Today it is my privilege to bring you an interview with Liv Cooke, professional freestyle footballer and world champion of the sport.
Liv’s extraordinary hard work and dedication has allowed her to travel the world competing in freestyle football competitions and starring in countless adverts. She is an ambassador for women’s football for UEFA, has performed her tricks alongside Rita Ora at one of her gigs, and has been featured in numerous interviews and documentaries with media outlets such as the BBC, Match of the Day, ITV, Fox Sports News and Sky Sports.
In this interview we discuss how Liv managed to turn her passion and hobby into a business that allows her the freedom to travel, inspire others, and spend everyday doing what she loves…
How did you get into freestyle football? Is there an area of freestyle that you are most renowned for?
All my life I played football, on the street, at clubs, in my garden, anywhere I went I took a ball. Probably due to the fact I grew up with two football obsessed older brothers. But, I loved it. At the age of 15 I picked up a recurring back injury put me out of playing for a while. When I was at the stage where I could move comfortably but wasn’t allowed to return to football, yet I wanted to sharpen my touch and work on my control so when I was fit and ready to play again I wasn’t too far behind where I left off.
I then discovered freestyle videos online and was blown away. I wanted to do those tricks. I’d spend all day in my garden learning a trick and when I was able to do it I wanted the next one and the one after that. Before I knew it, I was doing some pretty decent tricks! By the time I was fully fit and ready to return to football I was obsessed with freestyle. Before and after football training I’d be training freestyle and it got too much. I couldn’t do both, it was leading to further little injuries and I just didn’t have enough time. So, despite everybody insisting otherwise I decided to quit football to pursue freestyle.
Can you talk us through the journey from doing freestyle football as a hobby to becoming a professional? What various ways do you earn money as a freestyler?
The pathway is pretty straight-forward actually. At the beginning it was all about the enjoyment and discovery of new tricks. I started meeting more and more freestylers in the community and then competitions became a focus for my training as I saw the opportunity to compete and win. It’s not until you compete in live freestyle competitions that you can call yourself a professional freestyle footballer.
But of course it’s not just about competitions. Freestylers can earn money now from performing live at corporate events, sports events and festivals, coaching skills in schools, street performances and TV commercials too. Also, social media is now giving many opportunities for freestylers to earn money, because if you have a large following, then brands will pay to be associated with that.
Can you tell us about some of the most notable adverts, performances etc…that you’ve worked on as a freestyler? What are some of the companies, teams etc… that you have worked with?
I’m so grateful for the places I get to see, the people I meet and everybody that supports me. It’s really quite surreal. I’m way beyond everything I ever dreamt but at the same time I know this is just the beginning and I’m excited to see what’s next.
Some of the biggest things I have done so far (apart from winning the World Title ;)) would include performing with Rita Ora at one of her gigs, working as ambassador for women’s football for UEFA, performing with Shell Motorsport and Ferrari in Italy, Qatar National Sports Day and many more.
Are there any people, books, or experiences that you would be willing to share with us, that have really shaped your mentality?
Every experience and opportunity teaches me something new and as stereotypical as it may sound, the most important people who have really inspired and helped me are my family.
All the best things in my life have happened as a result of injury. Discovering freestyle came from a back injury. The drive to become number one in the world was enforced more when I broke my foot. So, I’ve learnt to embrace every set back. I know I work hard so I trust in the timing of the process so if for whatever reason I get knocked back by something out of my control I embrace and appreciate it. I find a reason and when you reach a mindset like that any negativity only positively impacts you mentally. And in a sport like freestyle where 80% of it is mental and 20% is physical you need a solid mental state.
What advice would you give to someone who is demotivated or doesn’t know where to start with getting into sport and fitness?
Never give up! I always try to make people aware of how much they can do on their own and without relying on other people. So, building confidence in your own ability and trying new things are usually what I try to advise.
What do you think are the most important characteristics to develop in order to pursue your ambitions?
Resilience is for sure a critical one. You need to be prepared to fail but learn from mistakes and come back stronger. I believe this applies to most things in life actually.
You will also need patience, some self-confidence (although this can be built up over time) and be dedicated to what you are engaging in.
What advice would you give to someone who is trying to take their passion for health and fitness, or anything else for that matter, and turn it into a successful business/ career?
You can achieve whatever you put your mind to. Listen to the advice of family and friends, but don’t take that as the only way ahead. A lot of what you can and may want to achieve, might sound unrealistic to some people, but only you know what your body can achieve.
Whether you can or want to turn your hobby into a business is again all about you. If that is what you want to do, then do it with 100% of your energy and dedication.
What are you plans and goals for the future?
In 2017 after winning the World Championships, I actually was so mind-blown that I didn’t know exactly what I wanted next. So, I needed to take some time to assess where I can keep achieving. In 2018 I launched a new business, so I want to turn that into a big success in the future. I want to continue to push Women’s sports and break stereotypes and potentially enter the real estate industry. In freestyle my next ambition is to break some World Records.
I know these goals are more than achievable however I’m very much open minded and know that something may pop up that interests me. So, we will see. But one thing’s for sure I’m only going to get better and work harder for what I want.
YouTube: Liv Cooke