March S’Hero | Brianna Pinto
RICHMOND, VA (March 28, 2017) – The Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) today announced Brianna Pinto as the March S’Hero of the Month award recipient for individual and community leadership. As part of Amazing Young WomenTM movement, the ECNL is sharing the stories of S’Heroes who are role models for our nation’s young female athletes who are balancing their drive to become elite athletes with the pressures of fitting in with social peers.
S’Heroes are a part of the Amazing Young WomenTM campaign designed to showcase strong, successful women who embody the fact that drive on the soccer field translates into life lessons. The ECNL is calling on all who love sports to join them in supporting youth female athletes as they recognize their own potential, define their individual paths to success, and prepare to be our next generation of leaders using the hashtag #UNSHAKABLE.
Studies have shown that driving factors behind girls dropping out of sports include limited exposure to the inspirational journeys trail blazed by positive role models, and social stigma; where player traits that are so valued by teams are often not promoted for young girls. By age 14, girls are dropping out of sports at two times the rate of boys 1. The Amazing Young Women campaign encourages young female athletes to embrace their competitive nature, and prove they cannot be shaken from the path to their dreams. Those recognized as S’Heroes have taken a spirit of leadership and inspiration from the field, and have demonstrated that it’s not just about a phase of your life, but a way of life.
“The focus of an elite athlete is to be the best when you compete, striving to raise the bar every time you play,” said Jen Winnagle, ECNL Commissioner. “The ECNL provides a platform for young women to embrace their talents both on and off the field, helping to develop and motivate these amazing athletes to reach new heights through all phases of life.”
S’Hero – Brianna Pinto
Brianna Pinto recently became one of the youngest call-ups to the full U.S. Women’s National Team at the age of 16, but to those who know her closely, this is not a surprise. She loves soccer and has a plan to achieve her dreams, which include playing at the University of North Carolina (UNC), playing at the professional level and one day representing her country and winning the World Cup.
Pinto is a member of the CASL ECNL U18/U19 team, which currently sits in first place in the ECNL Mid-Atlantic Conference with three games remaining on their schedule. She is committed to play collegiate soccer at UNC, following high school graduation in 2018. She has also worked her way through the U.S. Youth National Team system, appearing in 20 games with the U17 team and notching one goal.
She hails from a soccer family; her father played at UNC, her older brother currently plays for Elon University and her younger brother plays for NC Fusion. Pinto stepped on the pitch for the first time at the age of five and has not looked back. In typical little sister fashion, she wanted to follow in her older brother’s footsteps and play soccer. She also played tennis, t-ball and basketball at a young age, but after watching her brother and father play, she was an immediate natural with the ball at her feet.
Pinto was constantly outside kicking the ball with her family members, falling in love with the game on day one. Her father saw the passion and focus Pinto had for soccer, and the family made the decision to move her to an all boys team to feed the desire she possessed as a student of the game. She played with the boys from age 9 to 13 before moving on to CASL’s ECNL team.
The move helped her continue developing as a player, with a very unconventional path. Pinto attributes her skillset to the variety of opportunities offered to her. In addition to playing with her youth soccer club, she enjoyed engaging in the organized lunchtime pickup games on the UNC campus. Also known as “Noon Ball”, the friendlies included players from a variety of background including former players from UNC, WPSL, The Railhawks and more. Pinto’s father frequented these games and started bringing his oldest son and Pinto to watch, evolving to both of them joining in on the pitch.
She had always had a relationship with UNC because of her dad, and her dream was to play there. She even painted her room “Carolina Blue” when she was three years old. Although the coaches had seen her play several times, it was not until they saw her in action at the ECNL Florida National Event, playing with the CASL ECNL U14 team, when they became intrigued. The environment and level of play was high, and Pinto stood out, making her competitive spirit known. She was recruited to play for the Tarheels in 8th grade, officially committing by 9th grade. Although the timeline is viewed by some as too early, Pinto knew that this was the right fit. She pledged to herself and her new program to continue as a top student of the game. The next chapter, college soccer, is hers to write.
While Pinto had always taken soccer very seriously, when she reached high school a switch was flipped and narrowed her focus, making serious strides in her soccer career. She wanted to elevate her game, taking any and every opportunity to push herself as a player. Pinto was not a stranger to the youth national team environment, but the moment she got the call to the U17 team was a turning point and sparked her to dig even deeper.
In addition to garnering opportunities to play for her country, Pinto reflects on the high school scene and how it added to her skillset as well. She had an exceptional freshman year at Jordan High School with 24 goals in 13 games, earning the coveted 2015 North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year Award. This is an award given to athletes who play for their high school, and recognized for their contribution and success on and off the field. She is no longer playing high school soccer, due to missing too many days of school for national team commitments, but she values the choice to play for her school and used it as a vessel to elevate several aspects of her game.
Pinto has been fortunate to play for a very successful CASL ECNL team, crediting the training environment for preparing her to move onto the next level so quickly. Her coaches praise her daily work rate on the pitch, as she is never satisfied and constantly wanting to learn more. She always comes to training, ready to work, and is never afraid to ask questions. Being on the pitch with her ECNL team throughout the week allows her to be a student of the game, raising her soccer IQ as well as her teammates.
“I love my experience with the ECNL. Playing for CASL the past four years has been a great experience for me with training being the top priority. The training to games ratio… has been beneficial for all the players, helping us develop in a more efficient manner,” Pinto said of the CASL ECNL program’s training environment. “When game day came around, there is a sense of composure across the entire team. We all know our style of play and what we want to do as a team, almost like we have one heartbeat. I feel like this helped me as a player because games are where you are given the opportunity to showcase what you can do individually and as a team. To me, it is all about the training you do at home and the work you put in.”
Over the last two years, she has taken great strides from being Gatorade State Player of the Year (NC) to being rostered on the full national team. Her relentless work ethic makes her a fierce competitor whose awareness and technical abilities are far beyond those of a typical 16-year-old player. She has a knack for solving problems in small spaces and as a midfielder, she is always looking to engage in the attack. There is never a moment that she cannot impact the game.
“In the daily environment at CASL, there is never a satisfaction of where she is as a player, and she continues to put in work. There is always something more that she wants to achieve.” Sean Nahas, ECNL Director at CASL said about Pinto. “For a player that has achieved what she has, she still comes in every single day as one of the harder working players because she always has another goal to reach. The journey never ends for her, and that is what makes her so unique. Sometimes those are the types of players that take things a little easier in a training environment at the club level, but she is the complete opposite. There is always something that she feels like she can gain day in and day out.”
These qualities helped mold her into an undeniably special player, earning recognition from the full national team. In January, she attended a U23 team camp to prepare for games in Spain when she was held over to attend the full team national camp. Just five days prior to her departure from Spain, she got the call that she was rostered for the SheBelieves Cup. Although she did not earn a cap, she learned so much from being in that environment. Lessons that she will take with her as she continues to work toward playing at the next level.
As Pinto continues to work toward her dream of playing in the 2019 Women’s World Cup, she remains focused on her final year of high school. She is dedicated to her schoolwork and participates in community service programs in her spare time. Pinto has been volunteering her time with Habitat for Humanity, as well as mentoring children at a local elementary school by assisting with reading programs. She also enjoys playing tennis with her family, cooking and traveling. In fact, traveling to National Events is one of her favorite parts of the ECNL.
“In terms of the ECNL, I love the league. The events are always great fun. My entire family attends for the weekend since the events are always in good locations,” Pinto said about the ECNL National Events. “My favorite event was ECNL National Playoffs in Oceanside. We had three really competitive games, and I got to see friends from opposing teams and rekindle relationships with former teammates. It was a really great experience, and I am excited to see where else the league will travel.
Although Pinto enjoys traveling, she loves North Carolina and being home with her family. This is another reason why UNC was such a great fit for her. The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) recently placed a team right in Pinto’s backyard with the North Carolina Courage. This gave Pinto hope that she would be able to play professionally in North Carolina when the time came; another goal to set her sights on, but all in due time. Playing professionally would be a dream come true and to be able to do so in her hometown would be a fairytale ending.
Pinto is currently in residence at the U23 Camp in Portland, Oregon where they scrimmaged NWSL’s Houston Dash on Sunday. Pinto made the starting eleven, and played along fellow ECNLers Jaelin Howell, Ashley Sanchez and Sophia Smit. Also joining the crew were ECNL Alums Simone Charley, Alana Cook, Tierna Davidson, Jordan DiBiasi, Taylor Isom, Savannah McCaskill, Tegan McGrady, Casey Murphy, Taylor Racioppi, Gabby Seiler, Lexy Warner, Michelle Xiao and Sandra Yu. They will take on the Portland Thorns tomorrow, March 29th and the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday, April 1st. We wish Pinto and the rest of the ECNLers, both past and present, good luck with their remaining matches.
About Amazing Young WomenTM: The Amazing Young Women campaign is a dynamic platform of online and local market activations that showcase and celebrate female role models offering an aspirational focus for all female athletes and teens as they prepare to be our next generation of leaders. The ECNL is calling on all of the nation’s women to join the movement to celebrate the endless potential of today’s girls.
Women of all ages can share their personal moments of inspiration where they defined what it is to be #UNSHAKABLE through elevated stories and social media at www.AmazingYoungWomen.com. Every share and submission helps drive a movement that celebrates the power of what it is to be a girl today. Amazing Young Women of the ECNL will be showcased at AmazingYoungWomen.com.
About Elite Clubs National League ®: The Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) was founded in 2009 to enhance the developmental experience of female youth soccer players in the United States through: (i) improving the competitive environment through creation of a true national competitive league; (ii) improving the process for identifying elite female soccer players through a systematic scouting and identification program based on national competitions; and (iii) improving the daily training environment at top female youth soccer clubs through developing best practices and training and organizational guidelines for its member clubs. The ECNL is sanctioned by US Club Soccer and is sponsored by Nike Soccer.
For media enquiries:
- Girls drop-out at different rates depending on where they live. Sabo, D. and Veliz, P. (2008). Go Out and Play: Youth Sports in America. East Meadow, NY: Women’s Sports Foundation.