At 19, Robinson is a quick study-The Province

Known to give defenders fits Jim Jamieson The Province Friday, May 16, 2008 Knowing that Jodi-Ann Robinson didn't begin playing organized soccer until she was 12 and found herself in her first game with the Canadian national team just four years later at 16, you'd probably be surprised to hear she's still got a lot to learn. There are learning curves and there are learning curves, but the dynamic 19-year-old forward is determined to fulfill her huge potential to give Canada another much-needed offensive weapon. A big part of that progression is expected to come this season when Robinson will be one of the anchors of a very young Vancouver Whitecaps women's team that will be made up mostly from the national Under-20 team. Robinson will also be a big part of the U-20 team that hopes to qualify for the FIFA Women's Under-20 World Cup in Chile in November. "As years go by, I think my knowledge of the game will improve and that's a big part of the game," says Robinson, Canada's female youth player of the year in 2006. "That's about 70 per cent of the game and the other 30 is athleticism." Robinson certainly has the athleticism part. She's always had blazing speed and, in Grade 9, was the provincial sprint champion in the 100 and 200 metres. But she decided to give up track to concentrate fully on soccer. "My brother played soccer and after we started playing it I fell in love with it," says Robinson, who moved to Richmond with her family from Jamaica when she was eight. Robinson is known for giving defenders fits with her great speed and ability to cut on a dime. "She has some great one-on-one skills," says Whitecaps head coach Bob Birarda. "She uses her body so well to protect the ball and her change of direction is so dynamic it's hard for people to cope with it." But Birarda is looking for Robinson to get to another level this season -- both with the Whitecaps and the Under-20s. "Jodi's a unique player, but she has to figure out how to apply that in games and how to do it over 90 minutes. As a young player, it takes time to get to that point. She has these qualities, but she doesn't know yet when not to use them. She takes risks in parts of the park that she probably shouldn't and she kind of goes at players when there are two or three around her. I think she's really starting to figure it out now. She looks ready to take the next step." Robinson, who got some minutes in last September's World Cup with the senior team and already has 27 senior caps, said the experience left a lasting impression on her. "Playing at the World Cup was a remarkable experience," says Robinson. "I never thought I would get a chance to play. Seeing the top athletes was amazing, seeing how hard they work. It opened my eyes that this is what I want to do with my life." © The Vancouver Province 2008