Durham captain Caroline Dixon says she has matured after a stint in America – and has vowed to pass on her experience to nervous team-mates ahead of their Women’s Super League debut.
Dixon, formerly of Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers, signed for Durham in the off-season after spending five years at the University of Hartford in Connecticut studying health sciences.
Her trip across the Atlantic was funded by an athletics’ scholarship and during her studies Dixon played for university team Hartford Hawks.
The striker insists she is a better player as a result and intends to ease the tension building on some of her team-mates with the WSL 2 kick-off arriving tonight against local rivals Sunderland.
Dixon said: “My game’s a lot more mature these days due to the time I’ve spent in America.
“The American style of play is a lot different to ours - over there it is a lot more athletic whereas over here it is a bit more technical.
“When I was training on a daily basis in America it was almost like being a professional player.
“You were sometimes training two or three times a day so it can make you question how much you love your sport but I’m still playing, so I still love it. Since I’ve come back and joined Durham as captain I try to be a calming influence on the pitch - some of the girls approach games with a nervous attitude so I try to coach them through that and make them believe in their ability.”
Now the recipient of another scholarship at Durham University, Dixon will strive for success off the pitch as well as on it as she studies towards a master’s in education.
However, the aspiring teacher hopes she and her team-mates are the one giving the lessons out.
Dixon added: “As a player and as a squad I’d say we’d approach every game with the aim of winning it, but realistically it’s going to be a big learning curve for us.
“We have a lot of young players who never played at this level before, so a mid-table finish would be a great first year for the club.
“I want to go into teaching particularly secondary education PE and I want to do disability sport work as well.
“School was one of the best times for me and it’s just about having that one person who makes you want to be there.
“Sport these days is a great outlet for kids and if you can get them to enjoy that within a school structure it makes their learning better.”
Meanwhile, Rebekah Bass has backed Sunderland counterpart Beth Mead for international success while also looking to forge her own path towards senior England recognition.
Both were involved in the England under-23s set-up over the winter and are now team-mates after Bass moved from Leeds United at the end of last season.
Sunderland claimed a third successive FA Premier League National Division title last term, Mead notching a remarkable 30 goals and finishing the league’s top scorer.
Bass is confident the striker’s form will continue. The 19-year-old said: “Beth will be a big part of this season and all eyes will be on her.
“She’s coming up with England and is one of the players everyone is expecting things from, which is good because it will put pressure on her and encourage her to perform.”
Bass has been playing since she was eight, joining the first team at Leeds the week after she turned 16.
However, the winger is used to life at the top having had her first taste of international football when she was just 18 – captaining England Colleges on their tour of Estonia.
Although she has high hopes for her own international career, Bass is also determined to help Sunderland succeed this season. “
She added: “We all have the mindset that we can do well, we just need to put in the performances.”
The FA Women’s Super League has been newly expanded to two leagues for 2014. To watch all 18 clubs live in action, buy tickets here: http://www.ticketstores.co.uk/faws