Coming from a soccer family, Danielle Etienne is creating her own legacy

Danielle Etienne was selected for the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team back in 2019, despite splitting time between Fordham University and the Haitian national team’s Olympic qualifying. Now in 2021, the talented midfielder has played in all five matches for the Rams as she continues to carve out her own path in the soccer world.

For Fordham, the season started off rough with a lot of cancellations and postponements and some tough results. But, the team has now won back-to-back matches after picking up a 1-0 victory against La Salle over the weekend. “I think the key is to keep positive and always be prepared for whatever is thrown our way,” Etienne told BGN. “If there is one thing I have learned is to control the controllables, so with cancellations and postponements that I cannot personally control, I can only control my mindset to be ready whenever the time comes to play again.

“It’s important to constantly have a strong mentality and connect that with the physical piece once we hit the field. Personally, I want to be able to contribute by bringing this mentality to my team, constantly encouraging them but also bring that competitiveness to push us as we grind to get more success.”

Tomorrow will be the next opportunity for Etienne and Fordham to keep the momentum going as they face Rhode Island on the road.

“Fordham had a combination of qualities that attracted me to the school,” Danielle said about her decision to attend the university located in The Bronx. “One being that it was a strong academic institution, another being that they had a competitive soccer program, and also it was close to home allowing my family to visit and watch games.”

“The school is unique because I feel that there is a unique relationship between athletes regardless of their sports. We all support each other both within our athletic events but also outside of that we maintain very strong friendships.”

When Etienne isn’t showcasing her skills and school spirit for Fordham, you can find her on the pitch representing Haiti with pride. She explained, “Being able to represent my country means the world to me. Standing with my hand on my heart singing the Haitian national anthem is an honor. Playing for Haiti has brought me so much joy and I know performing well brings joy to my country and my friends and family in Haiti. There is even the additional satisfaction of knowing that I am making my parents and especially my grandfather proud, playing for the country that he loves so much.”

“The experience of playing with Haiti has definitely allowed me to get closer to my Haitian heritage,” Etienne said. “Growing up, of course I was surrounded by my Haitian culture, especially with family gatherings and soccer just elevated this. I have been able to build an extremely personal bond with my Haitian roots, being in Haiti, speaking Creole with my teammates and just submerging myself fully in my Haitian heritage, getting to know new things about my country.”

Danielle isn’t the first member of her family to represent Haiti on the international soccer stage. Her uncle (Darrell, a former professional), father (Derrick, a former professional), and brother (Derrick Jr., currently playing for Columbus Crew SC) have all played for Les Grenadiers. How does it feel to come from a true soccer family? “I love this question! Being a part of a true soccer family is extremely fun and inspiring,” she answered. “It is fun because of the constant competitiveness and of course the Etienne Classics where my dad, brother, cousins and uncles all come together and play with each other. It is also inspiring because I can say that there are people in my family who have reached high levels and inspire me to get there myself.”

Provided by Danielle Etienne

While it’s fun to come from a sports legacy, we have also seen players across sports in the past that struggled with the added pressure of carrying on the family name and living up to expectations. “In all honesty, this concept of added pressure was never forced upon me,” Danielle said. “My dad always made it very clear, while he left a great legacy, I am Danielle Dani Etienne and I am creating my own legacy. Same with my brother, he has always encouraged me to be my own player and have confidence in myself. So with that being said, I never felt a pressure of being Derrick’s daughter or Derrick Jr’s sister, instead they encouraged me to be me and remind people that I am a baller too.”

Danielle and Derrick Jr.’s sister Darice played soccer when she was young before becoming a cheerleader at VCU.

“My brother and I were definitely competitive growing up, but I actually believe we are more competitive now,” Danielle said. “We are four years apart so when I was younger it was harder to keep up with him but in that way he pushed me to be a better player.”

“Now we are especially competitive, although he is still hard to keep up with, I still find ways to tackle him these days. Ultimately, I think we push each other to be better, whether we’re training together or playing against each other in scrimmages, we hold each other to high standards and of course talk and keep the Etienne banter in the process. ”

What is one thing on and off the pitch that she is better at than her brother and vice versa? Danielle answered, “In soccer, my brother is definitely better at being a risk taker especially in the final third, loving to take that risk when taking players on. For me, I am better at controlling the midfield and dictating the game. Outside of soccer, I am much more organized and precise than my brother while he’s much better at making people laugh.”

In 2020, Derrick Jr. scored a goal in the final to help Crew SC win the MLS Cup in his first season after being released by the New York Red Bulls. Danielle said, “It was very special to see him score and lift the trophy. I was definitely a proud sister and I was glad to see that his hard work and dedication was able to bring him success.”

Just like her older brother, Dani’s dedication goes far beyond soccer. She’s been on the Fordham Social Justice Panel and the team’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. “My personal experiences with social justice issues led me to joining the social justice discussion. Furthermore, wanting to acknowledge these injustices and be actively a part of change was really important to me,” she explained. “As an African American woman, I have personally endured social injustices, discrimination, and blatant racism, but I have also seen my siblings, father, and mother endure these acts as well, and with that being the case, I wanted people to understand that racism and social injustices did not end when slavery ended.”

“I think it is my responsibility as a person of color to use my platform as a student-athlete to speak on these issues and be actively involved in the cause.”

In the world, and specifically in soccer, racism is more present than ever. Discussing how they can crack down on racism in the sport, Etienne said, “I think that speaking out against these instances of racism and also giving punishments and repercussions like suspensions can be used to crackdown. It is important to understand that the sport is a place of joy for athletes and being mistreated takes away from that joy.

“Personally, when playing with Haiti, that is the most disrespect that I have experienced in regards to racism and discrimination. Referees oftentimes speak disrespectfully, give more aggression towards my teammates, and have less regard for our safety within the game. In addition, there are players that choose to talk down, belittle, and degrade my teammates, assuming we all do not speak English, and in the moment I step in, there is a sense of guilt and remorse. These instances do not end with my team, there are many Caribbean teams that have these similar experiences and one way to counteract these actions is to one, acknowledge that they are in fact happening and two, give necessary repercussions for these unacceptable actions.”

Despite all of the examples we see far too often, there are still people in today’s world that don’t believe there is systemic racism in this country. In regards to those individuals, Danielle said, “To a person that somehow still doubts that systematic racism exists I would first ask them, would they want to be treated how African Americans are treated in America?”

“I would then explain that racism is not just limited to using derogatory names or disliking people of color, it branches out to the education systems, politics, the justice system, and the list goes on. Unfortunately racism is becoming more and more prevalent, expanding even beyond the Black community and into others like the Hispanic community and the Asian community. Soccer is a beautiful game but we must also face certain things, like racism that taint this beauty.”

Author

Carson A Merk

Reporting live from Sin City, I have covered both RGVFC and Las Vegas Lights FC since their inceptions. I also write profiles to highlight players from the NCAA to USL to NWSL and everywhere in between.