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What We Learned from the Pros

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Sounders, NWSL locals share tips on reaching the next level

Three weeks ago, Washington State Legends of Soccer hosted a live webinar with five local pros, each of them having developed their game, or some stage of it, here in Washington. The objective: To share insight into what it takes to reach the highest levels of the sport. Learning from the Pros is now available to view on the WA Legends YouTube channel.

Here are a few takeaways from the panel, which was comprised of Samantha Hiatt (OL Reign), Katherine Reynolds (recently retired, Portland Thorns), Cristian Roldan (Sounders), Kelyn Rowe (Sounders) and Morgan Weaver (Portland Thorns).

Question: When did you begin to realize you could play at the professional level?

Hiatt: When I was called into my first national camp at 16.

Roldan: It wasn’t until my first year of college that I realized I could play at the next level.

Q: When was the biggest adjustment to your mindset?

Reynolds: The biggest change from club to college was just the amount that we were training and the time we had to spend in the gym…The biggest jump was college to pro. We were used to being one of the best players on our club team or in college, and then you’re in the pros and everyone’s that good or better, and it’s a wake-up call.

Rowe: the last jump (to the pros) by far is the widest gap. Everyone was already bigger, faster, stronger than me.

Weaver: From high school to college what was huge for me was the weight room. I never lifted in high school…Going from college to pros, it’s the speed of play.

Q: How did you keep active and in shape during COVID lockdown?

Weaver: I’d always bike every morning and try to go on a run every single day and just get in some touches in the apartment.

Rowe: I was in a small apartment in Boston, and it was quite cold…I ordered a foam ball to hit against my wall and couch – and may have knocked my TV down.

Q: What characteristics make for a high-level player?

Reynolds: The first thing is a work ethic. You have to want it. You have to put in the time and the work.

Roldan: Determination. You have to be mentally sharp each and every practice. Each offseason you need to come in ready to go, fit and just wanting to get better. If you surround yourself with people who want to do the same, it can really translate to that person wanting to work just as hard.

Q: How did you approach recruiting and choosing a college?

Rowe: Before going away (to play), I would email 20-25 coaches…and tell them I was going to be on this field at this time. I did that every weekend from my freshman year until I signed. You send those out. Don’t be embarrassed if you have a bad game. Don’t burn any bridges. You email back; you be a good, kind person, and that goes a long way.

Hiatt: The vibe of the team is important because you spend so much time with these people every day, and they’re going to be your community…How did you feel talking to people on the team. Relationships with your teammates reflect your overall collegiate experience.

Reynolds: You have to think, ‘if soccer was taken away, would you still be happy there?’

Q: What’s your typical game day preparation?

Roldan: I like to have my omelet with avocado and coffee. Watch some soccer and go for a quick walk to get my legs stretched out…I like to watch YouTube videos on the opposing player.

Hiatt: I’m a big fan of getting up and moving around. I like coffee, so sometimes a morning walk and go get coffee. In the afternoon I’ll have my pregame meal and I think to get to the locker room early. Just sit in my chair and listen to music before it gets hectic.

Q: What makes soccer in Washington so special?

Hiatt: The people who come out to the games and the supporters just create a really cool environment. I’ve been a fan going to Sounders and Reign games, and I’m so excited to be on the other side of it now. The atmosphere the fans create is pretty special.

There’s much, much more. For instance, Roldan’s pregame sandwich and his superstitions. And what does Rowe find telling about the final 15 minutes of a match? When should you think about moving to a better team. Who played multiple sports through high school? So many questions, and many surprising answers.

Frank MacDonald is a Seattle soccer journalist and historian. This story first appeared on Washington State Legends of Soccer blog and has been republished here with his permission. WA Legends is a 501(c)(3) registered public charity, and donations are welcome.