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Professional soccer player inspires young athletes

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BUTLER -- Having a mentor is not only helpful in school, it's also helpful in sports! Leslie Osborne is a professional soccer player, born and raised in Wisconsin, who recently came back to help young girls in her home state.

As a young soccer star, Osborne never set out to play professionally, but the Brookfield native dominated at every level of her career, including as a member of the U.S. National Team. Now, Osborne plays for the Boston Breakers, one of five teams in the Women's Professional Soccer League. "All I knew is that I loved soccer and I worked incredibly hard," Osborne said.

Recently, Osborne was back in Wisconsin, coaching a youth clinic at FC Milwaukee. "I grew up here and I have so many memories here. I have so many people who have helped shape me into the person that I am. I don't come back here often, but when I am here, it's just an amazing feeling to be with the people that helped me to be where I am now," Osborne said.

Osborne calls overseeing the clinics the best part of her job. "It's not an obligation. I don't want people to feel like they have to do it, but it's a part of me, and I want to give back," Osborne said.

As one of the most decorated female athletes from southeastern Wisconsin, Osborne is a natural mentor for the kids, and it's a position she really appreciates if for no other reason than she can't remember having too many mentors when she was their age. "I didn't have that many mentors growing up here, and when I was 11, Julie Foudy, an amazing soccer player came to Wisconsin and it just changed my world. So I'll never forget that. I appreciate it a lot. If I can affect one of these kids' lives, it's a success," Osborne said.

Osborne stresses to young girls that they can do anything as long as they're willing to put in the work. "I just hope the girls out there don't just assume anything. That they know that nothing's given to them, and to take it one step at a time," Osborne said.

Of course, there is no guarantee the young players will have the same opportunities Osborne has had. The state of women's professional soccer is in constant flux. Only recently did Osborne and her peers learn that there was going to be a 2012 season. "I don't think I would ever understand until I've been in this situation, but I want this opportunity for so many girls out there. I know in college I was aspiring to be a professional soccer player and to not have that would be such a tragedy," Osborne said.

Osborne may not have set out to be a professional soccer player, but for those who do, her advice is simple: have fun! "At the end of the day, if you're not having fun, the success is going to be difficult to have," Osborne said.

She also stresses the importance of putting in the hard work! "I didn't skip any steps - making the varsity to college to semi-pro to pro, and I worked my way up," Osborne said.

Osborne says she's always ready, in case the league does fold. In addition to coaching, she's dabbled in modeling and motivational speaking.