The Cat Whitehill Blog
After recently going into camp with the national team, I thought it would be a good idea to give a glimpse into the day in the life of a national team player compared to a WPS player. I also met a fantastic fan last night who recommended I do something like this and I told him I would take his advice. The main thing you have to remember when we talk about both of these teams, the hard work is the same. Each time I go out to practice, I know that I have to focus and work hard and that doesn't change whether I am with the Washington Freedom or the United States.
I decided to compare the day before our game against Germany for the National team and the day of the game against Atlanta for the Washington Freedom. Two kind of different days, but it gives you a good idea of what these two important days entail.
On the day before the game against Germany, it is obviously everyone's focus to get as much rest as possible. The night before I get lots of sleep, I would say around nine hours. Our schedule makes it possible for us to get as many hours as we need since we have breakfast at 9am. Some people are early to bed, early to rise and others are the opposite, so we need to make sure that everyone gets the proper amount of sleep.
I was one of those people that was late to bed, late to rise because I watched the Grey's Anatomy season finale and to be honest, it was hard to go to sleep after such an intense finale. I don't know if any of you watched it, but if you did, you would know why I went to bed later than normal! Either way I was able to get the amount of sleep I needed to get ready for the game against Germany. Two nights before the game sleep is probably the most important sleep as it is the sleep that you will be running on in the game.
Practice is short but extremely focused. We get to practice on the stadium field which is always nice to get used to the pitch. We actually arrived as Germany was ending their training so we had to wait a bit longer as the Germans of course took their time to leave. I guess when you have a great rivalry you do whatever you can to get under the other team's skin.
The training was fun. We did a good warm up with our fitness coach, a technical warm up with one of the assistant coach's, a short walk through for the starters, and then a couple of fun 5v5 competitive games in a small space. It's good to have high intensive, but short games in the final practice sessions before a game so you don't lose your edge. Everyone always has a few nerves before a game and it's good to get them out in those few 5v5 games.
On the day before a game, we normally have the most time to do whatever we want. During most of the week, our time is pretty consumed with practices and meetings and meals, but on the day before a game, they want to make sure we just have a restful day. Most people are either hanging out in their hotel rooms or visiting their friends and family that came to the game.
I was fortunate enough to schedule an appearance for Best Friends Society and their Saving Pit Bulls campaign. I was able to go to a high school, play some soccer with kids, love on some amazing dogs, and teach kids how important it is to not discriminate against dogs. We taught them that if you raise the dog correctly, a pit bull is one of the most loyal and smartest dog, they just have a bad reputation. I think it is so important that athlete's give back and when I am on the road, I have a great opportunity to give back to so many different cities. It was an amazing event and I was so proud to be a part of it. I also wanted to take home a few of the dogs, so it was a good thing I was in Cleveland and not home or else I would have taken them home!
After my appearance, I go back to the hotel to rest up a bit and then head to dinner. We eat most every meal together as a team, but especially this one. We have a meeting about the game afterwards and then we all head up to our hotel rooms. Some people get massages, some get treatment, but most just go back and lay on their bed resting up for the game tomorrow. Then we hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, and go to bed early to make sure we get the proper amount of sleep!
That's the day in the life of the National team, now it's time for the Freedom!
The Freedom arrived the day before to Atlanta and I was pretty excited about this game because my whole family that lives in Atlanta and Birmingham were able to come. Just like with the national team, I got a lot of sleep the night before to make sure I was ready for the game. I also drank a lot of water and Advocare rehydrate to make sure to be hydrated for the humid air of Atlanta. I woke up around 8am and decided to go to breakfast. With the Freedom, we are able to do a lot on our own. Our game wasn't until 6pm that night, but I still woke up kind of early because I went to bed pretty early the night before. It was a great breakfast and fortunately I had some teammates who woke up earlier as well so we ate together. We then went on a small walk around the area together just to make sure our legs were ready for the game.
My mom and dad came to the hotel to visit around noon and we decided to get a small bite to eat. Thank goodness we were near a college town, so there were lots of choices and we found Mellow Mushroom, a fun Italian restaurant (and some of the best pizza around). It's good for me to eat a little bit before our pregame meal, so my mom and I split a vegetarian pizza. It's good to get some carbs in your system before the game because that is what is going to give you the energy to play 90 minutes. It was great to see my parents because I just don't get to see them nearly enough and I just love them so much. It's an easy trip from Birmingham, so it's great that Atlanta is a new team in the league.
After hanging with my parents for a few hours, I head over to pregame meal. I know it sounds like I eat a lot, I know, but it is important to have the proper fuel for the game. I don't eat a lot at every meal, but I make sure to keep something in my system throughout the day. After our pregame meal, we have a short team meeting about the game and then we head up to our rooms to pack for the game. I take this time to listen to some music, read my Bible, and if there is time, I take a short nap. This is my normal routine for a game and it makes me feel very refreshed and relaxed. I don't want all my nerves to come out during the game so I like to relax a lot and get those nerves out.
Now it's GAMETIME! We head over to the field, listen to a lot of music to get ready, and then head out onto the field for warm-ups and eventually the game. It was a great win for the Freedom and another great shutout for our team! I felt like we were all ready for the game and frankly it was easy to play the way we wanted to on a field so beautiful like the new one that the Beat built. If you haven't seen the field, you must go and check it out. It is absolutely beautiful!
After the game, my sister got a bunch of friends and family together for a fun tailgate, so I joined them once I was showered and visited all the wonderful Atlanta fans. My sister was amazing getting about thirty friends together to make what was a small, but loud Washington Freedom cheering section so I needed to make sure to go and thank all of them for coming. It was amazing, my aunt, uncle, and two cousins were there, my best friend came, and of course my parents and sister were there. The friends she brought were amazing and I was so excited that the tailgate went so well! We had a lot of good times after the game, but sadly we all had to leave. I had to get ready to leave for national team camp the next day, but fortunately I was able to stay with my sister and best friend that night so that was a special treat!
So that's the day in the life of two different teams. Two very different, yet very similar experiences. All of these days are structured so that we can get the most rest and fuel to be ready for the next day. It looks like we don't have to be with the team very much, but the thing is every thing we eat, drink, and do that day is important for the next day and how we play. Our bodies are so important to our jobs that we must take care of them every minute. Giving back and being with friends and family is also really important to me so it's great I had an opportunity to do both. I hope you learned a little bit of what it is like to be a soccer player in the best league in the world and on the best team in the world. I sure enjoy doing it!
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