it with soccer’. I ended up getting cast as one of the main characters.”

Hodgson was selected for the role of Maureen Johnson in Rent at the same time as her appointment as captain of the ETSU Buccaneers, a position she held for all four years of her college career.

She would go on to become the university’s most capped women’s footballer.

“The best thing about the college system was the coaching staff at soccer and the theatre department got along really well,” she said.

“They were really happy with me being late to training if rehearsals went a little bit longer and vice versa. They made it really easy for me to juggle.

“I did end up going to school all day, then straight to soccer training, then straight to rehearsals and finally coming home, but it was worth it in the end.

“Any time I performed in anything, my whole soccer team would come and watch. It was pretty funny because most of them had no idea what musicals were about, but they were there supporting me as much as they could. It was great to see.

“I was also very aware it was probably one of the last opportunities for me to really be fully immersed in performing arts,” Hodgson continued. “Once you get older and out of school it becomes a lot harder to be a performer, you have to kind of pick that as a career of pick soccer.

“At the moment I’m chasing my soccer career as much as I possibly can. (Performing) is definitely something I hope to be able to do, unfortunately in life there isn’t that ability to juggle as much now. 

“I’m trying to go overseas to play, so that’s going to keep it on the back-burner for a bit longer but I think once I’m back home and I’ve done as much as I can in soccer it’s definitely something I’ll be doing in my later life.”

Hodgson (centre) plays a role in The Aristocats.

Despite returning from college to focus on her football career, Hodgson is still receiving exciting new roles to play, including captain of the Reds in the 2021/22 Liberty A-League season.

It’s a role she’s spent plenty of time practicing for, with the skills learned from a lifetime of performing blending into the life of a leader at a professional football club.

“I think if you see me get a little bored at training, I’ll either be singing to myself or dancing like an idiot,” she said. “Then I’m like ‘oh wait, concentrate, you’re playing soccer’. 

“I’ll be singing to myself and (my teammates) will be like ‘oh, Izzy, that’s actually a pretty good song’. I think Stents (head coach Adrian Stenta) said it to me last year. I said ‘Stents, don’t you know what I did at college? Come on man, this is what I do!’

Hodgson added: “A big thing about performing from a young age is you usually have confidence, you can’t really be an unconfident person and go on stage in front of people. It’s allowed me to be a confident person, especially now I’m older and media is more of a known thing. Speaking in front of the media and in front of crowds, it’s definitely helped me. 

“Even simpler things like speaking in front of the team in the change rooms, it doesn’t really phase me. I don’t get nervous or anything like that.”

Featured image credit: Adelaide United