When Siobhan Higgins thought it would be nice to explore her new digs, she had no idea how different what she thought was familiar would be.
Higgins, a 2014 Seven Lakes graduate who starred on the 2012 girls soccer state final team, recently returned to her native country, Scotland, to begin her professional career. During her free time, she recently ventured off to find a convenience store in Edinburgh, where she is playing for Hibernian Ladies FC. Using the maps app on her phone, she thought she had it pegged down where the store was, except for one thing.
“You know how in Houston they sometimes convert older homes into stores?” she inquired, looking for some sort of justification. “Well, I actually tried to walk into somebody’s house. They came to the door, and I said, ‘Do you live here? Can you help me find the convenience store?’ I felt like such a foreigner. It was embarrassing.”
Higgins, who was born in Scotland, but moved to Katy in 2000, has navigated her way throughout a successful soccer life. Finding convenience stores may not be part of the road map, however.
Nowadays, the Hibernian forward is trying to find the back of the net as her club competes for a Scottish Women’s Premier League title. She made her debut in Scotland on Aug. 4, logging 30 minutes against rival Glasgow City FC. A couple weeks ago, while on break from the SWPL schedule, she started and played 80 minutes in a UEFA Champions League Group 3 qualifier win over FC Nike for Hibernian in Slovenia.
“Initially, I was nervous,” she said of her pro debut. “As soon as I started playing, the nerves went away. Honestly, I’m still a bit nervous as it progresses. I’m still trying to get to know my teammates. I think I’m adjusting well.”
Higgins, who after transferring from Morehead State to the University of St. Thomas following a redshirt year in Kentucky, has been able to adapt to new surroundings all throughout her life. After leaving Morehead State, she became an honorable mention All-American at the tiny Houston school. She had a tryout with the Houston Dash, and was called back, but without serious expectations. Someday, she’d like to return to the United States to play closer to home, preferably in the National Women’s Soccer League.
For now, the grass is pretty green in Scotland.
“The town, Edinburgh, is so beautiful,” Higgins said. “The culture here is nice. There are a lot of castles, and it’s very green. I’m able to explore because I have a lot of free time. It’s amazing to think I was born here, but it’s odd that I don’t know it at all. Now that I’m older, I can take it all in.”
Higgins pursued a professional soccer team in Scotland with the intention of playing for the national team, with larger aspirations to be seen by bigger international teams. Of course, she had to leave the nest to chase these dreams. That’s something her parents, Luis and Lorena, knew would eventually come, no matter how difficult it is to accept they can’t just get in the car and drive to her games.
“We’re excited as parents to learn the games are streamed live, and will have no problem getting up at 4 a.m. to watch,” Luis said. “As her parents, we are very proud of her, and what she’s achieved so far.
“Siobhan, from a very early age, showed a determination and desire to win in any competition she participated in. Many players dream of playing on the big stage, but not everyone gets the opportunity to do it, so she appreciates given the opportunity by Hibernian Ladies FC. The fact that her debut was in the second half of the opening match after the World Cup break against Glasgow City FC, who’s in first place in the Scottish Women’s Premier League, was a big honor for her.”
Being thrust into the spotlight, so to speak, Higgins knows she was brought to Edinburgh to score goals. Yet she’s gradually bracing for her breakthrough.
“I’ve always been a progressive player,” she said. “I’ve never been the best player immediately. I think it’s just going out on the field relaxed and composed, getting a good touch on the ball, making good passes.”
To her, it’s the small things that matter now. She’s studying the game, working on her own, getting the simple steps down.
Oh yeah, and breaking the language stereotypes.
“The people over here have a really thick accent,” Higgins said. “I’ll be like, ‘What did you say?’ On the team, it’s a longstanding joke about my accent. I’m like, ‘I don’t have an accent.’ Sometimes, it’s just the language barrier. I’m trying to keep up with it.”
Yeah, like when she pops in for a pop in the convenience store.
“They have a soda called Irn Brew here,” she said. “It’s like ‘Iron Brew,’ but when you say it, you have to use the Scottish accent. For chewing gum, they say, ‘Chunny.’ And nobody says soccer here, they say ‘football.’ I’m learning as I go.”
Just the same, she’s treating every day on the field as a learning process – a study session to better her game. Playing professionally wasn’t something she long quested for; it just materialized.
“Now it’s more serious,” Higgins said. “I’m here, and trying to take it like a full-time job. I think if I score, maybe I’d cry out of happiness.”
When she breaks through, you can bet there’s a few people she won’t be afraid to walk into their homes the next time she sees them.
“Just thinking about my parents back home, who do I do it for?” she asked herself. “I do it for them because they did so much for me to get to this point. Without my parents’ time and investment, I wouldn’t be here.”
Welcome home, Siobhan. Get yourself an Irn Brew and a goal. Just follow the right roadmap this time.