More than just “Hitting the Weights”
Although I always had natural talent when it came to sports, especially soccer, I eventually realized that talent alone wasn’t going to be enough if I wanted to play at the highest level and set myself apart.
By the age of 14 I had been playing more competitively and it quickly became apparent that Indiana wasn’t a soccer hotbed. The best players were hailing from California and New Jersey.
I knew that I needed to find additional ways to improve my game in order to compete with players from across the country. I didn’t have the access to go to camps and clinics year-round, so I had to create those opportunities for myself, which I did through hard work and commitment. I think my family thought I was insane when they saw me shoveling snow in my backyard so I could run sprints in the middle of winter. However, it wasn’t until I found strength training that my game really started to flourish.
My first taste of formal strength training was during my freshman year of high school. I only needed one more class credit to fulfill my course load, and it just so happened that the high school football coach had recently implemented a strength and conditioning class.
I had been performing body-weight exercises on my own for a while, but after a few years of the same routine, my progress had stalled. I needed something that was going to challenge me. I needed a more organized, advanced program that also offered proper coaching.
The strength and conditioning class seemed like a great opportunity and one that I believed would be a great addition to my soccer game. But, in all honesty, I was scared out of my mind. As we all know, high school can be a very intimidating place, especially as a freshman. It’s a time when we’re trying to fit in and be liked and accepted by our peers. I was no different. Yes, I was ambitious and focused on improving my soccer, but I wanted to fit in just like everyone else. I was already known as the talented, athletic, “stronger-than-most-boys” chick, and the last thing I wanted to be known as at this time was the butch, weightlifting chick.
Luckily for me, my desire to become the best soccer player I could outweighed my fear, and I enrolled in the class.
I was pretty terrified walking into the weight room that first day, and my fears were warranted, as the room was filled with what seemed like about a gazillion teenage boys and only one other female.* But what I came to realize though is that we were all there for the same reasons. We all wanted to get better. Whether it was to perform better on the field, look better off the field, or stay injury free, everyone was striving for something more.
And, something more is exactly what we got it. We became like a team. Everything I loved about playing on a soccer team, (teammates cheering you on, pushing you to be better, a healthy dose of competition) I also experienced in the weight room. It was awesome.
This was a pivotal time in my career, as strength training not only provided me with actual strength and improved athleticism, but also built my confidence on and off the field to chase after my dreams and compete against other youth national team players my age. This newfound confidence carried me through my career.
I’m happy I took the risk, stepped out of my comfort zone, and into the weight room. I gained so much more than I anticipated. We didn’t just “hit the weights” we received instruction and through this instruction learned more about proper technique and about how our body moves and works
I often think back about this class and how it has led to where I am today. Being exposed to strength training at an early age provided me with so much more than on field success. It is the reason why I got into coaching following my career as a player, and why I feel so passionate about educating young women about its benefits.
* The other female in my strength and conditioning class was Amber Campbell, Olympian Shot-putter. While I was representing the USA in women’s soccer at the 2012 London Olympic games Amber was representing the USA in shot put. We must have been doing something right in that class!
Until next time.