By Tom Dean
Birmingham City midfielder Brianna Visalli might not be playing any football at the moment but has found a way to put her skills to good use by starting her own business.
The Californian has moved back to America since the Covid-19 outbreak and is now focusing on putting the finishing touches to her side career as a personal trainer.
Visalli considers herself to be a blend of the typical American ‘athlete’ and the British ‘technician’ and is aiming to help others hone their skills in a way that wasn’t available to her growing up.
No stranger to hard work, the 25-year-old worked three jobs before getting her move to the WSL in 2018 but with Graft Soccer she hopes to have set up a business that she can run concurrently to playing.
“Given the time we’ve had off I’ve had no excuses not to get everything together and the quarantine has even helped to shift the structure of the company which I’m happy with,” she said.
“Essentially I’ll be running clients through what I am doing myself to stay technically sharp and acting as a personal trainer at the same time.
“I like the ‘giving back’ aspect of it too because whenever I’m confronted with young females aspiring to play football, I want to help the next generation.
“When I was young I would come home from school and work out in the garage but I would be putting it up in YouTube and doing all the stuff that people do now.
“I would do footwork and skills but when I look back now I really wish I had someone to help me and give me some direction because it would’ve really helped.”
Visalli’s first season in England coincided with West Ham’s inaugural fully-professional campaign and saw her make it all all the way to Wembley for the FA Cup final against Manchester City.
Last summer she made the move from the Hammers to Birmingham City where things haven’t exactly been plain sailing.
Just five league goals in 13 matches has left Blues one point above bottom side Liverpool with head coach Marta Tejedor leaving the club back in March.
And although Visalli is desperate to help the team out their relegation battle, she is unsure as to whether the season can be completed.
It’s goalscoring that has been our problem even though we dominate possession and I’m part of that problem of course,” said Visalli, who celebrated her 25th birthday on April 17.
“I wanted to contribute and have a positive impact on the team when I arrived so obviously it’s disappointing that hasn’t been the case.
“As much as I want to finish the season I just can’t wrap my brain around how that’s going to happen – there are too many differences in budget and circumstances etc.
“It comes down to an ethical standpoint in my opinion and we’re in a relegation battle that we could still get out of – but I just don’t see how it can be played out.”
Visalli grew up in San Jose and played football all year round by playing futsal in the winter months.
A graduate of Pepperdine University, where she represented the first team for four years, the midfielder was picked by Chicago Red Stars in the 2018 NWSL college draft.
However a jam-packed roster including the likes of Sam Kerr and Julie Ertz meant that Visalli wasn’t able to break into the first team and began seeking a way out.
Unable to play for any other club in America she obtained a British passport via her mother, who was born in Suffolk, and when West Ham came calling she made the switch.
“It’s very cut-throat and when I was drafted the Red Stars owned my rights, so even though they didn’t give me a contract, I couldn’t play for anyone else in the league,” said Visalli.
“I’d turn up to training knowing that I was never going to get out on the field and everyone knew it so I was the one collecting bibs, being the dummy player and I was thinking ‘is this even worth it?’
“I was stuck basically but I tried to stick it out and work towards getting a spot in the first team and ended up hiring an agent to help me out.
“I mentioned that my mum was born in the UK and that I could get a passport and within three months I was an English citizen and on my way to England.
“Matt Beard was working with Boston and had known me from the draft so I think that played a massive part in my recruitment but when they offered me a contract I took it.”
The Californian’s immediate reaction to signing for West Ham was feeling a sense of failure having not made it in America.
However after her arrival she was awoken to the high standards of her colleagues and opponents and hasn’t looked back since.
“When I arrived I honestly thought it was a step down – I felt like I hadn’t made it,” she admitted.
“I used to stand out in America because I could keep pace with everyone but my technical ability was also strong.
“But when I got to England I realised everyone else is just like me and I thought ‘wow how am I going to stand out now.’”
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