Monday, April 15, 2024
HomeSportsHow do USWNT players unwind during their World Cup stay?

How do USWNT players unwind during their World Cup stay?

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Expectations have long been high for the U.S. women’s national team. Any time a big game is held, it’s either win or lose. Winning the trophy is the only acceptable outcome for the U.S. women’s soccer team at the 2023 Women’s World Cup. These expectations apply to coaches and players.

With the US expected to be in New Zealand and Australia for 40 days, dealing with the ensuing stress is all the more important. It means taking the mind and the body off the football and focusing on something else, anything else, if only for a little while. So how can players relax? Can they relax?

It’s been said that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop, and that seems to be what the US women’s soccer team does. On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of team activities. Of course there are trainings, but there are also team-wide, group and individual level meetings. There are also videos to watch, both about the US and its upcoming opponents. This is exactly the dynamic players can expect if it doesn’t feel like they have much to spare.

“I think people realize we’re not here for vacation,” guard Crystal Dunn said. “We’re here to get the job done. We’re here to work and give our best in this game.”

– Meet the USWNT: Everything you need to know about all 23 players
– group by group prediction, selection
– Women’s World Cup: Schedule| Roster| News

Still, there is some leeway in the team’s schedule, though the definition of downtime can get murky and is often in the eye of the beholder. What some players think of relaxation doesn’t exactly sound like relaxation.

“There’s downtime within the structure,” explained forward Lynn Williams. “We’re so lucky to have so many modalities of recovery, and if you want to take advantage of it, there’s allotted time. If you want to take advantage of it, there’s therapy time. But if you don’t, and you feel like you need to get around, or you feel like you need to see your family, then there’s time. So it’s structured in some ways, but there’s a big chunk of time that can be spent doing whatever you think you need to do to be the best version of yourself you can be.”

Recovery is the process of rejuvenating the body between training and competition, an opportunity to relax. It may include a freezer, a separate activity similar to an ice bath, but faster. Going to the training room to treat pain also adds to the social aspect.

“It’s very interesting that even your breaks and personal time are still tied to performance,” midfielder Andy Sullivan said. “It’s something we’ve been dealing with as athletes, but obviously, in this period, it’s been severely exacerbated. So it’s been a lot of fun, even if you’re like, ‘I need a break or a mental break,’ it’s still about bringing out the best in yourself on the field.”

Indeed, for Dunn, the concept of “free time” has taken on a whole new meaning since the birth of his son Marcel in May 2022. The time she spends alone is basically reduced to close to zero. In New Zealand, she estimates she can spend about two hours a day with her son, though she admits sometimes has to make tough choices.

“There may come a day when I have to choose therapy over family, and I think that’s the balance I have to find,” she said. “Obviously it’s the first time I’ve dealt with it but I think it’s okay as a mum, I’ve learned that I need to take care of myself. Sometimes it means putting my baby in someone else’s hands and that’s okay with me.”

However, the feeling still doesn’t reach the level of completely unplugging. The lounge at the team hotel helps fill that need, and Williams noted that she often hangs out there with Dunn.

“[Dunn]was always knocking on my door, just to hang out in my room. I said, ‘It’s 8:00 in the morning, Crystal. Go away,'” Williams joked.

Now that the World Cup has started, players will go to the lounge to watch the game and immerse themselves in the game. Striker Sophia Smith admits that the time to bond with teammates is crucial.

“I think it’s very easy to get so focused on the task that you forget you’re in the World Cup, which is cool, it’s fun, and you should be there and experience it to the fullest,” she said. “So we all try to remind ourselves of that, to be in the moment and enjoy the quality of being together, whether it’s eating or hanging out in the recovery room, whatever it is. We’re definitely going to try to be in the moment and enjoy it.”

There are activities that take the fun up a notch and provide enjoyable ways to beat the stress of a tournament. Impromptu coffee is one of them.

“A lot of us are coffee lovers, so it’s always a time to socialize, decompress, go grab a coffee and hang out with people,” linebacker Emily Fox said.

(Her favorite drink? “I just have an iced latte or a flat white, so nothing crazy.”)

There are also unofficial book clubs.

With Becky Sauerbrunn out of the World Cup squad, when people think of unofficial team nerds, the name Rose Lavelle comes to mind, although there are others. Smith is also an avid reader. She’s been reading the Court of Thorns and Roses series, though the size and volume of the books made her decide to buy a Kindle rather than lug them across the Pacific. It’s more of an individual event, though, and not exactly a case of players getting together to discuss what they’ve read. That said, it’s not so much Oprah’s Book Club as it is Sophia’s Book Club, since Smith is largely the initiator.

“We don’t read the same books at the same time,” Smith said. “Somebody’s going to read one, and I’ll tell you it’s good, and you’re going to read it. But yeah, I’ve got people in. I’ve got Ashley Sanchez and Trinity Rodman reading it now, and they’re not readers at all, and I’m really proud of that.”

Reading wasn’t Rodman’s only hobby. She’s also a gamer, taking her PlayStation to play Fortnite on the go.

Sullivan admits she began pursuing an old-fashioned, pre-Internet quest she calls a “physical puzzle”—a 500-piece puzzle, not a digital version.

“I don’t know much about puzzles, but they’re fun, so it’s a great way to pass the time when you only have a few minutes,” she says.

Anything that can relieve the stress will do as the demands of the game increase.

- Advertisment -
Google search engine

Most Popular

Recent Comments