Let me just preface this article by assuring you that I have warned the people mentioned in this piece about the possibility of being the butt of my jokes. Everyone has agreed that as long as I pull a “yoga pants,” they are okay with it. Get it? All of us basic girls wear yoga pants to make our butts look GOOOOD. (My long back certainly appreciates the little boost yoga pants provide.) So I’ll do my best to highlight their assets and keep the jokes clean. I will be the supportive boost yoga pants provide. See… case in point. My jokes are too often the punny-not-so-funny, dad-joke type that may require explanations. Consequently, any residual hope of providing a laugh is long gone. Now that we have that cleared up, I’m sure most of you have stopped reading. But for those curious few who wanna see this babbling turn to something worthwhile, muchas gracias.
There’s this dinner-convo topic that never ceases to come up, without fail. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I see my inquisitive family. (Remember, I’ve mentioned how much I love them and their support.) After five seasons, they still seem bewildered by my professional soccer lifestyle. They appreciate that I spend many hours at the complex training, reviewing film, lifting, running, etc. They understand the importance of recovery and adequate sleep in order to perform each week. However, the ever-present question remains: What the heck do you do with all your free time?
Yes, I’m sure on paper it appears that professional soccer players have copious amounts of “downtime.” To the average Joe with a typical 9-to-5 (or in the case of many of my friends, 5-am-to-9 pm-type jobs) our schedules leave you perplexed. Why do we feel the need to complain when we’ve been out of the house for an entire six hours? How do we keep ourselves busy when all we do is kick a ball around for a couple hours each day?
A Day in the Life
To answer this I always try to illustrate a typical training day. We wake up around 8 am. To some that may seem like sleeping in, but for me, it’s just past the reasonable time frame where I am not left yawning for the rest of the day. Then we head to the training complex to start our pre-hab, activation exercises. As medical science advances, more and more emphasis has been placed on these movements, stretches, and “waking up” the body. I enjoy going through several sun salutations and maybe a few warrior 3s just to get my legs prepped for the training session ahead. Several teammates are yoga junkies or at least appreciate the benefits of flexibility and having a nice mind/body connection. We aren’t full-blown hippies who believe purple yoga pants bring a certain energy to those around us, but, yes, yoga is good for warming up. There’s one other activity many of us enjoy. However I’d still consider it a soccer-related hobby since it may be soccer motivated. We do it because we see the benefits correlating to our success on the pitch.
Anyway, our mornings continue with breakfast and good “locker room chat.” We haven’t seen our teammates in around 13 WHOLE HOURS! so it’s time to update each other on what we got into the day before. Often, this conversation ends quickly because we’re kinda boring and prefer getting to bed early over hitting the town on a Tuesday. We simply change topics to more important ones like which Kardashian is pregnant, who has the best new Spotify playlist, or critiquing a new hiking trail someone found. When brekkie is over, we head into our lounge to study film of the last game or the upcoming opponent. I hope Laura doesn’t read this because I hate to admit that this is one of the hardest part of my morning simply because I have to show how interested I am and stay focused throughout. It’s very difficult to stay engaged when your mind wanders to “Hmm, I wonder if vegetarians eat animal crackers?” (*Insert laughing emoji because I’m a professional after all, and in case Laura reads this: I always pay close attention during video.)
After a focused video session, we head to the field to train. We run around, kick a ball, think quickly, try to be quicker, sprint a few hundred times (but who’s counting?), and then call it a day. So by 1 pm we are “finished working.” However, we can’t truly clock out just yet. Twice a week we have a lifting session afterward. Sometimes we have massages (and not the pleasant dozing-off ones; no, these deep-tissue massages leave you reaching for a tissue for your tears). Nearly everyone does some sort of recovery ice baths, stretching, or rehab with our trainers before actually leaving the complex. At this point, it’s closer to 2 pm when we grab lunch and head off into the abyss.
This is when the questions arise. What the heck does Becky Sauerbrunn actually do in her free time? You can’t tell me you haven’t wondered. I certainly have. And, unfortunately, all my incognito stalking has come up short with no answers besides this one time. After following her car back to the team apartments and, perhaps, hiding behind a bush, I spotted her playing what looked like a cat version of Battlestar Galactica. I think she may have seen me so I proceeded to sprint away without coming up with any better stories for ya. Sorry! The only other insight I can offer is the she hounds a few of our teammates for help solving her crossword puzzles. For the other teammates who are a little more public about their whereabouts, I can shed some light on a few interesting hobbies that keep them busy.
Alter Egos’ Day Jobs
Most of us have found some sort of identity in something other than soccer. I find this especially true when we go through injuries. When you no longer have soccer to define how your day is going, how do you judge your level of success? Whether you’re having a good day scoring goals or a no-good-very-bad-day where you seem to have the touch of a baby elephant, soccer provides most of us with a scale of sorts as to how much we are developing as a player. Soccer also gives you a sense of belonging and self worth when you’re a part of a team that depends on your unique skill set to be successful on the field. Thus, the recovery process often leaves us mentally and emotional scarred because we lack this scale we’ve come so used to relying on. Now we have to find another source of happiness or means of defining who we are in society. We are not only soccer players obsessed with tactical scheming, learning new tricks, and competing. Instead, we are sisters, daughters, wives, artists, engineers, social activists, mentors, etc.
Our hobbies range from minimal physical exertion to fitness junkies. I’ve come across a few teammates with seemingly endless amounts of energy. They can go to hot yoga before a training session, lift afterward, and then still be willing to go hiking around this beautiful state. Of course they try to monitor their loading so that they’re fresh come game time, but I just don’t know how they maintain that level of stamina. We live in a pretty impressive city surrounded by mountains just begging to be explored, so when we do gather up the energy and maybe have a day off to recover we try to conquer several trails. I’m sure you’ve seen a few on social media because once you make it to the top, it has to be documented or it didn’t happen. Nonetheless, let’s get into the less athletically centered activities.
If we aren’t exploring in the outdoors, that doesn’t mean we aren’t explorers. One of the best perks of our job is the travel. Yes, I did just say that, despite complaining about it a mere month ago. Let’s call it love/hate. The toll that traveling takes on your body is certainly less than ideal, but the opportunity to see so many incredible U.S. cities isn’t taken for granted. A few teammates, who I’ll call Krachel, Tall-e, and Gelise share my love of Google Maps and Yelp reviews. That may sound a bit strange, but we’ve established the fact that I’m odd. These three do their research before venturing to a new city in hopes of finding the coffee shop with a decent flat white and solid ambiance, the açaí bowl spot with the right ratio of granola to fruity toppings, and the quintessential restaurant that the city is known for. So they read reviews and look at countless pictures to make sure we don’t waste our few free travel hours with a 3-out-of-5-star place. We search high and low for the best spot where we can take our team-rented minivans like the future soccer moms we are, and be sure to add it all to our InstaStories. (Let’s be honest, if you don’t take a picture of it, are you even a millennial?)
Salt Lake City has been a difficult nut to crack. I wouldn’t call it a foodie town like Seattle or Chicago, but we’ve discovered a few hidden gems. It’s fun to wander around the city and share reviews about the best spots and finally feel at home with our go-to game day favorites. Protein Foundry, with your delicious açaí bowls and cute rustic décor, I’m looking at you!
The greatest part of our job schedule is that our “downtime” is opposite to that of the typical working world. Hence, coffee shops are much quieter and more conducive for getting work done. I have a couple of teammates who work second jobs. Women’s soccer is quite a lucrative business (please laugh, this is mild sarcasm), but ya girl could always use a spare doll hair for coffee. Therefore, a second job that doesn’t involve much physical activity, mandatory office hours, or a specific schedule is perfect. Unfortunately, those aren’t those are few and far between unless you’re coaching. Those lucky few who have found their niche in the world of remote jobs, stay busy earning some extra money in their downtime. So our working-class clan can complete said work at cute coffee shops so they get a change of scenery and feel like they’re being hip while working. Others bring a good book or like to study. It never fails that we run into at least one of our teammates at one of the few cafes doing “work” of some sort. Let’s face it, we can all afford to stop and enjoy a skinny vanilla latte, hold the whip, sprinkle on the basic, take a picture, work for five minutes, sip, and sit at the local cafe.
I think most of this team have their bachelor’s degrees and are glad those days of all-nighters in the library are over. However, when you’re out of school for several years and don’t feel like you use most of the knowledge you spent all those long library hours learning anymore, you get bored. It’s human nature to want to be challenged. I know we can meet the physical and emotional demands on the field. But how come I never have to find the standard deviation for the given probability distribution anymore? Luckily with the abundance of available online classes and self-help books out there, we can find new ways to keep our brains from turning to mush.
Blue Collar Scholars
Our team’s latest scholarly endeavor entails learning from our internationals. We have the opportunity to learn about their cultures and their languages so it’s only right that we get rid of the “dumb American” reputation and expand our minds. Thus, several teammates, like one I’ll call Wydney, have been spotted at a cafe (go figure) studying fifth grade algebra. When confronted, she proudly explained that she wanted to teach herself basic skills so she wouldn’t forget. The little math nerd in me was so excited to hear this I went home to do some time tables to assure myself I still knew that the square root of 69 is 8-something.
So for the other lucky ones who are already too smart, there are other ways to stimulate our minds. We have a couple of artists on the team who love showing others how to expand their skills past misshaped stick figures. One girl, we’ll call her Nandy, has hosted a few paint nights where she taught us that it’s possible to fake being artistic if you have proper guidance. Nandy taught us several blending techniques and how to add some paint thinner-type concoction so that the paint bleeds into the background. If you couldn’t tell, I’m basically Picasso. Picasso without hands, eyes, or any idea how to hold a paint brush properly. I like to leave the drawing to her and I just ogle over how colorful her canvas becomes. Stay tuned to social media because if we ever create anything as impressive as her, it will be posted.
I wonder why I keep talking about social media and our incessant need to add everything we do to our profiles. Maybe it’s our way of staying relevant so our fans know we do fun things sometimes. Maybe it’s the best way to keep in touch with our friends and family despite the opposite work schedules. Maybe it’s just, like, totally the best part of the 21st century. Two truths and a lie.
¿Cómo Se Dice Millennial?
This leads me into a subcategory of the typical millennial who is too often guilty of spamming social media with their latte art. Sometimes said teammates are blessed with beauty and brains. These girls are gorgeous AND can work the camera. They use their platform to highlight their other talents and help other Instagramers with their knowledge of important girl things. They share how to pick the best summer skirt, bake gluten-free (I mean cardboard-flavored) “treats,” or do a fun gym circuit that will have you looking like an athlete in as little as a week. I would refer to these pros as the self-proclaimed instablogger. In today’s day and age, everything is all about appearances, aesthetics, and obviously athletics. What better medium than Instagram to reach the masses with their cute, artsy selfies, or fitness advice? Hey, if you got it, flaunt it! I wish I could take tips from them about working the angles, lighting, and fashion sense so I could advance past the MySpace high-angle middle school mirror pic days. I have met some beautiful girls in my career and they have a knack for capturing said beauty on the ‘gram. In fact, some have even turned a profit because companies see the benefit in using our fan base to advertise their products. This I am jealous of. My one attempt to be “sponsored” by a kombucha company ended with a “Sorry, we aren’t sorry, you aren’t popular enough.” For those girls who’ve acquired a much larger following, why wouldn’t they use their clout to spread the word about their favorite/sponsored products?
It takes so much time to keep a proper blog up to date. You have followers who rely on you to keep them entertained. I’d equate this to running your own magazine. You pay attention to the needs of your people and try to use everything you know to help. Keeping track of your workouts, meals, or tools of the trade must be exhausting. It’s tough to remember you have to always capture your daily life and be sure to advertise your own page so that your business continues to grow as well. I feel like so many people have turned to social media as it becomes the new way to communicate, inspire, and learn. It’s the quickest way to get information, share comments, and find the best restaurant spreads. So it only makes sense that we spend so much time on social media and some smart girls have found a way to build their own brand on it. Plus, we have all this “downtime” to devote to the cause.
I just kinda wish I had taken whatever classes the bloggers took that gave them all this vast knowledge of all things beauty, relationships, and food. These bloggers certainly spend plenty of time dedicated to keeping their profiles popping and their styles up to date. It’s a skill I surely lack. After talking to one teammate, known in this piece as Decca, most of them just wing it. They are learning as they go. They are figuring out how to spread their business and get the word out about their products. I have so much respect for these girls because while I get to check Men’s Humor or GirlWithNoJob for the latest meme humor, they have to constantly be posting videos or pictures that help build their base. It’s a fun millennial-type job, but I prefer to just annoy everyone with my pun-heavy Insta captions for ugly soccer pics. Plus, if I get two DMs in a day, I get overwhelmed. I don’t know how these girls can keep up with their large client base and the constant notifications. Woof, my little antique iPhone 5 would spontaneously combust from data overload.
I must admit, I follow one too many of these bloggers because I’m a sucker for inspiring quotes or tips on how to get clearer skin. The ones that post fun recipes are too much for me because I end up with too many dinner options that I just have to try and never end up making. Basic chicken and veggies will always be a kitchen staple. Who needs that stuffed spinach and feta chicken breast layered in a tomato purée and flash fried in a buttermilk aioli? Oh, and hold the intricately hand-painted plate at a 37-degree angle under a kitchen light for the perfect Hudson-filtered shot. I prefer to get lessons from our foodie experts on the team. A couple teammates have this innate gift for creating delicious dinners or baking bomb desserts. It’s fun to get together with these people because of our shared love of food. With so many different cultures on our team, it’s exciting to discover new dishes or kitchen tricks. That certainly takes up a few hours in our day prepping, hosting, and enjoying potlucks together.
Dog Days Ain’t Over
Even if we end up trying a fancy recipe that turns out terribly, we can always rest assured that the team pups will appreciate it. They just wait for us to throw them a bone. Since so many of us love our dogs and miss them while we’re away from home, we lean on the few teammates who do take care of their own furry friends. Take for example, a teammate of mine, we’ll call her Merika, who is the best dog mom I know. She is an avid dog walker/hiker/fun provider. She adopted her dog and our team absolutely loves him. She works her tail off making sure he is the happiest, most loved dog possible. Her love of animals goes even further as she lives through a vegan lifestyle. Merika feels so passionately about preventing animal cruelty that she is a spokesperson for animal rights. She often visits shelters and speaks out for the safety of all sorts of animals in her mission to encourage all of us to treat them with the respect and care they deserve. It’s inspiring to see some not only be an activist, but also practice what they preach. If anyone has ever tried eating as a vegan, just imagine giving up eggs, chicken, cheese, and going to a restaurant and trying to order a meal. It requires diligence, planning, and strong will to stick to such a strict diet. But Merika’s love of animals outweighs what she gives up, and she finds plenty of ways to supplement her diet in order to perform at the highest level athletically.
There are too many pro-humanitarian teammates to compliment them all, but I’m left in awe with how much volunteer work they manage. Whether it be hospital visits, school readings, or participating in a specific organization, nearly everyone in this league finds ways to give back. Like I mentioned earlier, we have a platform and decent fan base to be engaged members of society and help build a better community. So for those who give so many hours of their “free time” for a cause they feel passionately toward, I applaud you. Y’all make us a better organization filled with hard-working activists reforming our culture into one of love and compassion. What better way to spend your time?
Stop and Smell the Roses Coffee
So when we aren’t being normal people bingeing on Netflix, doing puzzles, going on road trips, shopping, or getting our nails done, we all find ways to stay busy. Sometimes we need to recover and take three-hour naps. Sometimes we need to be outside embracing the beauty of nature. Sometimes we need to sit with friends at a coffee shop and create a recycling program so we stop wasting so many paper coffee cups. Life is all about balance. In this bizarre lifestyle where we physically exert our bodies for hours, it’s important to appreciate the freedom it leaves us. We have the option to rest and recovery if necessary. But we also have the opportunity to be the best we can be by studying, learning, and pushing our minds in other creative directions. All jokes aside, yoga pants back in the closet, I think it’s fun to see everyone’s personalities come through off the field with the various activities they get involved in. The players in this league may share a love for finding cute coffee shops, but there are so many different types of ways we challenge ourselves off the field. So the next time my family asks me what I do all day, I hope I can wholeheartedly lean in and tell them I am carpe diem-ing! I am doing all I can to improve in all facets of life, stopping to smell the coffee, and embracing my “downtime” in a multitude of ways.