By David Bayer
When we last left Kylie Wright, she had signed a contract with the Atlanta Beat and was waiting for training camp to begin. In the meantime, her plans were to continue training on her own, and finish her education at UCLA. (Wow! A professional athlete with a college degree … What a concept!) She has held true to those plans. Coach Jim Galanis of the Beat has not put her on any training program yet, so she has continued her basic “touching the ball” routine. She told me, “When you have a soccer ball at your feet, anything is better than just running.” Her professors have cut her some slack time-wise, but she’s still had to finish up three papers prior to the end of school on March 16. There was one “minor” addition to Kylie’s plans. She’ll be participating in the U-23 Four Nations Tournament in Spain. Her U.S. squad will face England, Sweden and Norway. She made sure to get Coach Galanis’ blessing before accepting the roster spot.
It will be a quick frequent flyer mile accumulation for Kylie from her home in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, to La Manga, Spain, and then on to Atlanta on March 2nd. And when she touches down, her mother Karen will be greeting her to assist with the move-in. Kylie will have two suitcases of clothing, and her mom will have a couple more for her. A day of shopping for other necessities is on their schedule.
Karen described Kylie’s new experience as, “A great adventure for the whole family.” She added, “I’m kind of excited to be a long distance soccer mom. It gives me a chance to see the different venues, and the distance between us will make it that much sweeter to see her play.” She and her husband hope to come out for four or five games, and catch others on Fox Soccer Channel.
So naturally, being a professional athlete, a high-rise apartment in Atlanta is awaiting Kylie, right? Come on folks, these are female professional athletes. Unfortunately, there is no equality. Kylie will not have one roommate, or even two. She’ll be sharing a house with five of her teammates. (I’m smelling a new reality television show). There will be someone else back in Cali missing Kylie – her boyfriend Andrew. Kylie describes him as, “a sports fanatic who is extremely supportive.” She expects that he’ll be able to visit once a month on breaks from Santa Ana College Basic Fire Academy.
May 15 is circled on Kylie’s calendar. That’s the first game between Atlanta and Philadelphia. Why is it so big? It will be the first matchup between Kylie and her dear friend and former UCLA teammate Lauren “Lu” Barnes, who was drafted by the Independence this year. Kylie expects some good-natured trash talking will take place prior to the game. Kylie and Lauren have both requested uniform number 21 from their respective teams. At UCLA, Kylie was number 18 and Lauren was 3. Doing some quick math, 18 plus 3 equals 21.
Kylie said that she doesn’t have any preconceived ideas of Atlanta. She did ask me about the weather, but otherwise, she just plans to “take it as it comes.” And it is coming quickly. Opening night is just over a month away.
Welcome to Atlanta, Kylie.
Photo: Kylie Wright stands with her mother, Karen (left).