What a Professional Soccer Player Does in their Free Time

I don’t mean to brag, but I have the best job in the world. It’s obviously not like your typical 9-5 job because there are only so many hours in the day that you can physically train. So a typical “work day” of training for me takes about 5-6 hours of my day, leaving the rest of my time to rest and recover. I’m very fortunate that I am not in school anymore or working a second job, so when I am not training, I can fully relax and do activities that I really enjoy.

It was definitely a change of pace from the grind of being a student-athlete in college, where having free time throughout the week was nearly impossible with all the school work, practices, and other jobs/priorities. It didn’t take me too long to adjust to this type of living (I know, tough transition!), but I did have to create new hobbies and interests so I wasn’t wasting all my free time by scrolling on my phone or binge-watching Netflix all day. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my Netflix shows, and my roomies and I will typically watch a show together every night, but I do try and be somewhat productive during the day. So, here are some of the hobbies and activities that have become a big part of my life and have kept me busy since playing abroad:

  • Hanging with teammates! The best part about being on a team is forming tight friendships that can last a lifetime. You spend so much time together, that teammates you just met feel like friends you have known your entire life. On Xolos, my teammates and I love exploring Mexico and San Diego – going to the beaches, eating at new restaurants and cafes, exploring new towns, and going on little trips when we have days off are some of our favorite activities!
  • Writing. Growing up, writing in school was something I did not enjoy and I never in a million years imagined that I would start writing for fun. But here I am, journaling almost every day, and writing this blog because I truly enjoy it! Writing has become a part of my daily routine. I started journaling when I lived in Spain because the experience was so incredible that I didn’t want to forget anything about that experience. I then decided to create this blog while living in Serbia because I thought it would be interesting to share a bit of my life and the things I’ve learned through my experiences abroad. Now I’ve somehow accumulated 3 different journals (one for personal use, soccer, and my health), this blog, and a Spanish notebook that keep me busy writing all day lol. Typically after practice, my roommates and I make a coffee or matcha, then sit on our balcony and journal. It’s quite a lovely post-practice ritual.
  • Coffee Shops. Coffee culture is so popular in Europe and in Mexico! There are cute cafes on almost every street, so there are endless places to choose from. Trying new spots around town and chilling at cafes with teammates and friends is a bi-weekly activity. My teammates and I try a new cafe every week and there are still thousands of cafes in Tijuana that we haven’t yet discovered!
  • Watching Soccer. I try and watch as much soccer on tv as possible, not only because I love it, but I also learn so much from it! From watching and analyzing the teams in my league to watching the Premier League, Laliga, Laliga MX, and all the major tournaments going on around the world, there’s always a game going on! When you love this sport as much as I do, you really can’t get enough of it. There’s nothing like chilling and watching the best in the world play. Here’s what a typical afternoon looks like for me – recovery boots and some futbol!
  • Painting. I’ve always been creative and love having an artistic outlet. Painting has been a hobby I’ve enjoyed since I was a little girl. I love playing music and just letting the paintbrush flow. It’s like a type of meditation for me and helps take my mind off soccer or other stresses. Now that I have more free time, I’ve picked up my paintbrushes again and have been painting up a storm! Here are some of my latest works of art lol! Side note: If anyone wants to pay for an “Ady original”, let me know because ya girl needs a little extra side income.
  • Reading. I’m proud to say that I now love to read. Like writing, reading was another one of those things that I felt forced to do while in school and you could hardly ever catch me doing it in my free time. Now, I have a long list of books on my notes page of must-reads, so the second I finish a book, I pick up a new one the next day. Lately, I’ve been super into “self-help” books about mindset, sports psychology, and entertaining fiction reads. There is so much that I’ve learned through these books which have helped me on and off the field. Here are some of my favorite books I’ve just finished and highly recommend:
  • Listening to Podcasts and Audiobooks. Listening to different podcasts and audiobooks while doing chores around the house has been a game-changerrrrr! It really makes the not so fun parts of my day actually enjoyable. You can always find me listening to my favorite podcasters Jay Shetty and Mel Robbinson if I need a little motivation or inspiration. If I need a laugh, I’ll be listening to my favorite comedians and actors on the podcasts: Whisky Ginger, Smartless, Bad Friends, and King and the Sting.

When I’m not at the field or in the gym, these activities are typically what I am up to! It’s a pretty sweet life and I can truly say that my life off the field brings me just as much happiness as being on the field. If you guys are interested in me filming “a day in the life” video to actually see what a typical day is like, then let me know in the comments! Until then, I hope you guys enjoyed this little blog, and as always, thanks for reading!


How to Get Over a Bad Game

I’ve had my fair share of really tough losses and horrible games. Losses where we have gotten destroyed and it’s absolutely embarrassing. And I’ve made terrible mistakes that have resulted in goals. Especially as a defender, you feel 100% to blame for it all. It’s the hardest part of the position. One mistake can result in a goal that gives up your lead or causes a loss.

As a professional, this is my livelihood. So, it’s hard not to get stressed out over a bad game. But obviously stressing can do more damage that leads you to lose your confidence and more bad games. So how do you flip a switch after a bad game? How do you not lose your confidence? How do you emotionally overcome the embarrassment of mistakes and the feeling of letting down your teammates and fans? 

Let me tell ya, it’s not easy. This season has been a hugeeeee challenge for me. I have made some major errors, and have learned the hard way how to not these mistakes affect me. Unfortunately, I’ve let these mistakes get to my head and have suffered from lots of negative self-talk which destroyed my confidence. It’s been difficult digging myself out of this hole, but here are some things I now implement into my post-game routine and daily life that help build my confidence, even after a shitty game: 

  1. Do not look at social media! After a bad match, DO NOT read the comments on Instagram or Twitter. I repeat, DO NOT read the comments. I’ve made this mistake before and it truly will destroy your confidence in .5 seconds. After a big loss, I will delete my social media apps to bite the curiosity of reading people’s reviews and hate comments about my playing. I usually keep them deleted for a few days until posts have died down and I know I won’t be seeing anything about the game anymore, or am emotionally ready if I do see a mean DM or comment.
  2. Game Analysis and Journaling. Right after the game or the next day after, I analyze my own game film and journal about it. I will write down every error I made, and how I could have made a better decision. This turns my mistakes into learning lessons. These mistakes will only make me a better player if I learn from them. I also write about how I felt mentally during the game. How was I feeling? How was my confidence? How did my confidence shift throughout the game if I made a mistake or had an excellent play? How were my energy levels? How was my pregame routine?… All these questions help me asses my mental game and how it contributed to my playing. After watching game film and journaling, I am able to stop replaying my errors over in my head which helps me move on faster.
  3. Positive Self-Talk. You are talking to yourself constantly throughout the day and unknowingly, all these thoughts have an impact on your play and life in general. Having positive self-talk is something that I really struggle with. This season, my negative self-talk took over my game. In my head, I thought that I didn’t deserve to be a starter because my mistakes made me a bad player. I also told myself that the new center defenders were automatically better than me because of their previous stats and records, even though I was considered one of the top defenders in the league last season. And guess what…? My level of play decreased immensely, and I stopped being in the starting lineup. I literally self-sabotaged myself with negative self-talk. So how am I changing these negative thoughts? Being aware of your thoughts is the first step. I have been taking note of what I’m saying to myself on and off the field. Being aware when my thoughts are negative allows me to flip them to something positive faster and understand why I’m thinking that way. I’ve also realized that I need to hype myself up constantly, especially when I am playing. For example, I am constantly saying things like: “I am confident”, “I am a beast”, “I am going to kill it at practice today”, and “I am going to give everything I got when I go in”. When I am continuously feeding myself these positive affirmations, there is little time for the negativity to creep in!
  4. Meditation. Meditation has become a part of my daily routine I started to help understand myself on a deeper level. I have found that meditation especially helps me get into the present moment, let go of the past, worry less about the future, and heighten my feelings of gratefulness. This has helped with the mental aspect of soccer because, through this, I’m able to shift my mindset quicker from dwelling over a bad game to focusing on the present moment. There’s nothing I can change about the past, but I can change how I feel in the present moment about a specific situation.
  5. Love the game. Win or lose, good game or bad game, I absolutely love this sport and playing brings me so much joy. It’s one of my favorite things to do in this life. So, even after tough games, I can truly say I loved playing out there every time. I may feel pain, embarrassment, and even heartbreak at times, but no matter what, playing will always be fun for me. Remembering at the end of the day that– this is just a sport that I love doing– helps relieve any pressure that I am feeling.
  6. Go into the next week of practices with fire. I use the loss or my mistakes as motivation to go into training ready to give it my all. 100% concentrated on the next opponent. Going in with no fear of making mistakes. Because mistakes are how you learn, and confidence is the willingness to try, even if you failed before. 

Every player goes through lows in their career. It is almost impossible to be at the peak of your game at all times. Learning how to push through the lows and keep a positive mindset is not easy. I hope some of my tips help any player that is also being challenged mentally in their sport. Feel free to message me if you have any questions or would like to share any other tips you may have! Thanks all for reading once again<3.

Mindset For the 2023 Season

Mindset is so incredibly important as a professional player. Obviously, to get to this level you have to have the skill, but what sets apart the great players is their mindset. In the sports world, mindset is a player’s beliefs, thoughts, and mental outlook about their abilities. Confidence levels, ability to focus, dealing with pressure, overcoming losses and attitude are just some of the core aspects that go into a player’s mindset.

Now that I have one tournament under my belt in the Mexican League, I have a better understanding of what I need to do in order to grow as a player and how to do it. I have been able to do a lot of reflection after the last season and during this preseason, learning what worked for me, my strengths, and what I need to improve on. And this season, I realized I need to take a step back and work on my mindset. In order for me to accomplish my goals physically on the field, I first need to master what’s going on in my mind. 

My mindset is the foundation, but if that’s weak, it’s very difficult to build up to my goals. I can train for hours every day, but if I lack confidence and have negative self-talk, there’s very little growth that will actually occur. There’s no point in spending hours building a house if the foundation isn’t solid! Therefore, I believe, strengthening and establishing my mindset is the most important thing I can work on this season.

So, here are my mindset goals and practices I will be implementing this season: 

  1. Treat every training session like a tryout. We have a lot of competition in the defense this season which is great because every training session is a fight for a starting position. You cannot be relaxed or complacent because things can change in an instant. Every week is a clean slate and you have to prove yourself in order to play in that weekend’s game.
  2. Focus every day on bettering myself. When the new defenders joined our team in pre-season, I honestly got nervous and started comparing myself to them. I became focused on trying to be better than them because I didn’t want to lose my starting position this season. As a result, I started to lose sight of my playing style and really struggled, making dumb defensive errors, missing easy passes, and playing in fear of making a mistake (which in turn caused more mistakes!). Focusing on my own abilities takes away the pressure of trying to be perfect and instead encourages slight improvements.
  3. Love the Process. When you enjoy playing with your teammates daily, putting in extra work in the gym, and being obsessed with improving and getting to the next level, everything becomes easier! Growing as a player becomes fun and as a result, it motivates you to be the best you can be.
  4. Never look past the basic fundamentals and little details. No player is too good to stop prioritizing good passing technique and their first touch. Consistently training these skills and not overlooking them will keep me sharp. Being disciplined about little details can win or lose a game at this level. Staying focused at training will help me remember these details and make sure I execute them.
  5. Be grateful. Every moment I get to step onto the field, whether it’s for training or game day, I will remind myself of how grateful I am to be in this position. Very few people can say they played a sport professionally, and I know so many players would kill to be in my position. Sometimes I take this for granted and forget about how truly blessed I am! Being grateful will only make me want to train and push harder.
  6. Starting or not starting, the goal is still the same: doing everything I can for my team to win. As a competitor and professional athlete, I always want to start and play the full 90 minutes of every game. That drive and fierceness have gotten me to this point in my career. However, being on a competitive team with a lot of talented players means that playing or starting isn’t guaranteed. I want to make it to the Championship game so badly this season and I am willing to sacrifice anything to do so. So starting or not starting, I will give everything to help my team win.
  7. Mediation. Meditating is something I have started implementing in my everyday routine. It has already helped immensely and will continue to help with: increasing my confidence, understanding my negative thoughts, decreasing my anxiety/stress, being in the present moment, and unlocking flow.
  8. Journal after every training session and game. Writing every day about how I felt while playing, my energy and concentration levels, things I struggled with or did well in, and notes about our next rivals will help elevate my game by giving me insight and information on how I can improve.
  9. Take accountability. Being accountable for your mistakes and not placing the blame on anyone else helps you learn and grow. Because this is a team sport and many players are at fault if something goes wrong, it’s easy to place the fault on other people. But I believe taking ownership and being responsible for mistakes helps challenge you and makes you more in control of your performance.

I had a great first season with Xolos, but things change drastically from season to season. I’ll be completely honest, I have been struggling with my confidence and being consistent this season. It has been a challenge mentally, but if I stay consistent with my mindset practices, I will only grow and become a stronger player from it!

I’d love to hear from any of you reading this if you have any other mental practices that help elevate your game! Also, feel free to reach out if you have also gone through tough periods in your sport and what you did to get through them. As always, thanks for taking the time to read AuthenticallyAdy! Until next time<3.

From Serbia to Mexico

A lot of changes have happened in the past 6 months! It’s been a crazy rollercoaster of traveling, adventures, and of course… fútbol! My season in Serbia ended in early June 2022. We finished 3rd in the Serbian Superliga and made it to the semi-finals of the Serbian Cup. Overall, I had an incredible time in Serbia, but I knew I would not return for another season. I believed I needed to move to a different country with a more competitive league to grow as a player. So I left Serbia, not knowing what country I would play in next, but very confident that something would work out!

Before I returned to the United States, my brother and I decided to meet in Greece for a little vacation. Serbia is so close to Greece and Dan was heading to his study abroad program in Italy, so we could not think of a better meeting place to reunite! Because Dan and I are both broke, we knew we couldn’t afford a real vacation in Greece. So we signed up with this program called WWOOF (WorldWide Opportunities on Farms) that connected us with a family in Kiato, Greece who needed help tending to their farm. Basically, we worked on their property and in return got free accommodations and food during our stay! We worked about 5 hours a day, de-rusting and painting a big fence that gated their property and tending to their garden. The rest of the day we had free to adventure around the beautiful little beach city of Kiato and spend some quality time laying by the sea. We also made a trip to Athens on our last day there and toured the Acropolis and other incredible sites. It was such a fun trip! I highly recommend doing WWOOF if you’re looking for a unique and more personal experience while traveling or want to save some money and don’t mind getting your hands dirty!

After our Greece trip, I returned home to Santa Barbara where I began training and working hard to get recruited to a new team. I was invited to play in a game for a WPSL semi-pro team from Los Angeles called Elite. They were scrimmaging a team called Xolos from Tijuana, Mexico. It turned out that the team from Mexico was looking to recruit center defenders (my position)! So when I confirmed playing in this scrimmage, the Xolos coaches and staff were notified so they could pay close attention to my playing. For some reason, I knew that I would play really well in this scrimmage and that I would end up playing for this team in Mexico. I had offers from other professional teams, but I had a different feeling about this team that I couldn’t explain– even before the scrimmage ever happened.

Turns out my gut instinct was correct! I played well during the scrimmage and impressed the Xolos team enough to offer me a paid contract for a year. So two weeks later in early July, I moved to Tijuana, Mexico where I have been playing since! It was very difficult trying to explain to my family why I was choosing to move to Tijuana, Mexico to play. After all, it is one of the most dangerous cities in the world… but I had to trust my intuition that this was going to be the best decision for my soccer career. And so far it has been! It has been so incredibly fun playing on this team and in the LaLiga MX. The fan base is incredible, the stadiums are insane, and the media coverage is worldwide. I feel like I have finally made it as a professional athlete.

We finished our 2022 season in November, placing 5th in the league (out of 18 teams) and making it to the quarterfinals of playoffs. I had a really great season and played every game in its entirety! I’m bummed we didn’t make it farther in playoffs but I am already looking forward to the 2023 season starting at the beginning of January.

Currently, my team is in pre-season gearing up for our 2023 season. Playing in the Mexican league is quite a whirlwind being year-round, and only having 3 weeks off in between seasons. There’s not much time to rest or switch off, but I’m loving the grind.

I hope to give ya’ll more updates and posts about my experiences in Mexico. I have been really lagging on writing lately and I apologize for that! Thanks for reading my little life update and I’ll be back with more content soon <3.

Serbia Story Time

My time in Serbia came to an end in June, so now I’m left reflecting on my time there and all the incredible memories. I had so many special interactions with the Serbian people that changed my perspective on how to connect with others. I mentioned in one of my previous posts that Serbians are some of the most welcoming people I’ve ever met, and I now want to elaborate on that! I experienced so much kindness in Serbia that it has blown my mind. To be living solo in a foreign country, Serbia is definitely one of the best places I could have gone to. There are so many situations where I experienced incredible hospitality and warmth that I, unfortunately, can’t write about them all. So, I’ll just be sharing two stories that have really stuck with me the most!

“Jedan Pivo!” at Bovanska Jezero:

Bovanska Jezero is a lake about 40 minutes away from Nis. I decided to go there alone one day because it was a gorgeous day and I NEEDED some nature and water in my life. I had never been to the lake before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. Many of my Serbian friends hadn’t been to that lake before either, so I was really just going for it! I took the bus to the city of Bovan and then easily walked to the lake from there. When I got to the main lakeshore, I was extremely sad to see that there was trash and plastic washed up on the little sandy beach. The main reason why I went to the lake was so I could finally swim in some water, but that water did not look appealing. The rest of the lake was beautiful; however, more difficult to access.

I wasn’t going to let the trash stop me from swimming in the lake, so I decided to walk around the lake to find a clean spot to jump in from. I walked along a dirt road that had houses on the left side, and on the right side, staircases going down to each house’s dock on the lake. I knew my best bet was to get on one of those docks to jump in from, because the rest of the lake’s shore was covered by trees and shrubs, making the water difficult to access. The problem was a lot of these staircases had locked gates, guarding their access to the dock and water. I obviously didn’t want to trespass or get in trouble for doing something dumb like this, but I reallyyyyy needed to find a dock to jump into the water from.

At the end of the dirt road, I saw a concrete staircase going down to its dock that didn’t have a locked gate and was shaded by many trees, making it really private and hidden. The house above had no sign of life or action, so I decided that was the one! I walked down the stairs to a little concrete slab where I immediately dove into the beautiful lake from. It was incredible. I was completely at peace.

After about 20 minutes of hanging out there, I heard footsteps coming down the steps above. I looked up and this man and I locked eyes for about 5 seconds straight. I stopped him dead in his tracks. To break the silence, I proceeded to say, “izvini, ne govorim srbski!” (sorry I don’t speak Serbian) and to the best of my abilities tried to say that I wanted to swim in the water. He laughed, then told me, “nema veza, sedi, sedi” (nevermind, sit sit). He was very confused because why the f** would there be an American girl just chilling on his remote dock, alone? I’d be extremely confused too. But he graciously let me stay on his dock and even asked if I wanted anything to drink.

A little later I decided to leave the dock and walk back to the bus station. While leaving, I said bye and thank you to the man, when I heard yelling from the porch of the house above. An old man was yelling at me “Jedan pivo, jedan pivo” which means one beer, one beer! I turned around and saw this elderly man sitting on a porch from the house above, waving his hands, motioning me to come and sit with him on his porch. I laughed and for a second thought, maybe this is a little dangerous? But then I followed my gut and went to sit with the old man. After being in Serbia for 10 months, I knew this was the way of the friendly Serbians and not just some creepy old guy.

The elderly man was the other man’s father, so he also joined us on the porch. Turns out they got locked out of their house after returning from the store and didn’t have a replacement key, so they were stuck waiting outside with all their groceries while they waited for a replacement key. They offered me drinks, and we sat and talked on the porch for about 20 minutes. They only knew a few words in English, but we somehow managed to have a full conversation about futbol, America, Serbian food, and why they were locked out of their house. It was such a funny experience. They invited me to use their dock and visit them whenever I wanted. I unfortunately never went back because my time in Serbia was limited, but I definitely miss my porch homies!

The Old Lady and Homemade Jam

In February 2022, right after I returned to Serbia, I got into the routine of doing a workout outside my apartment building in the mornings. Often this little old Serbian woman would come up to me during my workouts, trying to tell me something as she walked past my apartment building. Even though it was winter, because I was working out I wasn’t wearing a heavy jacket. So I think she was coming up to tell me to put some clothes on or ask me what the f**k I was doing! Anyway, she didn’t speak a word of English and I could barely understand anything she said. This always led to a pretty funny and slightly uncomfortable encounter. Even though I told her many times, “Ne govorim Srbski” (I don’t speak Serbian), she continued to ask me questions and try to talk to me. I really respected her determination to talk to me and honestly tried my hardest to understand and communicate with her. When I would respond to her saying, “Ne resume, izvini!” (I don’t understand, sorry), she would then yell her questions even louder and use big arm movements/gestures, hoping this would make me understand. To paint you an even better picture, all her teeth were missing except for one front tooth that was barely holding on for dear life. So spit was flying everywhere too while she was yelling her questions at me. Even with all of this going on, I obviously still didn’t understand her questions. Our encounters usually ended with her getting frustrated and both of us walking away laughing. This was our little morning routine 🙂

One morning when I was in the middle of my workout, I saw her walk up to me carrying two large bags of groceries. I quickly mentally prepared myself for another failed attempt at communication and tried to remember every Serbian word I had ever learned. When she walked up I proudly say “Ciao, kako ste!?” (Hi, how are you?!), because that’s the only Serbian I had dialed down at that point. She responded by saying she was good and then quickly said something I couldn’t understand. I just smiled and nodded my head like usual, pretending to understand. She then reached into her bag, pulled out a jar, and handed it to me. She said “domaća djam” which means “homemade jam” and then pointed to the market across the street. I understood that she was telling me she just bought the jam from the market across the street. I didn’t know how to communicate back to her, so I just gave her a thumbs up and told her the jam looked really tasty! I then tried to hand back the jar of jam to her but she refused and told me to take it (at least I’m guessing that’s what she said). We went back and forth for a couple seconds of me trying to hand her back the jar and her motioning for me to take it. I finally accepted it and thanked her many times for the gift.

I was so touched by this jar of jam that she gave me. From our previous encounters, I really couldn’t tell if she was annoyed by me and thought I was a dumb foreigner or actually liked me! This was like her way of communicating to me that I was welcome here. And it truly did make me feel more at home.

Skills I’ve Gained From Living Alone

It’s crazy to think about how I was living with 13 other girls in a massive villa in Spain just a year ago, and now I’m living alone in a single bedroom apartment in Serbia. In Spain, it was almost impossible to have time alone (sometimes not even when going to the bathroom haha), and now time alone is a lot of my day! Complete polar opposite experiences. Of course, I see friends throughout the week and have practice every day, so I’m not some hermit without social contact. But living alone was definitely a big adjustment I had to adapt to because I am a very social person.

Living alone was never something I saw myself doing. I always imagined myself continuing to live with teammates, friends, and family. And in the future, when the time is right I imagined moving in with a significant other. Therefore, I never saw living alone in my future, and living alone in a foreign country was COMPLETELY out of question. When I initially came to Serbia, I came with three other Americans and we lived with each other in an apartment. However, Jazz, Kim, and Leslie did not return to Serbia after Christmas break, and I was left to return to Serbia solo. So, I’ve been living on my own in Serbia for the past 5 months. It was never intended for me to be living alone, but it just happened to work itself out that way.

This has been a challenge at times, but also a blessing because there are so many things I have learned about myself during this period. I really do miss having roommates and being surrounded by friends 24/7, but I think it was meant to be that I spent this time alone to discover myself. I don’t see myself living alone again after this chapter in Serbia, but I am grateful for this experience.

I’ll be sharing what living on my own has taught me and how I have grown from this experience. I know living on your own is a big step in adulthood and can be challenging or scary. Hopefully, this will give a better perspective to see the positives of being alone.

5 Skills I’ve Learned:

  1. Positive Self Talk: When you spend so much time alone, you become the person you talk to the most. This sounds crazy and a little sad haha, but you basically have to become your own best friend! I had to change the way I was talking to myself because I didn’t realize how negative I was about myself beforehand. Being surrounded by so many roommates, friends, teammates, and family 24/7, I didn’t think about the way I talked to myself because I was so busy talking to the people I was surrounded with. So being alone has forced me to be more positive in my thoughts about myself and life in general. If my thoughts and the way I think about myself are negative, then I would spend most of the day being pretty depressed. I had to become a person I enjoyed being with, otherwise, I would have been miserable.
  2. Self-Reliance: Living and traveling on my own forced me to become fiercely independent. My abilities grew because most challenges or problems that arose, I had to figure out on my own. I’ve learned to trust my intuition more and have gained confidence in my abilities to handle tough situations. You really have to be more careful, cautious, and aware because sometimes there isn’t someone immediately there to help you if a problem arises (For example, missing your bus at midnight in a foreign city and having to wait until 6 am for the next one. Or losing your keys and being locked out of your apartment in the middle of the night…). I’ve had to gain some lessons the hard way but have gotten through them alive and well!
  3. Outgoing-ness: Because I have been fortunate enough to live with my teammates and friends since moving away from my parent’s home, I never had to put myself out there in an effort to make new friends. I’ve always had my best friends living with me. As a result, I have never been forced to be super outgoing. So, living in Serbia has really pushed me outside of my comfort zone because I have had to be the one to initiate hang-outs and plans. I am not super close with my teammates because of the language barrier, so I have made many friends outside of my fútbol circle who speak great English. I became really comfortable having conversations with new people in social environments and being the one to initiate meet-ups. I was very self-conscious at first because I thought that if people weren’t texting me to hang out that meant they didn’t want to see me. I’ve realized this is not true at all and people are just busy or feeling the exact same way about you! This opened my eyes to know there’s no harm in reaching out to others.
  4. Self-Awareness: I have always been a “go with the flow” type of girl and am pretty indecisive when it comes to making decisions. I mainly do what the group wants and am typically content with it! I like to make others happy and that determines my decision-making. But now that I am living alone, I don’t have an immediate group to lean on for decisions. So every decision I make (outside of fútbol) is for myself. This was a challenge because, in the beginning, I really didn’t know what I wanted. I spent a lot of time overthinking about what I should be doing instead of just doing something! Therefore, I’ve had to become very hyperaware of myself and my desires in order to change. I had to look inward and do things that I genuinely wanted to do or would make me happy. I’ve stopped thinking about what I should be doing or what I think other people think I should do. I care less now what others think of me and do what makes me genuinely happy. If I want to go on an adventure, I’m going to do it even if no one else can join me and the people here think I’m crazy for it. If I want to see friends, I will reach out to them even if they didn’t text me first. If I’m feeling tired, I will cancel plans or head home early and not feel guilty for it. Basically, everything I do is for myself now and what I truly want at a specific time. I’ve learned to listen to myself and honor my feelings. I’m still the “go with the flow girl”, but now I know when I want to change direction and standstill.
  5. Breaking and Creating Habits: to elaborate on my previous point on becoming hyperaware, this also helped me to break bad habits and form new and better ones. Being alone a lot of the time could have heightened my bad habits because there is no one here to keep me in check. Luckily, my time alone forced me to internalize and deeply question why I do certain things, which helped me break these habits instead. And on the flip side, this new self-awareness has highlighted who I want to become and where I want to grow which influenced me to create new and better habits. I have a lot of free time here, so I decided I needed to make this free time beneficial. These new habits and routines help fill my day and aim to make me grow. Obviously, I’m not perfect and revert to my old habits at times, but now I’m way more disciplined and can get back on track faster.

I hope this gives a little insight into some of the ways living alone can become a positive experience! Thanks for taking the time to read, everyone! If any of you have lived alone, I’d love to hear what you learned from that experience or some of the challenges you faced. Feel free to comment below or email me. Peace and Love!

How to Start Learning a New Language when Playing Abroad

One of the many challenges (but also beautiful aspects) of playing in a foreign country is learning a different language. Never would I have imagined that I would be learning Serbian in my lifetime, but here I am now with a Serbian vocabulary of about 500 words and slowly starting to piece together small sentences!

As a professional player, learning how to communicate on the field is the first priority and is completely necessary in order to quickly adapt to a new team. If you cannot communicate with your teammates/coaches or understand what they are saying, then your playtime and overall experience are at risk. The first couple of weeks of playing in a new country are very intimidating because you must adapt to a new country, style of play, team culture, and completely different language. You really have to go in with an open mind, willingness to learn, and a positive attitude.

I have been so fortunate that most people in the world speak English, but even with that, it is necessary to learn the basics of the country’s language. Learning at least the basics will help you on and off the field, and make the new country feel more at home. In addition, people really appreciate you trying to speak their countries’ native language. Just trying shows that you care and want to make an effort. People really respect that and in my experience, it has helped me form deeper connections with people even if we cannot fully understand each other.

In Serbia, half my teammates speak English, while the other half do not. Being in this environment has pushed me outside my comfort zone. I’ll be honest, I can barely speak Serbian but I know enough that I am able to communicate on the field, understand the general idea of what my coaches/teammates are saying, and get by while living and traveling in Serbia (like communicating with the taxi drivers, ordering at restaurants, day to day interactions etc…).

So in the post, I will be sharing how I’ve started learning Serbian and the order in which I did so. I’ll also be giving tips and resource tools for what has helped me learn Serbian on and off the field! I hope this helps any athletes who are interested in playing overseas gain a better idea of what is important to learn first and make learning a new language seem a little less intimidating.

Willingness and Wanting to learn: this is the first thing you must have in order to learn a new language. You have to put in the work, a new language is not going to come to you without trying. Not being afraid to make mistakes or sound funny is also key.

Greetings/Basics: Learning how to say: hello, goodbye, how are you?, please, thank you, I don’t speak _(insert language)__, and do you speak English?. These are the most important and most used words/phrases you will use every day, on and off the field. Dialing down how to say these before you leave for your trip is really helpful and easy. These words/phrases just take a quick google search!

Futbol Commands: My first week of training I learned the basic commands on the field: left, right, man-on, alone/time, up, and down. These are the words I decided to learn first because as a central defender, I use them the most. However, depending on your position and team, you will have to figure it out for yourself. Phrases and words used on the field are tricky because they are impossible to google beforehand because each country has its own lingo. For example, to tell your teammate there is an opposing player near them, “man-on” is said in the U.S., while in Spain they say “cuidado”, meaning careful, and in Serbia, they say “leda”, which translates to back.

To learn these words, I asked my teammates and coaches to type them into a notes page on my phone. Next to the Serbian word and its English translation, I spelled it the way it sounded to me because the Serbian alphabet and pronunciations are very different than English. Being observant and paying close attention to what your teammates and coaches are saying is super important. Throughout the weeks of playing, I started catching on to more words and phrases my teammates/coaches were saying, so I had my teammates also write those down for me and practiced them.

Alphabet: Learning the alphabet and correctly pronouncing its letters is an important step in learning the language because that allows you to be able to read and sound words out. The Serbian language uses 2 alphabets equally: Cyrillic and Latin. I have figured out the Latin alphabet, but not the Cyrillic. In my own notebook, I made 3 columns and wrote down the Latin alphabet letters in one column, in the next column I wrote how they sounded in English, and in the last column, I wrote a Serbian word that used that letter (and it’s meaning). I looked over this a couple times a week, practicing the sounds aloud until I finally got it down. Once I was able to learn the Latin alphabet, it gave me a great base to learn more and at a faster rate.

Cussing: Curse words are always something that people are excited to teach you lol! I wouldn’t say they are necessary to know, and it wasn’t my plan to learn these first, but it’s part of the experience! One of the first things new Serbian people ask me when I tell them I live here is, “do you know Serbian curse words?”. And they always get a lot of enjoyment out of hearing me saying all the cuss words I’ve learned. So cursing is something I learned very early on and have the pleasure of understanding. Hearing it on the streets and on the field gives me a greater idea of everyone’s true emotions! So, I’m going to end this section by saying… Piška ti materina <3.

Numbers, Colors, Days of the Week: learning these topics is crucial for playing and navigating the world. On the pitch, numbers, colors, and days of the week are used every day to describe practice drills, communicate who’s number you’re marking, give important information for schedules (games/practice times), … the list goes on. Of course, if you do not understand, coaches and teammates will translate for you. But it makes life easier and the practice flow smoother if you do learn these. What helped me learn these was breaking them up in sections by weeks to slowly learn them. So the first week I memorized the numbers, the next week I learned colors, and the following week I learned the days of the week.

Food: Learning the foods in Serbian has been one of my favorite parts of learning the language! Being able to read a menu and know what I’m actually ordering is so empowering. Food is one of my favorite things in the world and a huge part of the Serbian culture, so being able to be a part of a conversation surrounding food has been important to me. I also spend most of my meals with my teammates so asking them what traditional foods we are eating has been a good way for me to connect with my teammates who do not speak English.

Small words and Question starters: And, but, or, good, bad… and Who, What, Where, When, How, Why?: to start piecing together what people are saying or very simply ask a question, these are the necessary basics. It’s super helpful because you can point to something and simply say Šta? (“what” in Serbian) and begin communicating that way.

17 Minute Language: Once I had a base of the language, I decided I needed a little more help in order to continue learning Serbian. The unfortunate thing about the Serbian language is that most of the free apps, like Duolingo, do not have Serbian. So I had to look elsewhere for help. I found an online website called “17 Minute Language” which is essentially like a more advanced Duolingo that has about 100 different languages you can learn from it. You do the course on your own time and schedule and its catch is if you practice just “17 minutes a day” you can become conversationally fluent in your desired language in a few months. It’s not free, but I decided it was worth it to buy the course. I actually bought access to all of the language courses the site offers which gave me access to every language course, from French to Albanian, whenever I want for the next 10 years. I thought it was a good investment because who knows where I’ll be next few years and what language I’ll need to start learning. So the next bullet points are what I have learned through the help of this online platform.

  • Verbs: In Serbian, you have to conjugate each verb like in Spanish. So, it takes a while to learn these and get the hang of them. The course started with the most basic verbs of “to be”, “to go”, and “to have”, and how to conjugate them.
  • Small/Filler words: the small words like for, but, with, and, to, from… don’t get a lot of love until you begin learning a new language. Then you realize how important they are in language. Knowing these small words further helps in formulating small sentences.
  • Vocabulary: 17 Minute Languages provides vocabulary on many different topics that is useful in everyday life. The Vocabulary is broken into sections like food, travel, family… so it is easier to learn.

Important Learning Tools and Resources

  1. PEOPLE: learning from teammates, coaches, and friends, has been the most important and informative because they are the best teachers! They have helped me learn the correct fútbol terms, important slang, and food. It’s also a good bonding moment learning from the locals because they love when you show interest and genuinely want you to learn. They also get a good laugh at you incorrectly pronouncing everything.
  2. Notebook: I am someone that has to write things down in order to learn them. There’s no way a teammate could tell me a word or phrase during practice and at the end of practice, I’ll remember it. Some people work that way, but unfortunately, I do not. So everything I learn or hear, I write down in my notebook or notes page on my phone. That way I can always look over it and practice it until I have it down.
  3. Travel Book: Getting a travel book that has the basics of the language is so so useful. This really jump-started my Serbian learning, because the back pages of my Serbian travel book showed me the Serbian alphabet and gave me the most important words/phrases to know. It’s how I learned the colors, numbers, days of the week, foods, greetings, and important phrases. It also gives a lot of other cool travel information on the country!
  4. 17 minute language: The course mainly helps with vocabulary and verbs. It’s essentially like a big flashcard game where they show you pictures or the English words and you have to say the Serbian word. It then gives you tables on how to conjugate certain verbs. I recommend if you want to learn a new language fluently, to take a class with a teacher. 17-minute language is good if you just want to get by or want to keep up with a certain language.
  5. YouTube: watching youtube videos on the Serbian alphabet helped me correctly pronounce and hear the words.
  6. Google Translate: To whoever invented Google Translate… I love you and thank you! I have been able to hang out with my teammates who do not know English with the help of google translate. It’s such a funny experience. We will literally type out paragraphs for what we want to say in google translate and they will try and recite it in English then I will type my answer and try to reply in Serbian. The translations are sometimes funky but it works! I would not be able to have these experiences with my non-English speaking teammates without Google Translate.

Thanks for reading everyone! I hope ya’ll found this useful if you are trying to learn a new language or found it at least a little interesting. Subscribe to my blog for more content and I’ll be posting more soon!

Playing in the United States, Spain, and Serbia

Playing in 3 different countries has really expanded my mind and my abilities in the way I think about and play fútbol. I had no idea how different playing in each country would be. It’s been so fun but also a big challenge adapting to the new styles of play and culture in each place. However, this has only made me a better player and helped me understand the game from a different point of view.

In this post, I will be describing the differences and similarities in the style of play, training sessions, formations, and player characteristics of North American, Spanish, and Serbian fútbol. What I’ll be sharing is a generalization of the countries’ type of play from my point of view (Obviously, there are teams and players in each country that play differently from what I am describing). I hope y’all enjoy this post and learn something new!

College Soccer in America

Style of Play: College soccer in America is known to be very direct with players kicking it long or into space for attackers to run after it. Possession isn’t drilled into our brains and playing out of the back (passing with the keeper) isn’t common. It’s a very forward-thinking mentality. There is also a huge focus on the tactical side of soccer. The tactical side of soccer encompasses: the team’s objectives, organization, mental resilience, formation, and positioning. Therefore, focusing on the little details like following rebounds, immediately winning the ball back after losing it, positioning during set-pieces, defensive shape, and winning each 50/50 battle are instead ingrained in our brains. These details are what win games in college soccer, not teams who play the prettiest soccer. College games are intense physical battles and definitely not the best looking at times.

Example of the Long-Ball style of play at CSULA

Players: College soccer players are aimed to be very athletic, fast, strong, dynamic and fit. These qualities help shape them into the direct style of play and intense physical playing demands. Players in the United States also have a very strong mentality and attitude– like you’re going into war every time you step on the field.

Formations differ immensely throughout college soccer and there is not a most common formation that is used. For example, teams use a 4-4-2 (4 defenders, 4 midfielders, and 2 forwards) with a diamond, box, or straight line formation in the mid-field. There’s also the 3-5-2 (3 defenders, 5 midfielders, and 2 forwards) or the 4-3-3 (4 defenders, 3 midfielders, and 3 forwards) that are popular and also have many different positional variations.

Examples of different types of formations used

What I’ve come to realize after playing in Europe is that the college season in America is so dang short, only about 3 months. It is so hard to become a passing team in that short amount of time. In order to be a passing team, you have to build a certain type of chemistry on the field that can only be created with time. Time in which you do not have in a college season. I believe that’s one of the reasons why college soccer is so direct. In Europe however, the season is 10 months long. Therefore, there is plenty of time to transform the team into a passing team because you and your teammates have so much time to gel.

Training: Training in college is extremely demanding. Practices were 2-2.5 hours long, 5 days a week, in addition to weight lifting 2 days a week. In college, typical training sessions included a passing drill, a possession game, defensive and offensive shape, shooting/crosses, and free kicks/ set plays. We worked incessantly on how to move defensively as a unit and how to defend/attack our opposing team’s formation. Because each team’s formation is unique, we practiced each week how we would defend and attack the team we were playing that weekend. In addition, most days we would break into two groups–defense and offense to work on position-specific drills separately.

Physical fitness is also prioritized and many practices involved intense running/sprints. In addition, sprints are used as a form of punishment and discipline if practices were not good enough or to ensure players follow certain rules (ex: being on time, having the proper gear, etc).

Futbol in Spain

Style of Play: Fútbol in Spain is known for its “tiki-taka” style which entails quick passes and keeping possession. It’s pretty to watch and extremely fun the play when you get the hang of it. “Build up from the back” is a common practice used where you start possession from the goalkeeper and pass your way up the field through the defense, midfield, then forwards. Goal-keepers are required to be good with their feet and are involved in the passing in order to maintain possession. The goal in Spanish fútbol is to keep passing the ball from side to side until there is a break in the defense or an error in which you can create a goal-scoring opportunity. The technical side of fútbol is emphasized more than the tactical side (like in the United States). For example, developing individual skills like dribbling, passing, a good first touch, and proper shooting technique is the main priority. In addition, defending with a “high press” is also very popular in Spain. This requires each player to mark an opposing player very tightly in a 1v1. This is especially used while defending restarts and goal-kicks. This is very different from the American style of defending which usually focuses on defending the space instead of the player.

Example of my FC Malaga team playing the “tiki-taka” style

The most traditional formation in Spain is the 4-3-3 (4 defenders, 3 midfielders in a triangle formation, 2 wing attackers, and one central attacker). Many teams use this formation as it allows a lot of freedom and movement for passing spaces.

The 4-3-3 Formation

Players: They are extremely skilled and technical with the ball in Spain. Unlike players in America, intense physicality or fitness isn’t the main asset. Being smart and letting the ball do the work is how they play. They are very calm on the ball and move with this certain creative flow.

Spanish players also love to “flop” and be dramatic if they get hit or fouled. This was something the other American players and I had a hard time getting used to because we are so conditioned to be incredibly physical and not show signs of injury. We would get so annoyed every time a Spanish player fell to the ground screaming. It’s comical because, in the United States, we actually do the opposite of flopping. If you get fouled, many players do whatever they can to continue bulldozing through the play and stay on their feet instead of going down (which also isn’t the smartest move).

Training: our practices were 90 minutes long, 5 days a week, and focused on “rondos”, passing drills, different possession drill variations, shooting/crossing, and small-sided games. Passing, maintaining possession, 1 to 2 touches, and keeping the ball moving was the main focus of practices. These drills were played with high intensity and meant for us to get our conditioning in while playing. We hardly ever did sprints during practice and conditioning was never used as a means of punishment. We also did injury prevention-type weights 2 days a week in addition to our fútbol practices.

Futbol in Serbia

Style of Play: The Serbian style of fútbol is kinda like a combination of the American and Spanish styles. Passing, possession, and “playing out of the back” are encouraged, but also the forward mentality and long-ball play are also utilized. We want to keep possession, but also frequently hit long balls to the forwards. The typical formation is also a 4-3-3 like in Spain, and I actually don’t think any team in our league plays with another formation. In addition, in combination with the Spanish and United States styles, defending in Serbia uses both the “high pressing” and defending space methods.

Example of the Serbian style of play– passing with a forward mentality– with my ZFK Masinac Trace team

Players: Similar to Spanish players, Serbian players are also skilled with the ball. They are less interested in physicality and more interested in technicality. They aren’t the fastest or fittest, but they are quick and skilled enough to maneuver and body their way out of situations. Serbian players are also less theatrical than Spanish players when it comes to getting/drawing fouls, but definitely more dramatic than Northern Americans lol.

Serbian players have a very relaxed mentality when it comes to playing. They don’t have the same ‘fight till the death mentality’ American players have. They like to play for enjoyment. Another difference that was really noticeable to me when I first arrived was that Serbian players don’t communicate on the field as much as Spanish and North American players do. This was really frustrating and confusing to me at first because I perceived their lack of communication as that they did not care or want to receive the ball. I am constantly talking and giving directions on the field, so this was a shock. However, now I know that this is just a cultural difference.

Training: Training in Serbia is lighter than in America or Spain. We practice 90 minutes a day, 5 days a week, but do not have additional weight training or do much conditioning (this might be different among other teams). In training, we typically do speed and agility warm-ups, a passing drill, “rondos” and possession games, and position-specific preparations. Breaking into 2 groups– defense/offense and doing separate drills is popular in our everyday practice routine. We also work religiously on the passing movements going from the goalkeeper, through the defense and midfielders, and to the attackers.

I hope you fútbol nerds enjoyed learning more about what it’s like playing in these different countries! And to those who don’t have much fútbol knowledge, I hope the videos and pictures helped it make some sense haha. I’m also very excited to see what next season brings! Maybe I’ll be playing in a different country and can share the differences and similarities of what that place offers. Thanks everyone for reading, I really appreciate the support. Until next time!

Growing Up a Multi-Sport Athlete

I believe there’s a big misconception that in order to go pro or even play in college, you have to start intensely training at a young age. Kids are put into club sports at elementary school age and solely train for the rest of their childhood/ teen years in that one sport. I have nothing against this and the players who did begin playing club sports at a young age definitely prove it on the field/court. However, I believe this isn’t completely necessary if you want to become a professional. Sure, if you absolutely love the sport and know from day one that this is what you want to do, then go for it! Some players dream from the very beginning of going pro. For me, that was not the case but I still managed to become a professional athlete otherwise.

In this post, I’ll share why I believe being a 3 sport athlete growing up actually helped get me this far in my fútbol career. This may come as a surprise because: wouldn’t being a three-sport athlete actually decrease your playing level since you’re splitting up your time and not devoting it to one sport? While this is a very valid question and is true to some degree, I believe, however, that playing multiple sports teaches different skill sets that can be used to increase your all-around playing abilities. Also, playing multiple sports lessens the chance of burnout that many athletes get from playing one sport their entire lives. Lastly, I think playing multiple sports reduces the chance of injury because you are using different muscles in each sport, therefore not overusing specific body parts.

My Athletic Career

Growing up, I played soccer and softball. My time was split equally between the two sports playing soccer in the fall and winter months, then softball in the spring and summer. In high school, I decided to throw volleyball into the mix so then my schedule was broken into: volleyball in the fall, soccer in the winter, and softball in the spring. I was a really talented athlete but never had my sights on becoming a professional or even a college athlete until my sophomore year of high school. I had an outstanding soccer season my sophomore year and it made me realize that I could play in college. That’s when I decided to join the Santa Barbara Soccer Club in hopes that I would be seen by college coaches (up until then, I was playing AYSO and all-star soccer). I was then recruited to play for Cal State Los Angeles my junior year of high school, so I decided to step away from playing volleyball and softball my senior year. This was a tough decision, but I decided it was time that I begin focusing my priority on soccer.

I’ll be 100% honest, nobody was watching me play and thinking, “this girl is gunna go pro” while I was in high school and my first couple of years in college. I definitely had so much to work on to reach the level of my college teammates. I was not as technical or tactically smart as the other players. I was below everyone’s level in those areas because I only had a year and a half of club experience under my belt. In club soccer, you train a lot on technique, possession, skills, and passing which was not emphasized in high school soccer or AYSO. During that time, it was frustrating not being as skilled as my fellow teammates, and I remember thinking I wish I had more years of club experience. But now, I realize it was a blessing.

Even though I started at the bottom, I slowly worked my way up and used the skills I already had under my belt to promote confidence and turn myself into the player I am today. Each year I have gotten better which has made me realize that I can go further and further in my career. When I started college, playing professional fútbol was never in my mind. It wasn’t until my junior/senior years of college when I blossomed into a talented player that I realized I was good enough to continue playing. I knew that I was not even close to playing at my full potential and that my career was just getting started. I couldn’t just stop after college because I felt like I was just getting started with the whole soccer thing. This is what ignited my passion for becoming a professional fútbol player!

Skills that Volleyball and Softball Taught Me

In softball, you are taught at a very young age how to slide into the base. Sliding into the base is essentially slide tackling in soccer (minus the ball and add the base!). This has been a skill that I use while playing soccer every day. I am very good at slide tackling and it’s one of my strongest skills as a defender. It comes as second nature to me now and I believe it’s been ingrained in my head from all the years of playing softball. Slide tackling is something that was never taught to me while playing soccer. I know many players who will never slide tackle because they just don’t know-how. If I was not taught how to slide and didn’t practice it repeatedly for years while playing softball, I genuinely don’t know where I would be in my fútbol career. My slide tackling abilities on the soccer field is really a skill that makes me stand out from most.

Other skills that I am dominant at in soccer are heading the ball and reading the ball in the air. These skills are crucial as a defender because you have to judge the ball correctly so it doesn’t go flying over you and turn into a 1v1 against your keeper. Heading the ball has also made me a threat offensively and I have probably scored 90% of my goals that way. I believe playing softball and volleyball helped elevate these skills because these sports require you to read the ball in the air. In volleyball, you have to read where the ball is in the air so you can time your jump and arm swing perfectly in order to spike the ball or block a hit. In softball, as a center outfielder, I had to judge the fly balls in the air in order to catch them and not let them drop. Although all the sports involve a different ball and two require their hands, not feet, I think the year-round practice of reading and timing a ball flying in the air elevated my aerial abilities in soccer.

Burnout & Injury

Growing up, sports were something I did to have fun. I did them because I loved being physically active and the social part of being on a team. Almost all my best friends have been made through playing sports. I had the greatest childhood and teen years because I had so many groups of close friends due to the different sports I played. Switching between these sports yearly, created enough change that I never got tired of one sport. I always looked forward to the sport I was switching to in the next season and was excited about the new environment. I believe if I stuck to one sport my entire life, I would have experienced burnout– becoming tired of the redundant schedule and practices.

Burnout is caused by continual training that may result in physical/mental fatigue, lower or stagnant play performance, loss of interest, and injury due to overuse. I know so many talented soccer players, many of who were better players than me, who quit early on due to feeling burnout. Many lose motivation and don’t have fun anymore while playing the sport. Even though so many soccer athletes were better players than me, I have gone farther than them simply because I had the stamina and desire to continue my career. Although I have solely focused on soccer for the past 6 years now, my love for the sport has only heightened. My passion has dramatically increased over the years instead of spiking at an early age, then declining. I have yet to experience burnout from playing soccer and I think it’s due to slowly working my way up the ladder. Gradually, but steadily getting to my level has created a positive mindset in which I am so proud of my accomplishments and want to keep pushing myself because this is something I didn’t think was imaginable even 5 years ago. I want to see how far I can go and how good I can get. I whole-heartedly think that playing other sports growing up helped me prevent burnout, and as a result, my desire and passion have persisted for a long soccer career.

Similarly, playing one sport year-round causes a lot of muscle fatigue and over-use injuries. I am so lucky to say that I have never had a serious sports-related injury that has inhibited me to play for a long period of time. By switching up my sports growing up, I was constantly working different muscle groups so I never got injured due to over-use. Cross-training, and playing sports that incorporated my arms and legs also helped ensure that my entire body was strong. This is also something that has helped me throughout my soccer career. I am physically strong all-around which is a crucial asset in being a good defender.

Final Thoughts

I guess at the end of this you could argue that I maybe could have ended up playing for Barca by now if I started playing club soccer at a younger age. Truthfully, most professional players today probably only prioritized soccer at a young age and learned all the important skills and techniques from only playing soccer. They also obviously have found ways to not get burnt-out and have extremely long and successful careers. Maybe I could have also achieved this if I dedicated my life to soccer from the start. Even if I knew this to be true, I still wouldn’t change a thing. The memories, friends, and skills I’ve made and learned from also playing volleyball and softball are things that I’ll cherish forever. I am so lucky that I had all those sporting experiences and have still managed to get to where I am today.

So, my advice is to younger players is to have fun and take advantage of playing other sports if your heart desires. There’s plenty of time to grow. To be a professional, having the mindset and desire is more important than having incredible physical abilities when you’re young. Hard work, having fun, and passion are what have gotten me this far. At the end of the day, you are the captain of deciding how good you can be.

Serbia Update

When I think about my Serbian experience, the first word that pops into my mind is: unexpected. Unexpected in the best way. I have done so many things here that I never would have imagined that I would do. I did not expect to have a bad experience here, but I also did not expect to have as cool of an experience as I’ve had.

When I found out a team from Serbia was interested in me, I didn’t know how to react because I didn’t know a single thing about Serbia! I couldn’t even tell you where its general location is on a map. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. It was such a sudden decision to play here that I didn’t have much time to research Serbia or even have time to process what was happening. Despite my lack of knowledge of Serbia, I was on a plane two weeks later to start my adventure. And holy smokes am I happy I decided to come to Serbia because it has totally surprised me.

Like my experience in Spain, my time in Serbia has been so much more than just playing fútbol. I have created incredible friends, experienced a very different culture and language, and have really built a second life out here.

In this blog post, I will be sharing some of my favorite memories and activities I’ve done in the past 4 months in Serbia! It has been an absolute blast and I can’t wait to share more that comes along the way.


Niš is the city in Serbia that has quickly become my home. It is the third-largest city in Serbia but it is still quite small. This is perfect because everything is walking/bike riding distance away. Even though Niš is a city, there is still a lot of nature in the city and surrounding it. There is a river called the Nišava that runs through the city which is very beautiful to walk by during the summer months. There’s also a ton of trees and big parks that add a pop of green against the tan and brick apartment buildings. On the outskirts of Niš, there are pretty blue mountains that make for a great city background and old villages with lots of farmland and vineyards. Niš has the perfect ratio of city and nature.

My life here is so simple and peaceful. My days include going on long walks and bike rides along the Nišava river and Niš Fortress, meeting up with friends for coffee, writing and reading at different cozy cafes, exploring the outdoor markets to buy fresh produce, doing photoshoots, watching fútbol games on tv, and of course… playing a lot of fútbol!

This is my first time living in a place that does not have an ocean or sea near. I was worried I was going to be depressed living here because I love the beach so much. I didn’t know what I was going to do with myself when I had free time if I couldn’t go to the beach. Thankfully this has not been the case! I have started appreciating different things, finding new hobbies, and learning that I can make my own happiness wherever I go. I don’t need specific settings or activities to ensure my well-being. Although I do miss the ocean, I can absolutely say that I am very content living in Niš.

The People

Serbians are the friendliest and most welcoming people I have ever met. They are full of life and passionate. They love to sing, dance, talk, and celebrate any and every occasion. They love to share their culture and traditions with people who are not from their country. They are also impeccable hosts and know how to make visitors feel taken care of.

One of the unexpected things to happen was making so many friends outside of my fútbol team. Typically when you are on a team, especially when you’re so far away from home, your teammates are your only friends. This definitely has not been the case in Serbia. I am so grateful that I have a good relationship with my teammates, but have also branched out and made so many friendships outside of my team.

I can’t even trace back to exactly how I have met all these people whom I have become close with. But typically this is how it works: I meet someone for the first time–> very soon after I am getting coffee with them–> the friendship blossoms–> I’m introduced to their friends–> then the same cycle continues!

I have always been good at getting along with everyone, but I wouldn’t describe myself as someone who is extremely outgoing or extroverted to be able to make new friends immediately. However, making friends in Serbia has been so easy because the people here are so damn nice. Being in Serbia and meeting all these new people has really changed my mindset and has made me become more outgoing and comfortable engaging with new people.

Forming these friendships has been so important to me since Leslie, Kim, and Jazz (the other Americans on the team) did not return to Serbia after Christmas break. I am now the only American and live alone which has made this experience so much different. I miss having them here, but my Serbian friends have kept me from being homesick and lonely. I have had such a fun time with my new friends going out for coffee, drinks, and dancing at our favorite club called “Feedback”. It’s really been them that have made this experience so incredible.

My birthday

I’m the type of person that doesn’t care too much about their birthday. I never plan anything big for myself and don’t particularly like being the center of attention. I just like to hang around good company and eat delicious food.

Despite my lackluster enthusiasm for birthdays, my birthdays spent abroad have been absolutely over the top. I had an epic birthday in Spain and I thought nothing could ever come close to that. However, my Serbian birthday definitely reached the Spain level of awesomeness.

My birthday festivities started after we got home from practice on a Wednesday night. Leslie, Kim, Anja, and Jazz took me out to eat at this amazing restaurant called Cafe Bravado. We ate so much food and drank good wine. I was perfectly content with ending my birthday celebrations there, but they had way more in store for me. After the restaurant, we walked back to our apartment and I opened the door to a massive surprise party. My teammates, non-fútbol friends, and a group of friends that I had only met briefly the weekend before all surprised me (about 25 people!). Some of the people who I had only met the weekend before, I couldn’t even remember their names, and yet they were there at my birthday party (now they are some of my closest friends here)! I was so freaking surprised. We played music, danced, drank, and sang the rest of the night. It was a night I will not forget; I felt so incredibly loved. It was definitely an unexpectedly-amazing memory in Serbia.


Next up on the list of unexpected things: Jazz, Kim, Leslie, and I became cat moms for about 2 months! This little journey began one day when I was rushing out of the house because our ride for practice was outside when I almost stepped on this tiny gray creature. I screamed because I thought it was a rat, but with a closer look, I realized that it was a baby stray kitten. Because Leslie and I were already late, we quickly decided to leave an old shoebox with a pair of gross shorts in it outside our apartment for the kitten to shelter in. We felt bad for the poor thing since it was freezing cold outside! 4 hours later when we returned after training, the kitten was in our makeshift box. After about an hour of back and forth thinking, we decided to keep the kitten because we just didn’t have the heart to leave it in the cold to die. We knew we were leaving for the U.S. in 2 months but decided we would cross that bridge when we got there. So we gave it a bath, named it Benji, watched a couple youtube videos on how the hell to take care of a kitten, bought it food and a kitty litter, and took it to the vet the next day.

We loved having Benji as a kitten. He was such a love bug and the perfect companion to snuggle with while watching tv. As Benji grew a little older, he started becoming a little problem with a mind of his own. There was no training him, he ran the house. So we decided that because we were leaving for the U.S. and our lack of ability to discipline him, it was best if we gave him up for adoption. We found a couple through Instagram that wanted him and so we said our last goodbyes to him right before we left for the holidays. It was a fun run with him but I don’t think I’ll be a kitten mom anytime soon.

Becoming a “Model”

Probably the most unexpected thing to happen while being in Serbia is becoming a stock model for Getty Images. It started because my friend Dek who is a stock model invited me to do a shoot with him. I was so thrown off by this offer because I am someone who has never loved being in front of the camera. I take selfies as a joke and have always made fun of the “influencer” type. So this was totally out of my comfort zone. However, I decided to take him up on his offer because f**k it why not?! I am so happy I did because now I am doing shoots at least twice a week which has been a great source of extra side cash and has actually been really fun. Each shoot is a different theme but they all encompass “a day in the life”. When Leslie was here, we had so much fun modeling with each other. We did a shoot where we pretended to be a couple moving into a home together and another where we made and ate blueberry pancakes. I have also become friends with the photographers Stefan and Slava, so most of the shoots also involve us joking around and them laughing at me as they try to talk to me in Serbian. Let me tell ya, this is the most fun and easiest side hustle I’ve ever had.

Jazz festival

Every year in August, Niš hosts a festival in the Niš Fortress called the Jazz Festival. The festival is three days long and is relatively big. People come from all over come to see Jazz musicians and musicians of different backgrounds perform. Leslie, Kim, Jazz, and I went to the festival with our Serbian friends Anja, Kika, and Irene. It was one of my favorite memories ever. We saw Goran Bregović perform and it was incredible. We danced crazily the entire night, jumping up on our seats and screaming the lyrics to his famous song “Bella Ciao”. The energy there was contagious and the vibe around the whole city is something different during the Jazz Festival. Everyone who lives in Niš says this is their favorite time of the year. Going to the Jazz festival was the perfect start to my Serbian adventure and something I won’t forget.



One weekend Leslie, Jazz, Kim, and I took the bus to Belgrade where we stayed at the 360 Hostel, located in the heart of the city. Belgrade is the capital and largest city of Serbia where you’re engulfed in the big European city feel. We had so much fun there, visiting the Belgrade fortress and Kalemegdan park, tanning at the Ada Caganlija river island, shopping around Skadarska street, eating incredible food, visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art, and riding bikes along the Sava riverfront. Leslie and I also made friends with other travelers living in the hostel, so we went to a party with them on Saturday night. It was such a fun weekend exploring and meeting new people. It definitely made me crave adventure and the desire to explore Serbia more.

Novi Sad

I went on my first solo trip to Novi Sad which is the second-largest city. Novi Sad is incredibly beautiful with pastel buildings, tall point churches, monuments, and impressive graffiti wall drawings. I toured the Petrovaradin fortress and had lunch there with a breathtaking view of the river and city; visited a tapestry museum called Atelje 61 where women hand make these amazing tapestries by hand; walked to all the monuments, churches, and monasteries; and spent some quality time with myself lol. It was such a different experience traveling alone. I definitely wish someone was there with me, but I am happy I went anyway. It was a great learning experience and I know how to better prepare for future solo trips.

Kapoanik Mountain

After I returned from the United States, I went snowboarding at Kapoanik mountain in Serbia. It’s the biggest ski resort in Serbia (about 2 hours away from Niš) and the mountain was huge! I went with my coach, her friend, and her niece. I have become good friends with my coach’s niece, Anja, and she has been incredible with introducing me to new people and taking me to do fun activities. We stayed 2 nights in an apartment right on the mountain and snowboarded/skied one day. It was a blast and I’m so happy I was able to check out the Serbian slopes!

Strumica, Macedonia

My team traveled to Strumica, Macedonia to play in a friendly game against a team called Tiverija. Strumica is a pretty city with wide streets and lush green mountains hugging the city background. It was a short trip as we spent 1 night and a day and a half there. Before our game, we were able to walk around the city, see the monuments in the city square, and take pictures. Although Strumica was very similar to Serbia, it was still nice to check out the new city and stretch our legs. Overall it was a really good trip and we ended up tying Tiverija 1 to 1.

The first half of my Serbian adventure has been so much fun. I hope the next 5 months bring more unexpected surprises, new experiences, traveling, and personal growth. Can’t wait to update y’all about my future endeavors. Until next time… Ciao!