4 Keys To USWNT Olympic Success
I don’t know about you but I absolutely love the Olympics. The games are only a few days away and if you’re like me – you’re ecstatic! In my opinion the Olympics are the pinnacle of sport that is a wonderful showcase of years of commitment and hard work from the athletes. Plus, it reminds me of some of my most favorite memories from my playing days with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.
Four years ago on August 9, 2012 we won the gold medal match against Japan at the London Olympic games.
The year prior we had just lost to Japan in the World Cup final so there was a lot of excitement and redemption to be had.
Our second U.S. professional domestic league had folded a few months after the World Cup final so going into the games we had six months of preparation solely as a team and we were ready to showcase all of our hard work. We were eager to compete, and win gold after our heartbreaking loss the year prior.
This year is an exciting Olympics for the U.S. women because it presents them with an opportunity to make history. For one, if they win gold it will be the team’s fourth straight Olympic gold in a row, which is an incredible stat alone, and two if they win they’ll be the first country to win a World Cup and Olympic gold medal in back to back years.
They are the clear favorites to win the tournament and make history, but there are some challenges the team will have to overcome in order to do so.
This is the first Olympics where the team is currently playing in a domestic professional league. Our two other pro leagues folded before the Olympics. Add this to the ten game victory tour and the Olympic qualifying tournament this past February the players have had almost no rest for almost two years.
Accompany that with the fact that the team starts gameplay two days prior to the opening ceremonies, as they have to play six games to make it to the final with lots of travel in between.
Therefore, in my opinion, this tournament is less about the team’s performance on the field, and more about the recovery and preparation between each game. Of course, the team has to play well, no doubt about that, but the U.S. players are ready. This is arguably the most well rounded team the U.S. has ever fielded – plus, they’re playing on a consistent basis and with the addition of some new players (seven returners and eleven first time Olympians) there’s a wealth of talent and overall stamina.
Here are my 4 keys to the U.S. team winning the Olympic gold medal and making history.
1. Recovery: This is critical. There are only 2 days between each game at the Olympics compared to three games at the World Cup. Plus there are only eighteen players on a roster at the Olympics compared to twenty-three at the World Cup. So not only are there fewer days to recover there are fewer players to utilize. Therefore recovery has to start immediately post game. Recovery drinks for hydration and to replenish, ice baths and massage as well. In London 2012 we had ice baths/massage combo at the hotel after each game, which I believe, made a huge difference in enhancing recovery.
2. Sleep: This could obviously be added under recover but I believe it deserves its own section as it’s going to be a difference maker in this tournament. With the amount of emotional stimulus and excitement surrounding the games and players it can be challenging to get adequate restful sleep every night. With some of the games not ending until later in the evening, finding time to wind down may be difficult. One cool thing the team has implemented is the addition of purchasing their own pillow and bedding to travel with so it can mimic as much of a “home” feel as possible. In past trips, the players have had trouble with neck issues due to variance in sleeping conditions while traveling so hopefully these new additions will aid in more restful sleep and restful bodies.
3. Travel: In 2012 our games were played in Scotland and all over England. Since the countries are so small we were able to bus and train everywhere making it easy for us to create our own timeline and schedule of when/how to travel. This was a huge bonus for us players because it allowed us to sleep in and travel fairly comfortably without many hiccups. However, in Brazil the team doesn’t have the luxury to bus anywhere. They have to fly between each game – restricting them to plane schedules – which could make for abnormal hours and inability to set a daily routine.
4. Rotation of players: This can be tricky as you want the starting eleven to quickly find their rhythm in the tournament, but with the heat, the fatigue of some players it is going to be important to rotate players more than the team has in the past. Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe will be critical – both are returning from injury but both are more rested than the majority of the team so their energy is going to be vital especially as the team enters the knockout round.
These might seem like obvious keys to winning the gold medal but with the majority of the other countries entering the tournament more rested than the U.S. – the implementation of these keys is imperative. Plus, as the gap in competitiveness on the field continues to close it’s the teams that take care of business off the field that will be most successful. With that said, if managed properly the U.S. is more than prepared to continue to make history and I’m excited to cheer them on from home this year.