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Getting to Know... Aislynn Crowder

Sep 24, 2020

The sixth installment of "Getting to Know…" features women's soccer midfielder Aislynn Crowder, who comes to UCLA from Mililani, Hawai'i. The U.S. Youth National Team player talks about how her close friendship with classmate Reilyn Turner brought her to California and how she wants to represent her home state.

Q: Doing both soccer and track competitively in high school, how old were you when you started both, and did you always know that soccer would be the one to take you to the next level?
A: I was always more of a dual-sport person. During middle school, I felt like I was also really good at basketball, so I was doing that in addition to soccer and track. But coming to high school, basketball and soccer were the same season, so I had to choose between both. I did a whole pros and cons list about it and chose soccer because one, I don't have the height for basketball. I'm five-foot-six so there was no way I would get anywhere with it. And two, I started playing soccer when I was three years-old, and ever since I was young, it has taught me so much, not just about the game, but also lessons in life, about communication, trusting my teammates, and having chemistry off the field. So I knew I wanted to play soccer because it taught me more than just the game.

Q: Can you talk about what it was like juggling three rosters when you were simultaneously on a youth national team roster as well as playing club with both Hawai'i Rush and SoCal Blues?
A: For me, I think since I was a dual-sport person, it was a little bit easier to juggle them. I knew how to time-manage well. It increasingly got harder over the years, which was of course expected. But I think focusing on one thing at a time really helped. So I took it one game at a time, one practice at a time, one team at a time. When I was going away for SoCal Blues, I went away every month on the weekends, and it was hard to manage not being with my team that I grew up with for my senior year. I wasn't able to play some of my last games with them. When I went away for national team camps, about every other month for around one or two weeks, I missed a lot of practices. The toughest part about that wasn't so much the soccer itself, since I was still training and being competitive and adjusting to new styles of play. I think the hardest thing was the opportunities and the experiences that I was missing with my original team, plus the school work was getting hard. But it taught me how to time-manage, how to adjust to different people, and how to talk to different people. It was really hard and a really big challenge and obstacle to juggle many different teams, but in the end I think I learned a lot and grew so much as a person.
 
Q: How did joining SoCal Blues come about?
A: Reilyn Turner and I have been best friends since 2017. We went on a big international tournament with the national team, and it really clicked for us because we noticed that we had such good chemistry on and off the field. I talked to Reilyn about how while soccer is competitive in Hawai'i, we don't have such a vast number of teams because it's such a small island. I've played the same four to six teams since I was 11, and I told her that I really wanted something different and didn't know how I could get that different competitive level. She suggested being a guest player with SoCal Blues and said that her coach has been talking about bringing in new players to spice up the level of the team. So I talked to my parents a lot and eventually came out here for the first time. I was really nervous and scared, but the team was amazing, and the coach was amazing and made me such a better player in just the past one and a half years. He's very strict but also a very good person. He helped me with so much on and off the field, and I just knew that it would be best for me as a person and as a soccer player to come out here to play. By the time I was player for them, I was already committed to UCLA, so I really just wanted to up my level and see what the California style of play looks like so that it would be an easier adjustment to come here.
 
Q: How has your friendship with Reilyn helped your transition here at UCLA, especially as an out-of-state student?
A: Reilyn and I actually decided to go to the same school together. We had about the same options, and we knew that it would be so much better if we were with each other. And it's definitely been such an easier transition to be here because of her because we know each other so well and how each other works. It's so weird because even if we're just right down the hall from each other, we're still FaceTiming each other. Having her around makes me feel very supported. It honestly makes life easier that she's around because she's helped me with so much. When I first went to meet all the girls on SoCal Blues, she introduced me to everyone. So it not only made my transition at UCLA easier, but it made my whole transition to California entirely easier. Having her down the hall, it can get a little bit too much between us, like we need our little breaks in between or else we'll get sick of each other. But having her around and having her here, it just makes me feel safer to go out and meet other people because she knows a lot of the people here already. I know that I can always count on her to have my back.

For the transition to the team and their play, it was easier than it would have been if I was coming straight from Hawai'i having never played in California. I already got the type of style they played when I was playing with the Blues. So really all I can do is be thankful for Reilyn. It's also been so much easier to communicate now that we're so close to each other. A lot of times, when I was at home in Hawai'i, we didn't get lots of time to talk, we only got FaceTime. But now that we're here, I'm talking to her every day, I see her every day. Having Reilyn just makes me feel so supported and so much more anchored to this place. 

Q: What was your first exposure to UCLA Soccer, and when did the program become on your radar?
A: I always wanted to go to UCLA, not necessarily for the soccer, but because of the education. I've always known that I wanted to come here, and seeing them play was a cherry on top. I just loved the way they could work the ball. I loved the way they're so creative. And it's not like the coaches just let them do what they want; they have structure, but they also don't want you to lose your freedom of creativity.
 
Q: UCLA has had very few Hawaiian players come through the program, but now with you, as well as Sunshine Fontes, what does it mean to you to be here and represent Hawai'i?
A: It means everything to me. I think UCLA is such a dream school to everyone, especially back in Hawai'i. Coming here and representing my family and representing everything that I've done, it just makes me want to work harder and go farther, not just for me but also for them. My parents, my family, my friends, my club teammates, who I missed so much playing experience with - I also want to give back to them in the way that I know how to give back, which is to make them proud. That's how I want to represent Hawai'i and how I want to represent them, just so that they know I wasn't gone for no reason.
 
Q: Now that you've been situated in LA for a while now, what was it like training with the team for the first time and finally being able to build relationships with your teammates and coaches?
A: When I first came here, the training was very rigorous and very intense. It was harder than what I was used to, so that took a lot of adjusting for me. Coming here training almost every single day, I think it's made me a much better player, and I can feel myself already growing soccer-wise because of how much we're doing and how much constructive feedback I'm getting from the coaches and from my own teammates. But being able to train, period, has been such a blessing because not a lot of teams get to do that right now. It's helping me adjust a lot easier because we're not doing everything at once. It's little by little, and they're taking it step-by-step because they know that a lot of us haven't been getting proper training the last four to five months. So I think them taking baby steps and easing into it really helped me.  
 
Relationship-wise with my teammates, since we have so much free time due to our trainings being so early in the mornings, we have so much time after. Literally all we can do is talk to each other and bond and form relationships. I think the chemistry off the field is already forming, and our team is already looking like what a team should look like. I know I can trust them on and off the field, and those bonds with them off the field have really helped me connect with them on the field. We've all really connected well within the past one and half months. Last week we had big practices for a dance for the Virtual Benefit Talent Show. It was so fun just to laugh with them and just to be with them without soccer. We did a whole choreographed dance by some of our teammates. I had fun learning the dance, but I think for me what made it the most fun was just laughing with them, being around them and getting to know each and every person more.
 
Q: Following the Pac-12's decision in postponing the fall 2020 season, what's your mindset heading into the school year?
A: When we first found out, it was very gut-wrenching. Our team is so optimistic, and we hope for the best and always want to play. Heading into the school year, I know that academics is really going to be hard, but I also know I'll now have time to get that stuff done. As for preparation with the athletic side of soccer, we took all the anger that we had from postponing the season and are looking at it as more time to train and get better.
 
Q: What are you studying at UCLA and what are your goals post-graduation and post-soccer?
A: I'm going in undeclared right now because I want to be open to my options. I don't want to be closed off yet to a major and then not like it. I'm being very open for at least my first quarter, and I want to see what UCLA has to offer. I'm taking a lot of GEs to open up my mind about academics. Coming here I wanted to pursue either engineering or computer science. But within the past month and a half, I've realized maybe I want something more than that, or maybe I want something different. For example, if I decide I want to be a nurse within the next quarter, then I'll try. Post-college, I do want to try to get drafted. But I chose UCLA mainly because of its education. I knew stepping onto the field that it could take a split-second to end my career, like a really bad injury. So I knew I needed something to fall back on, which is pursuing an education in case something goes wrong or something doesn't go the way I'd like it to. Then I'll still know that I have a back-up plan and I can still possibly make money later on in life.

 

Favorite thing to do outside of soccer?  Hanging with my friends
If you could live anywhere, where would it be? Hawai'i
Favorite movie? Gridiron Gang
Favorite TV show? Vampire Diaries
What are you most excited to do in L.A.? Visit the Santa Monica Pier
Go-to post-game food?  Spicy ahi tempura bowl from Tonioka's in Hawai'i
Which athlete did you admire growing up?  Andrés Iniesta
Why UCLA?  Because of the culture

Previous "Getting to Know..." Publications
Obi Eboh -- Football
Carlie Dorostkar -- Cross Country
Sam Feit - Men's Tennis
Sam Baron - Swimming and Diving
Kengo Aoshima - Men's Golf