Leah Lauber loves soccer.
She has played the game at St. Petersburg Catholic High School and at Azalea Recreation Center. She helps coach kids in the summer.
Now her love for the game has inspired her to write and self-publish a book, Soccer Dreams, about her experiences at the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup. Leah, who was 12 and a St. Petersburg Times X-Team member at the time, and her family attended the matches in Los Angeles and saw the U.S. team kick its way to the championship.
In the foreword of the book, Leah, now 16 and in 11th grade, writes, "I was there to witness sports history! In the stadium . . . On the field . . . In the locker room . . . Under the press tent. This is my true story of how I . . . had my own dream come true, writing my way to L.A."
The 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup has ended, and there was no storybook ending for the United States _ the team lost 3-0 to Germany in the semifinals. But that hasn't stopped Leah from enjoying the sport or telling her story. The X-Team spoke recently with Leah about her experiences.
X-Team: What inspired you to compile your experiences at the 1999 Women's World Cup into your book Soccer Dreams?
Leah: I just wanted everybody to know how great of an experience I had. It was incredible. I just wanted to let people know that your dreams can come true.
X-Team: You interviewed players on the U.S. Women's National Team, such as Briana Scurry, Tiffeny Milbrett and Mia Hamm. Were you nervous at all interviewing famous players like that?
Leah: Oh yeah, totally. I just got over it eventually.
X-Team: In your book you refer to the soccer players as "heroes." Are professional soccer players still your heroes today?
Leah: Yes, because they've gone through so much just to get where they are. Twenty years ago, there wasn't even a women's soccer league. They continued to pursue their dream. They got it, and now they are huge.
X-Team: Who is your favorite soccer player?
Leah: Julie Foudy of the U.S. Women's National Team. (Foudy, 32, is captain and a 16-year veteran of the team. She is a midfielder.)
X-Team: Why is she your favorite player?
Leah: She's just really funny. If you have ever watched any of the pregame shows on ESPN, you see that she has a great personality. She seems like she would be a lot of fun to hang out with.
X-Team: What position do you play?
Leah: I play forward. A forward basically just shoots and scores. It's fun to score goals, and that's why I like it.
X-Team: Publishing a book is a major accomplishment. Do you think that someday writing will be your profession?
Leah: I don't really know what I want to do right now, but that is definitely a possibility.
X-Team: What sparked your interest in soccer?
Leah: My dad just signed me up for it. When I was 7, he asked if we (my sister and I) wanted to play and we were like "Sure," and that was it.
X-Team: What did you think about the U.S. Women's National Team coming in third place at the World Cup this year?
Leah: I was so disappointed about that. I think that they should have been in the finals. I think the third place game should have been the final game instead of the semifinals.
X-Team: Do you want to play soccer professionally?
Leah: I don't know. Possibly. I have no idea what I want to do right now. Everything is a possibility.
X-Team: Other than playing soccer and writing, what kinds of things do you like to do for fun?
Leah: I'm really into art things like painting and pottery, hanging out with my friends _ typical teenager stuff.
X-Team: What clubs or activities are you involved in at school?
Leah: I'm in the Alfred Hitchcock club where we just watch Alfred Hitchcock movies. We watched Psycho today.
X-Team: Do you have any advice for young people out there who may also want to publish a book someday?
Leah: Go for it! Dream big. Set your goals and make them high and try to go for that. Good stuff will come from it.
X-Team: Where can we find a copy of your book?
Leah: Soccer Supply, 2794-3 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd., Clearwater, (727) 796-4625; Soccer City, 9450 Lazy Lane, Tampa, (813) 936-2489; Soccer Field, 2682 E Fowler Ave., Tampa, (813) 977-4625; online at www.soccerdreamsbook.com; or toll-free at 1-888-SOCCER3.
_ Courtney Baker, 16, is in the 11th grade at the Center for Advanced Technologies at Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg.