Professional soccer player Josha Krueger leaves a lasting impression on local athletes

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I turned 40 a few weeks ago, and I am in good shape for my age. As a lifelong soccer player in the body of a klutz, I would joke that, by age 40, I would be unstoppable.

Learning skills - in sports and elsewhere in life - come from watching the best and just getting out there. Formal training does help, but I continue to learn from life experience and watching those who inspire me.

Back to soccer. It's fair to say I'm pretty good but not because of any academy training. A decade ago, I used to play in a competitive soccer league, and I mainly relied on fitness and love for the game.

Our team was coed, but it didn't make much of a difference because many of the women were better than the men. Several had played collegiate ball. So, I honed my skills with the best while the ball moved. Call it adult speed learning.

I remember one game mid-season when our team, called Red Rum, was unbeaten. On this hot fall day, I was on defense and spent the first half chasing the other team's striker, who was about a foot taller than me and twice my speed. Somehow, we held onto to a 0-0 score until halftime, and I needed some inspiration. Then: our star showed up.

She came late and didn't get a warm up. Nevertheless, it did not matter. We put her up front, as usual. Josha Krueger spent the second half punking the other team's defense, scoring a hat trick in fantastic and humiliating fashion.

With the score of 3-0, I suspect the four men trying to defend against her knew they had better step up their game. I wasn't surprised that, later that year, Krueger took off to play professional soccer.

While at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee - where her #22 jersey is retired - Krueger played every minute of every game and helped the UWM Panthers immediately break into the NCAA championship tournament.

Later in 2000, Krueger helped the professional Chicago Cobras win the W-League national championship. The following year, after joining the Boston Renegades, she picked up the league's Defender of the Year award in a season that saw the Renegades win the championship with her assertive play and reassuring defense.

These days, Krueger is still active and playing a bit. She even made a trek back to UWM for an alumni game this spring. Yet, she's taken her knack for coaching, dedication and leadership as an athlete in a new direction as a fitness trainer.

Now the owner of KRU Strength + Fitness, in Andersonville, Krueger puts her experience and own philosophy about fitness to work. She has trained seasoned athletes as well as people who have never gone to a gym, much less considered a workout regimen.

"I try to help everybody I work with at any fitness level learn how to achieve their physical fitness goals with intense programming and effective workouts," she said.

She points out that fitness doesn't come in a one-size-fits-all package and it can't be accomplished with boring routines you find in magazines. Proper training techniques are as important as nutrition and a healthy diet. Setting goals relative to where you are at is important, too.

One of Krueger's recent trainees was a 53-year-old man who wanted to run the Chicago Marathon. Although in good shape and reasonably athletic, he never spent much time running. In order to reach his goal, this business executive worked with Krueger to build up his physical stamina, strengthen his legs and back and help his body avoid injury during long weekend runs.

Others the former soccer star trained come from all lifestyles, including competitive teenage athletes, new moms and a Chicago cop who had recently taken up hard-hitting roller derby.

"Working with athletes is fun because that is where I come from," Krueger said, "but it's more rewarding to help non-athletes reach their life-long fitness goals.

Krueger is modest about her achievements on the soccer field and takes more away from helping people get fit.
Krueger is the best soccer player that I have ever played with. As a player who already loves the game, I was re-inspired every time I watched her.

If Krueger works with her trainees the way she led by example on the field, I'd venture that Chicago will be getting very fit very soon.