As a teen she played club soccer, then landed her breakthrough acting role at 14 as high school hoops star Mary Camden on TV's "7th Heaven" These days Biel, 27, snowboards in the winter, golfs and plays volleyball in the summer, and does yoga all year round -- in between training for butt-kicking roles on the big screen. In Biel's world, sports are all in a day's work.
GIRL: Your sport was soccer and you played right midfield and right wing. Did you play for both your high school team and on club teams?
Biel: I never really went to a real high school. When I was a kid I played Barrage -- it was called 'The Barrage,' in Boulder, Colorado. And there was also a club called FC, which I would have played in, if I stayed in Colorado. I played for Valley United Soccer Club in California. I also played on this fantastic girl's team called The Edge for my whole high school career.
GIRL: What made the team so great?
Biel: They were fantastic because our coach put up with my impossible acting schedule, which made me miss loads of practices. And the girls were incredibly accepting and fun and are still some of my closest friends to this day. That team kept me sane and normal while working as an adult and being around mostly adults for those four years.
GIRL: What exceptional skill do you believe you brought to the team?
Biel: I didn't do a whole lot of scoring in soccer. I was more of an assister. My special talent (pretty much the coolest thing I could do) was a great flip throw. I do remember this one time I actually scored, and it was the highlight of my career. The best thing was that my family and my boyfriend at the time were there to see it. I was just flying on air. Just high as a cloud and thrilled I actually scored.
GIRL: What age were you at the time?
Biel: I was a teenager -- 16 or 17.
GIRL: You have dance training as well?
Biel: I do -- years ago, nothing very professional. I did tap as a kid, a little ballet, lots of jazz. When I was growing up, I was also a gymnast. There is an element of dance to gymnastics, right? I actually really started getting into dance right before I turned 20. I was about 19, 20, and I was taking a ballet class every day. I actually started dancing en pointe, just because I was strong enough and I wanted to give it a shot. I had this amazing teacher who was supportive and just wanted me to explore what that would be like, even though I got into that at such a late age. But it helped me immensely just with poise and how to carry yourself. For this film I just did called Easy Virtue, this woman is so elegant. She's from 1929, and the way she holds herself and walks, everything is just elegant. The ballet helped me with the way that I move my arms and the way that I stretch my neck and keep my shoulders back. It's very interesting how much all of the physical activities that I've done in my life have been a very intrinsic element in my career.
GIRL: Tell us more about the kind of impact playing sports had on you as an actor.
Biel: As an actor, I am very comfortable with my body and that comes from sports. I know it very well. I'm aware of how my muscles feel, what it feels like when anything changes. Playing sports and being physical helps me maintain that sort of relationship with my own body. So when I'm doing something, or performing in a physical role, I understand that. Physical challenges make a lot of sense to me and I actually really enjoy doing roles and playing characters that are also very aware of and understand their bodies and know how to use them. Like, for example, I know how to use the body as a weapon, I understand how to use coordination. All that has helped me.
GIRL: Who are your sports heroes? Who do you look up to?
Biel: Mia Hamm was my idol growing up. Seeing Mia's muscular, fit body has just done so much for my psyche, for what I think is beautiful. I'll look at her -- and now at other women—and think, "Wow, she is so muscular, and she clearly knows what she's doing with her body and takes such good care of herself." That to me is very beautiful. Playing sports helps me de-stress. When I run, play soccer or volleyball, or take a swim, it helps me maintain a calm, peaceful lifestyle in a very crazy, manic world.
GIRL: Who's your favorite team or player?
Biel: I'm a Lakers fan and right now my favorite athlete is Kobe. He's effortless and it's just amazing to watch him. He kills it!
GIRL: So what's the absolute hardest thing you've ever trained for?
Biel: That's a good question. I would probably say the movie "Blade: Trinity." That was exceptionally hard. I was on an incredible diet and on a crazy workout schedule where I was learning martial arts and learning to shoot a cross bow and going to a gym to work with a trainer. Those three activities pretty much every day. That was an intense, intense training experience.
GIRL: How do you stay in shape now, and do you get a chance to play team sports?
Biel: I actually haven't played team sports in a handful of years on a consistent basis, which is definitely disappointing, 'cause I miss it so much. But I'm playing golf now and I'm really enjoying that. I play lots of volleyball in the summer. I also spend a lot of time working with a trainer and doing yoga.
GIRL: So you favor variety in your workout?
Biel: I change it up all the time. I think it's really good for me mentally so I don't get bored, and really important for your muscles not to do the same thing over and over again. It's kind of like using the same shampoo over and over -- it just eventually stops working.
GIRL: OK, last two questions. Back to soccer: In your opinion, why did the first women's professional soccer league fail?
Biel: That's a good question. I don't know. It's terribly disappointing. 'Cause those women are so talented and incredible. It is unacceptable. But it's that way with all women's sports, isn't it? I mean, nobody watches women's basketball championship finals. It's just not nationally supported and it really stinks, if you ask me.
GIRL: Final question: You're playing on the USA Women's Soccer team. It's the championship game, a minute left, knotted 1-all. On the previous play, you're fouled and get a free kick. It's you and the goalie. You kick and score the winning goal! How does Jessica celebrate?
Biel: How would I celebrate if I was on the USA Women's Soccer Team and we just won the championship game? I have to say: shirt over the head, arms outstretched, take a lap!
What's in Jess' gym bag?
ASICS: "For running."
NIKES: "For gym workouts and cross-training."
TIMEX WATCH: "So I can time my runs and intervals."
RUBBER BANDS: "I put them around my ankles and my knees."
WATER BOTTLE: "An eco- friendly one."
LIZ EARLE FACE WASH: "And moisturizer for afterwards!"
FLIP FLOPS: "To shower in at the gym."