March 16, 2016
By Brad Muller | More Features
Danielle Au’s outstanding collegiate soccer career has translated into a promising professional playing career in Sweden. While she has no plans of hanging up her cleats anytime soon, the former South Carolina soccer star enjoys coming back to Columbia in the offseason and is keeping an eye on her future whenever her playing days are done.
“I love coming back here during my offseason,” Au said. “There is a reason I always come back to South Carolina in my offseason because we have tremendous facilities, and the staff here is so good. It’s not just the coaches; it’s the athletic trainers and the strength coaches.”
Au earned NSCAA All-Region honors as a senior for the Gamecocks in 2013 and was also named to the SEC All-Tournament Team that year. She finished her career ranked fourth in program history with 23 goals scored and was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll. She made an immediate impact as a freshman, starting every game and earning SEC All-Freshman Team honors in 2010. When her Gamecock career ended, Au took advantage of a chance to play professionally the following summer and made her first trip to Sweden. Although she played in only a portion of the season over two months, she was invited to come back the following year after she finished her coursework at South Carolina.
She went back to Sweden last April to play her first full professional season. At season’s end in October, she was back in Columbia to train in preparation for the next season once again.
“I really enjoy it,” Au said. “The level of play is obviously higher, but that’s what you expect. The biggest difference is that you don’t get as many chances in front of the goal. You may get three chances in a game, and you have to put away one. It’s a big step mentally to be prepared for every single game.
“The environment is so much fun. Sweden is gorgeous. Last year while I was there, I would go hiking at least once per week.”
The Suwanee, Georgia, native admits to missing her family and friends at times, but she values the opportunity she has earned.
“Sometimes I get homesick, but the Swedish culture is so friendly,” Au said. “When I was in college, I had to mature a lot. It’s the same now. I have to perform, so you have to put away those emotions so you can perform. Obviously my parents have been so wonderful in my journey. It makes it nice that I always know that I have them, and they’re supporting me.”
What we stress at South Carolina is that we want to be more than just a team that plays soccer. We want to be involved in the community and our coaches and staff provide tremendous opportunities to do that.
Additionally, it was her experience at South Carolina that helped prepare her for playing professionally.
“When you go from high school to college, you always want your previous step to prepare you for the next step,” Au said. “There is a learning curve you hit every time you hit the next level, but you want them to best prepare you as much as you can. South Carolina was a huge stepping stone in getting to the next level. You also notice that the coaches and the staff care very much about you. When you have that, it’s easier to improve and reach the next level and do all those things because you have that support. They have helped me grow.”
The growth she experienced at South Carolina also enabled her to create lifelong relationships and memories.
“We won the SEC one year, and that was fun,” Au said. “Winning is always great. But I think it’s also the friendships and the connections you have when you leave that are important. You can’t find that bond anywhere else because we went through the same things every year. The friendships and your teammates are the best part.”
After studying international business, economics and management with a minor in Chinese studies, Au hopes to make an impact off the field when her playing days are done just as she has done on the field.
“I really loved school,” Au said. “I had a couple of job offers with consulting firms, so perhaps when I’m done playing that would be something fun to do, but what I would really love to do is open up a soccer or sports facility in a third world country or maybe in the U.S. to try to use soccer as a way to get kids out of poverty. I have to look a lot more into it and get funding, but I’ve always had an interest in international affairs. I’d really like to be a part of that.
“I was very appreciative when I was younger, and even now, of all the coaches and support staff who have helped me. I hear so many stories of kids who don’t have those resources. I love the game, so it would be fun to use the game in a way like that. I’m always looking for ways I can try to give back or help out the community.”
That commitment to helping others was on display while at South Carolina as she was named to the SEC Community Service Team. Au noted that giving back is a part of the Gamecock culture.
“What we stress at South Carolina is that we want to be more than just a team that plays soccer,” Au said. “We want to be involved in the community and our coaches and staff provide tremendous opportunities to do that. We are very fortunate that we get to play soccer in college, and not a lot of people get to do that, so it’s nice to give back.”
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