Column: Thompson sisters are rising soccer stars with an eye on Stanford
In the youth soccer world, the Thompson sisters from Studio City are like a streaking comet. Their trajectory is nothing short of spectacular.
Alyssa, 15, and Gisele, 14, are so gifted that they’ve each committed to Stanford before beginning their sophomore and freshman seasons, respectively, of high school. They already won a gold medal playing together for the under-14 girls’ national team at the 2018 U15 CONCACAF championship in Florida.
As their coach at Harvard-Westlake, Richard Simms, puts it, “They are definitely the real deal. The things they are doing are pretty unheard of.”
For one, they keep playing against older competitors and excelling. That’s a planned strategy that includes training with boys while playing for their local girls’ club team, Real So Cal.
“They’ve been playing with boys since they were little,” Simms said. “Alyssa is one of the top goal scorers in the country. It’s crazy how much improvement they have because they’re so young.”
Alyssa plays forward and Gisele is a defender. They’re both 5 feet 3, fast, smart and always trying to get better. Even though they’re a year apart in age, they’re as close as twins.
“I really like playing with Gisele,” Alyssa said. “Sometimes we play on the same side. We have a little sixth sense. We have each other’s back.”
Said Gisele: “I play midfield and give her free balls to make runs.”
Last year, at ages 14 and 13, they played on an under-18 club team for which Alyssa was the leading scorer.
“They’re certainly athletic with speed, quickness and agility,” said Alberto Bru, program director for Real So Cal. “What separates them is their drive, desire and motivation. There’s no doubt that you can get excited about them.”
Although neither of their parents played soccer growing up, their father, Mario, decided to introduce the girls to the sport when they were 5 and 4. Now the family members are big soccer fans. Younger sister, Zoe, 8, also plays the sport.
“I’m an educator and my kids weren’t going to be the tallest kids in the world but would have speed,” said Mario, an elementary school principal. “We worked on them daily as kids and realized they were going to be good.”
There are plenty of good genes in the family. Mario played football and basketball and ran track at Mission Hills Bishop Alemany and Occidental College. Their mother, Karen, an occupational therapist, ran cross-country and played basketball at Burbank Bell-Jeff. Their aunt, Tiffany Thompson, was a track standout at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame.
When schools closed in March and competitions were halted because of COVID-19, the sisters had one advantage over others. They had each other as training partners. Whether in the frontyard, the backyard or the near the side of their house in their cul-de-sac, the sisters found ways to train.
They’re always kicking a soccer ball to each other or using the garage door as a backstop.
“We work every day to get better,” Alyssa said. “We push each other a lot. I feel having her with me makes work easier because you have a partner to do it with.”
There was a momentous moment during quarantine. Their mom had the camera rolling. Their father has been serving as an unofficial trainer, which means there’s always a race at the end of the workout to test how fast they’re getting. He has declared himself unbeaten against the girls. Well, sort of.
“I won’t even admit they beat me,” he said. “You could say they did. You also can say they didn’t. It was that close.”
The girls say they understand the scholarship offer waiting for them at Stanford won’t be fulfilled unless they produce in the classroom.
“We’ve always had that pressure of getting good grades,” Alyssa said. “The school we go to is really good for academics, which will prepare us for Stanford. We’ve always been on that path to exceed in academics and in soccer.”
Gisele, though, gets bragging rights. She had all A’s on her eighth-grade report card. Alyssa had four A’s and two Bs as a freshman.
“She was in middle school, not Harvard-Westlake,” Alyssa said as Gisele smiled sitting next to her during a video call.
It’s too early to predict the future in soccer for the Thompson sisters, but the fact that they keep holding their own against older competitors and are valuable participants for USA Soccer indicates they are on the right path.
“They’re high, high elite,” Bru said. “Does that always mean you’re going to be great in the future? Today as youth soccer players, they’re exceptional.”
These days, both are taking online classes at home — Gisele from the living room and Alyssa from the dining room. They haven’t played a soccer game since March. They’re waiting for the all-clear signal.
“I’ve been wanting to play games so bad,” Alyssa said.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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