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Teaming for Success: The Washington Spirit

Andi Sullivan is an American soccer player who plays midfield for the Washington Spirit in the National Women’s Soccer League and the United States women’s national soccer team. Andi is 26 years old and comes from Lorton, VA.

Q. How do you respond/react after losing a game in order to prepare for the next game?

A. There are a lot of different ways I respond to a loss and get ready for the next
game. I think it’s important to accept how you feel and feel what you feel. If you’re
in a bad mood, give yourself a time limit for how long you’re going to allow yourself to be in that bad mood. Another thing I like to do is bounce ideas off of teammates and coaches to see if we have similar ideas about what went right and wrong. It’s important to evaluate on your own and collectively with your team. Then, we have to get back to the process of recovering. We have to eat to make sure we’re getting our calories back and before bed, I like to do something that makes me happy as a way to zoom out and gain some perspective. After initial recovery, I watch game film. A friend of mine always says it’s never as bad as you think and it’s never as good as you think and I think that’s very accurate. We tend to amplify things in our heads in the moment and it’s important to look back with a fresh set of eyes to update our evaluations. Take those lessons from a neutral point of view and apply them to your training/preparation for the next week.

Q. Any advice you would give to your younger self about preparedness and resiliency?

A. This is a tough question and I have novels worth of answers. With regard to
resiliency, I would advise my younger self to stay in the moment and focus on
what you can do to keep progressing.
In college, I tore my ACL and kept asking myself “what else can I do?” It was very easy to look at what I couldn’t do and get discouraged and sad but there were just as many things I could do, from quad sets to range of motion work and rehab exercises. I learned to focus on my capabilities as opposed to my inabilities because it helped me to stay present and keep powering forward. I would also tell my younger self that preparedness is very much intertwined with the “what else can I do?” question. You have to trust the work you’ve put in while also giving a fair evaluation of yourself to know if you should be doing more.

Q. What would you say to children who want to play team sports but who have been told they’re not athletic or any good at sports?

A. It really upsets me that this is an issue for so many kids and their families. We’ve learned so much as to why this is wrong for developing kids. It’s so important for kids to find a coach, friend, teammate and/or community that believes in your ability to learn and grow and follow through with your work. A growing and teaching environment is so valuable for young kids to find fulfillment in playing sports. Too often the focus is on whether or not you’re on the best team or are the best player on your team when it should be whether or not you’re enjoying yourself and continuously getting better. Your environment has to fit your goals.
Any person who is at a high level in their sport would likely not say that their successes all came down to their athleticism; they would tell you it’s more about how they are able to accept feedback and apply it to their preparation, push
through times of poor performance and problem solve. So many skills and character traits are taught to kids through playing sports, athleticism is just a tiny piece of the puzzle and not the most important. Your physical abilities are constantly changing as a kid but what you learn and take away from sports and into your everyday life can be consistent. ❦

Aubrey Kingsbury is an American professional soccer player who plays as a goalkeeper for the Washington Spirit in the National Women’s Soccer League. Aubrey is 30 years old and hails from Cincinnati, OH.

Q. How have team sports prepared you for life?

A. Team sports are the perfect avenue to learn valuable life lessons like teamwork,
leadership, creativity, and being an effective communicator. Teams require everyone working together to achieve success. I’ve learned that everyone’s role is valuable, there is no one more important than another.

In life it’s the same. You can’t get anywhere on your own. You need the help and support from mentors, teachers, family, and friends to accomplish your goals. Through sports I’ve learned to relate to all different types of people and find a way to work together regardless of differences in opinion, personality, or background.

Q. What is the best piece of advice that you’ve received?

A.The best advice I’ve ever received is from my Dad who always reminds me to “Remember who you are and whose you are.” When I was younger I didn’t fully understand what he was trying to convey, but I now recognize the value of knowing who you are and being true to yourself. That will be different for everyone, but for me personally, my identity is rooted in Christ and I’m reminded to love and serve others because He first loved me. This has helped guide me whenever I face new challenges and difficulties. When I remember who I am and how God has a purpose and plan for my life, I can proceed confidently.

Q. What is one key take-away that you want young athletes to never forget?

A. I always remind young athletes to be fearless. Especially as a goalkeeper, you’re the last line of defense and often called into action when the game is on the line. It can be incredibly nerve-racking. Being brave and fearless will help young athletes succeed in sports but also in life. Everyday is full of unique challenges that require taking them head on! ❦

Ashley Hatch is an American soccer player who plays as a forward for Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). She has also played for the United States women’s national soccer team. Ashley is 26 years old and comes from Gilbert AZ.

Q. How do you keep your energy up, and your emotions in a good state, when you’re really not having a great day?

A. As silly as it sounds, just making yourself smile is a great way to turn your day around. It obviously doesn’t solve all of the problems of the day but there are studies that show even an insincere smile can improve your mood and give you the small serotonin boost you need to get through the rest of your day. It also helps to remember previous bad days you’ve had, despite how counterintuitive that may sound. You’ve made it through 100% of your tough days so far and gotten to better days and this one is no different. You have to go through tough times to appreciate the good!

Q. Is nutrition and mindfulness key to your training?

A. Definitely, and the two often go hand in hand. When we eat clean and keep on track with our nutrition plans, every aspect of your physical health benefits. We feel more clear-minded and more energetic. Both of these things help us to live in the moment and avoid getting caught in the trap of worrying about things that have happened or big games/events we have coming up. It’s surprising how much our nutrition impacts our mental well-being and, in turn, our performance on the pitch.

Q. How do you stay engaged/motivated when you might not receive as much time on the field during a game?

A. Whenever I’ve found myself not playing as much as I would like, I always remind myself of the good teammates I’ve had in my past that were able to make an impact from off the pitch. Seeing positive energy from the sideline is so helpful as an athlete because we can really feed off of it. Additionally, seeing the love everyone has for each other and for the game is a great motivator because you naturally want to go achieve something more when it would benefit more people than just you. I remind myself of that because being a good teammate is just as valuable as anything you can do on the pitch. An energetic bench area can make it feel like you’ve got a 12th player out there so you can always be a part of the game even if you’re not physically on the pitch. It also helps how much we all care for each other on this Spirit team. We all want to see each other succeed so it is super easy to lock in on the game and lock in on your teammates’ performances. You pay more attention to something when it involves your friends and family so the close relationships we have all formed here really translate to on-field production.

Photo credits to Javi Dussaq, Washington Spirit

Watch the Washington Spirit Road to the Championship video HERE

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