Liv Cooke is a professional football freestyler. sportswomen.ie caught up with Liv, who recently competed in her first World Championships coming runner up having competed with an injured foot and determined one day to be World Champion.
How did you get into freestyle?
Growing up football was my life. It’s all I really cared about. One day I saw Laura Biondo perform a freestyle football show and it absolutely blew my mind! I was playing for Blackburn Rovers at the time and could already do basic tricks like ‘around the world’ so I found videos online and tried to copy the movements. I was hooked on the indescribable feeling I got when landing a new trick. I wanted more and more. I’d spend hours in my garden trying trick after trick after trick. I was addicted!
What has been your greatest milestone/achievement to date?
My proudest achievement to date has to be taking second place in the world championships to become the current and youngest ever vice world champion.
Why do you think it is a predominantly male sport
I think there’s still a stigma around girls in football. However, with the recent success of the women’s national team things are changing. The amount of female footballers and female freestylers will increase simultaneously as the stigma around girls in football fades.
I can already see plenty of talented hard working upcoming female freestylers in the UK and I’m doing everything I can do to motivate and support them.
How did your injury affect you both physically and mentally?
In the run up to the world championships I ignored my body and over trained. As a result of that I picked up a slight stress fracture in my foot (I didn’t know that at the time, I thought it was just a minor injury). People were telling me to see a physio but I refused as I knew they’d just tell me to rest and drop out of the competition. I wasn’t going to let that happen. I knew my level was high and I could do very well in the competition. So, I competed with a stress fracture in my foot. It was agony. However, I did very well and I’m extremely happy with my performance. I made it to the final but in the final round my foot completely broke. I couldn’t carry on.
I was over run with a mix of emotions after that. I was over the moon to rank 2nd in the world at 17 years old against competitors that had been competing on the world stage long before I even knew about the sport. I wanted to celebrate! On the other had, I had just come so close to my dream (becoming world champion) but couldn’t even see the opportunity through, so I was angry. I was also upset that I’d just broken my foot. Not to mention the dreaded thought of not being able to train for 3 months and the paramedic in my ear wanting to take me to hospital…
Once everything calmed down and I was back in the UK I had time to think. I really do believe that in every bad thing that happens there’s something good. Although I wish it never happened I know 12 months down the line I’ll look back at this injury and know exactly why it had to happen and I’ll be grateful.
I’ve mentally benefited from the injury. My confidence has grown as I know that if I can place second in the world competing on a stress fracture I can place 1st when I’m fit and focused. I can’t think of a bigger obstacle between 2nd and 1st place in the world than a broken foot. And, as I know extremely well the harder it’s to achieve something the better it feels.
I will physically benefit from this injury as my weak (left) side will be forced to work harder on my return and so it will get stronger. I will be a better all round freestyler with a refreshed style and new tricks.
I’m looking forward to making a strong return and coming for my world title.
If you were not injured do you think you would have beaten Melody?
Melody beat me and that’s a fact. Maybe the result would’ve been different had I been fit. But, I try not to dwell on what could’ve happened. I think Melody is awesome and deserved the title but she will not beat me next time. I’ll be fit and focused.
What was your training like coming up to the RBSS and the World Tour?
Training for a big competition is tough. I typically train 3/4 hours a day in the studio and spend another hour or two working outside the studio to plan tricks, sets and analysing.
What is your goal in freestyle disregarding competitions?
I want to grow this beautiful sport and use it to inspire people to pursue their passions and aid the movement to gender equality by showing girls they can do it too!
What age do you think you begin to lose your level?
Each athlete will be different but typically I think you start to lose your level around 30 years old.
I would say that the peak age for a freestyler is around 25years old.
What is your biggest problem in freestyle?
I think the biggest problem in the sport at the minute is the lack of budget. There are world class freestylers out there training everyday to maintain their position amongst the best in the world but struggle to make a living off it. And as a result of that they either end up homeless or quitting to get a full time job.
Do you think it should be in the Olympics?
This is a tough question. At the moment, no, I don’t think freestyle could be in the Olympics. A lot would have to change in the sport for it to make it to the Olympic stage. For example, the judging system is an opinion. There would need to be a solid structure and a scoring system to provide justification for the winner. However, in the future maybe so.