For Cape Breton University's Erin Freeman, soccer has always been a family affair. Having been coached by her dad from an early age, it didn't take long before Erin started to show the kind of talent that would see her named 2018 U-Sports Rookie of the Year.
For many years, soccer has played second fiddle to a number of sports in Atlantic Canada. Whilst that may remain the case for decades to come, it was soccer that took precedence from an early age for Erin Freeman. Despite being actively involved in a number of individual sports, Freeman found herself drawn to soccer because of the camaraderie and team spirit within the game.
"I did actually play more than one sport. I did gymnastics and I also danced. I think I was drawn to soccer because it was a team sport. It was fun having teammates, being able to play with them and making new friends both on and off the field."
Developing key skills at an early age has long been acknowledged as a pre-cursor to success in soccer. In this era of social media we are often inundated with viral videos of elite players exhibiting their child's prodigal talents. For Freeman, the transition into soccer was similar in terms of natural progression and the 2018 Capers U-Sports Rookie of the Year remains grateful for her family's early guidance.
"I'd say I was around five or six years old when I got into soccer. My Dad coached soccer so that's how I started, just kicking a ball around with my brothers. My Dad was a big influence but I would also say my siblings. Having them there to kick around in the back yard and go to the field and practice was a fun time."
The journey from back yard kick arounds to an AUS championship and national bronze medal is quite extraordinary in and of itself. Taking advantage of her local club leagues and the provincial soccer program, Freeman always sensed that these formative experiences would serve as building blocks on her pathway to success.
"I have played club soccer throughout my life, I also played for the Nova Scotia provincial soccer program. Growing up, I played for Halifax West High School. Up until the end of high school, I played for the Halifax Dunbrack soccer club and then I switched to United Dartmouth football club for senior women's. I've played quite a bit of soccer, so I guess all of those experiences combined brought me to CBU."
Having stood out as a special talent within the Halifax soccer scene, it didn't take long for Freeman to gain provincial and national recognition. After receiving word about her performances for Nova Scotia at the Canada games, Capers Head Coach Ness Timmons wasted no time in reaching out to the talented winger.
"There was the Canada games in 2017, so the Nova Scotia provincial team brought in players to try-out for the games in Winnipeg. I was a part of that squad and played in the summer of 2017. I did know about Cape Breton University but the first time I actually thought about coming here was when Ness contacted me through the provincial soccer program. He was looking at players who were on the Canada games roster for 2017 so he contacted me through that and I started looking into it more."
The decision to play for CBU was not a foregone conclusion for the, then 18 year-old, who had grown up in Halifax and watched her brother compete for Dalhousie University athletics. Ultimately it was the smaller class sizes and general set up of campus that would lead to Freeman crossing the hallowed green bridge to join her new teammates in Cape Breton.
"I knew I definitely wanted to play AUS soccer but I wasn't sure what team. Obviously, the ones in Halifax were on my mind because I wasn't sure whether to go away for school or not. I believe the class sizes were a big part of my decision. I didn't want to go to a big school where I wouldn't know my classmates and professors as well. I really like the residence set up at CBU too, we have apartment-style residences so I'm able to have my own room, cook my own food and have roommates as well."
The apartment-style residence at CBU provides a number of benefits, specifically for student-athletes, who may need to eat at unorthodox hours due to their training schedule. On top of the practical aspect of CBU's residence, there was an additional reason for Freeman wanting her own kitchen area. Baking.
"Well, my roommates know this for sure, but I love baking. I like to make cakes for people. For their birthdays I make cupcakes, cookies, that kind of thing when my friends ask me to. I'm in the business program because I would love to be able to start my own business someday, specifically a bakery, which combines what I love to do in life."
In between episodes of her favorite cooking shows (Great British Bake Off and Cake Boss) Freeman also likes to take advantage of the many outdoor activities Cape Breton offers.
"I love doing outdoor activities when I have the time. Going on hikes through the scenery here in Cape Breton, or biking, I love that too. Going skiing when it snows. Downhill skiing when I get the chance or on vacation, that sort of thing, it's very fun."
On the field and off the back of a wildly successful debut season, the second-year Business Administration student remains quietly confident that the Capers can at least match their accomplishments of 2018. Whether you want to call it the icing on the cake or the cherry on top, a 2019 three-peat sweep of the AUS would undoubtedly solidify the Capers dynasty status.
"I'm definitely just looking forward to working towards the playoffs. We've got a fresh new squad, lots of new rookies, so I think just seeing what we can do together. Building a new team culture this year is going to be exciting. I think we've got a good chance of winning the AUS and hopefully going on to nationals."
Favourite Soccer Team: Manchester City
Favourite Player: Marta
Lucky Number: 2
Currently Listening To: Luke Combs
Favourite Food? Ice cream
Erin Freeman and the rest of the CAPERS will next take the field at CBU on Saturday, October 5th at 3pm when they host the Mount Allison Mounties.