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Aniya Williams: Empowering like a warrior

ACCESS U is proud to help our talented scholar-athletes fulfill their academic and athletic potential and achieve their dreams. One of our prospects making a name for herself, on and off the field, is Aniya Williams (Riverside, CA). She was called up to play with the Mexico U17 Women’s National Team, participating in the CONCACAF Women’s U17 Championship and securing qualification for the U17 World Cup taking place in the Dominican Republic in October 2024. Academically, Aniya is studying hard to make her college dreams come true and wants to major in Business. 

We are proud of Aniya’s recent success and the bright future ahead of her. We had the opportunity to speak with her about her journey and get her thoughts and perspectives on the great moment she's experiencing. Read the full interview below.

We know you’ve been in Orlando training with former U.S. Men's National Team player and MLS All-Star, Eddie Johnson. Tell us how that came about. What sacrifices did you and your parents have to make to move full time to Florida from California?

I originally met Eddie Johnson on Instagram in 2020. I was forced to look for an alternate way of training due to the pandemic, when I came across his ball mastery drills. In 2021, I flew out to visit him in person for the first time. When it came time to leave, I begged my parents not to go. I knew wholeheartedly that this was where I needed to be in order to further my development. Upon returning home, this resolution became abundantly clear. I needed to train in person with Eddie Johnson in order to elevate myself to the next level. 

Three months later, my family and I moved to Florida for the summer in order for me to be able to train with Eddie in person. After seeing the growth I had obtained in such a short period of time, we made the decision to permanently move to Florida for my training. However, this did not come without sacrifices. Moving across the country meant I had to leave my dad, who had to work in order to sustain two residences. It also meant leaving my family, friends, and home behind, but I knew that Florida was where I needed to be. Since then, I haven't looked back.

How did you get noticed by the FMF (Federación Mexicana de Futbol)? 

I got noticed by the FMF at the 2023 Allstate Sueño Alianza Showcase. I signed up for the event taking place in Los Angeles, which was one of the many destinations available. At the event, there were an abundance of scouts ranging from local clubs to international, as well as Mexico/U.S National Team scouts. This Alianza Showcase provided me with an opportunity to not only be coached by Mexico National Team scouts, but to be represented as a player. From this event, Mexico contacted me directly regarding attending a U17 camp in Mexico City.

What was your biggest challenge and greatest satisfaction of playing the CONCACAF Women's U-17 Championship with Mexico's National Team?

The biggest challenge I faced playing the CONCACAF Women's U-17 Championship with Mexico was proving that I deserved to be on the field. Coming into this tournament, I was surrounded by people who had been associated with Mexico for a longer time than me. I knew coming into camp that I would have to be 10x better and perform 10x as good in order to earn a place on the final roster. I had to prove that I was an effective part of the team. After betting on myself and having confidence in my own capabilities, I earned my place on the final roster, and would go further on to earn my place as a starter in 4 out of the 5 games played. 

My greatest satisfaction of this tournament with Mexico was qualifying for the 2024 U-17 Women’s World Cup taking place in the Dominican Republic later this year. Qualifying for this renowned tournament made me reflect on the multitude of sacrifices I had to make in order to get there. The hours put into working on my craft, the time spent away from my family, the time it took to grow my mentality into what it is today; qualifying made it all worth it. And the wonderful part is that the grind doesn't stop, and every day is another opportunity for me to continue to work deliberately on my craft.

The CONCACAF Women's U-17 Championship journey ended and you’re working towards the next challenge, the U-17 Women’s World Cup. How are you preparing individually and collectively for that?

Personally, I am pouring everything that I can into my preparation for this year's World Cup. More than ever, I am pushing myself physically and mentally. Since ending this tournament, I concluded that I need to increase my physical strength along with my technical ability. I have been consistently working in the gym, further strengthening essential parts of my body that will benefit me during the game. This accompanies my usual technical/tactical training with Eddie Johnson. 

Our sessions range from 3 to 5 hours, focusing on intense drills and  game-realistic situations. Six days a week I work, not only to prepare for the World Cup, but to become the best player that I can be. I am a firm believer in doing everything that you can do to maximize your full capability. If you're going to put half-effort into something, then you might as well not do it at all.

Three words to describe your formula or philosophy to succeed on and off the field?

Discipline. Consistency. Dedication. 

“Black History Month is more than a month”, what does representing Black women in soccer mean to you?

Having the privilege of representing Black women in soccer is not something that I take lightly. Representing my culture is an immeasurable responsibility. Everytime I step on the field, I am not only playing for myself, but for every Black person who I have the duty to represent. Having something to play for beyond just yourself serves as an integral motivation; One which prospers beyond any obstacle.

Many Black scholar-athletes face financial, cultural and transportation barriers, as well as work challenges and familial responsibilities that limit access and opportunity. What advice do you have for future ACCESS U Black scholar-athletes who dream of enrolling in college?

In today’s world, it is becoming increasingly hard for Black scholar-athletes to gain access to their sport. Not only do we face challenges with transportation, work, and responsibilities, but major barriers exist in the opportunities we are provided. The message that I have to future ACCESS U Black scholar-athletes who dream of enrolling in college is that you can accomplish anything that you set your mind to.

A phenomenal scholar-athlete will overcome any obstacle. And at the end of the day, you have to become so undeniably good that nobody can deny you. My lesson would be to identify what you want to accomplish, analyze the steps you need to take in order to get there, and back your plan with focused and driven work.

Are your plans to go to college? If so, what will you study?

Currently, my plans are to attend college. I would major in Business, seeking to further expand my knowledge on how businesses operate. Growing up around parents who are business entrepreneurs, I aspire to own my own business one day. Additionally, majoring in business would work to benefit the organization that I started, Among Warriors Foundation. 

Among Warriors strives to provide opportunities to underrepresented youth through mentorship, philanthropic acts, and coaching. Our ultimate goal is to transform people into warriors, developing and unleashing their greatness within. Circling back, majoring in business would help me to better understand how a business/organization operates on an intricate level, and therefore would better equip me to run my organization effectively.

How would you change the game for generation of girls to come and what would be the legacy you want to leave to Women and Black soccer communities?

I want to change the game for girls and generations to come by changing the culture surrounding women’s soccer. I strive to play with flair and creativity, adding to the beautiful game’s entertainment factor while also being effective. By daring to be different, I plan to redefine the way women’s soccer is played technically and tactically. 

The legacy I want to leave to Women and Black soccer communities is one of perseverance and prosperity. I stand for achieving success through pure hard work and determination, and this is reflected throughout my game as well as in my personality. I aspire to leave a permanent footprint in women’s soccer that redefines the norm of what a women’s soccer player is.


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