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.

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!

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.

How I Started Playing Overseas

So how the heck did I end up playing abroad? Well… this is how it started!

I graduated from California State University, Los Angeles in December 2019 where I played NCAA Division II soccer. I had a really successful last two seasons and was not ready to end my career there. I knew I had not reached my full potential and wanted to continue playing.

I had always dreamed of living in a foreign country. I have many friends who studied abroad in college and many friends from around the world who have come to America to study. Everyone who’s experienced this has told me how incredible it was. Unfortunately, because I was playing college soccer I was never able to do a study abroad program because we trained year-round.

I had traveled to different countries before for vacations and really fell in love with traveling and exploring new places. This was only a taste of what it was like to live in a different country, and I always craved more!

Because of my love for travel and desire to continue my soccer career, my goal was to combine the two and play abroad! The only problem was… I had no idea how.

After my college senior year season ended, I talked to my coach about wanting to play overseas. He helped send out my highlight tape to one or two international teams (I don’t even remember where or who they were), but they didn’t reach back out.

I moved back to my parent’s home in Santa Barbara after I graduated in December 2019, and started working as a caregiver at Valle Verde Retirement Community and as a soccer coach for Santa Barbara Soccer Shots. I was applying to nursing schools and even got accepted into Western University’s Accelerated Masters Program. I also joined a new WPSL (adult women’s league) soccer team that had just started in Santa Barbara called Alta Sol. I was overall really happy, but I was still thinking about playing abroad 24/7.

When COVID-19 hit, the WPSL team had to terminate the season and my main focus was working at the retirement community, trying to keep my clients safe and healthy. Playing soccer was put in the back of my mind at this time.

Until… In May 2020 I got a random direct message on Instagram from the FC Malaga City Instagram page saying they were an international soccer academy in Spain starting a new women’s program and looking for talented players to recruit.

It seemed way too good to be true. This dream opportunity just slid into my DMs! I thought it was a scam. Although I had no real expectations of something coming of this, I decided I had nothing to lose and planned a phone call with the recruiter who contacted me.

He definitely sold me. The pictures he sent of Almuñe´car, Spain (the city I would be living in), the fields and facilities, “La Casa Roja” (the villa I would be living in)… it all looked like something out of a movie. Actual heaven. But of course, there was a catch…

… I had to PAY to play there. I of course was hoping I would be the one GETTING paid. But, because this was an academy team with its focus on exposure and development to get its players recruited to Spanish professional teams, it was not considered a professional team.

The money was a hard pill to swallow, but I decided I would commit to playing for 3-months which was all I could afford. I couldn’t pass by on this opportunity and this was the exact adventure I was looking for.

So on August 17th, 2020 I hopped on a plane to Spain during the heart of COVID, to a brand new team and crazy adventure…

Fast forward to July 2021… I had just gotten home from Spain when I received a text from my old college teammate, Leslie. She recently got in contact with a recruiter to play overseas and was wondering if I wanted to also send him over my highlight tape. I said “of course” but I didn’t think anything would come of it since I have not had the best luck in the past. But within a couple of days of me sending him my highlights, the recruiter found a team in Serbia called ŽFK Mašina´c Trace in the 1st Division SuperLiga that wanted to sign us immediately.

I was torn between going back to Spain and going to Serbia. I absolutely loved Spain and had my mind set on going back. However, this Serbia opportunity offered me monthly payments, food, housing, and plane flight reimbursements. In addition, ŽFK Mašina´c Trace is one of the top teams in Serbia, finishing first or second in their league for many years in a row!

After a couple of days of thinking I decided I had nothing to lose by going to Serbia! It would be a crazy new adventure, I would definitely improve my level of play, and I would be doing it with my 3 old college teammates! And if worse came to worse, I could always rejoin my team in Spain.

So, two weeks later I reunited with my old college teammates, Leslie, Kim, and Jazz in the LAX airport and we started our Serbian adventure!

My Personal Story as an Athlete with Eating Disorders

As an athlete, everyone looks up to you thinking you have phenomenal health. People think you must have an incredible diet and exude an overall healthy lifestyle in order to perform at a high level. This unfortunately is so far from the truth, especially for female athletes. According to eatingdisorderhope.com, about 45% of female athletes struggle with an eating disorder! It’s tough to admit but I am definitely a part of that statistic. It may not seem like it because of the way my body looks, and the seemingly healthy diet I have, but I have been struggling with eating disorders and body dysmorphia for years. I have only just started to understand my problem with this which is why I am opening up about it. I want to share my story to bring awareness to the misconception that just because an athlete looks a certain way or performs at a high level, does not mean they are healthy.

My story has many different layers to it so I’ll try my best to organize this in a way that makes sense. Here it goes…

My story

I have struggled and still am struggling with eating disorders. My problems trace back to when I was growing up but became most noticeable my freshman year of college and on.

I love food. I always have. It’s something that I can always remember that has brought me so much joy and excitement. I always looked forward to mealtime and fantasize about what I am going to eat next. Unfortunately, this extreme love for food has turned into a really unhealthy relationship. When I was younger, (elementary school until senior year of high school) I was able to stay skinny while eating an incredible amount of food. I used to pride myself and see it as a game about how much I could eat. People would comment on my large portions and ability to still stay lean. I took this as a great compliment and it fueled me to eat even more! I never worried about gaining weight because my metabolism was so fast and I stayed active. So even when I was so full I would push through and eat more. I basically ate to the point of extreme un-comfortability every day. Back then I did not realize I had a problem because I remained thin and I stayed extremely active being a 3 sport athlete. However, now I understand this was the start of my binge eating disorder.

My extreme eating eventually caught up to me. My freshman year of college I got my body fat tested as a requirement for being a student-athlete and my results came back saying I was obese… 32% body fat. When I heard that I was obese I was in shock. I couldn’t believe that I could be a college soccer player, working out 3 hours a day, eating relatively healthy, but be obese! I tried to laugh it off, but this really broke me inside because being skinny was something I always prided myself on being. I was recommended to go to a nutritionist but I took this as an offense because I genuinely ate healthy foods (I just ate a LOT of it). I never went to the nutritionist and looking back I really wish I did.

In high school, I would sometimes throw up after meals because I would eat so much food in one sitting. I never forced it, it just happened because I was so full. “I’m so full I can throw up right now” was a joke but it actually happened. Unfortunately, after the body fat test, I started purposefully making myself throw up. I did not know how to control my eating and so when I would over-eat or feel really full, I would throw it up.

It was a very confusing time because I did not know how to properly fuel my body. Back then I had a weird fear of being hungry. So, instead of listening to my body’s cues of hunger and fullness, I just aired on the side of “caution” and would over-eat so I wouldn’t get hungry later. Even though the food I was eating was healthy, I was over-eating constantly.

Thankfully, my bulimia did not escalate and I stopped forcing myself to throw up during my sophomore year of college. During the end of my sophomore year and beginning of junior year, a flip switched and I stopped eating like every meal was my last. I started listening to my body and ended up losing a lot of weight, in a healthy way! I was not even trying to do this, it just happened. And I didn’t even notice I was losing weight until people started commenting on how I looked.

I have always been told I have a nice body, but especially after losing that weight, I was praised for it. This then turned into my obsession with staying skinny and fit which has persisted until today. I became afraid of becoming “obese” again and judged my worth based on how my body looked.

So, unfortunately, my eating disorders and body dysmorphia continued.

Another factor that has caused my unhealthy food habits is my struggles with acne, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and hair loss (I’ll talk more in-depth about these in later posts). I have struggled with acne and irritable bowel syndrome since I was in elementary school, basically as long as I can remember. Over the years I have gone to doctors/dermatologists countless times to help cure these problems but nothing helped. This has led me to obsessively searching the internet to find solutions.

Restricting my diet to being Gluten Free, Keto, sugar-free, and Low FODMAPS are just some of the things the internet has told me will help my conditions. I attempted these diets and unfortunately, none of them helped my symptoms. Instead, caused unhealthy eating habits like restrictive and binge eating and a negative relationship with food. Because I love all food so much, it was so hard to stop myself from eating the “forbidden foods”. So when I would eat these foods, I would binge them and then feel extremely guilty for it.

Dealing with these health problems and my obsession with staying fit became a perfectly disastrous combination, leading to extreme eating habits that I thought at the time were healthy.

This is something that I recently struggled with while living in Spain and Serbia. Most recently, during the first part of my season in Serbia, I had the worst acne of my life. I was convinced that the food I was eating was causing my symptoms. The internet said that becoming Keto (low carb and sugar) would reduce my insulin spikes and therefore help my acne. I was desperate so I tried this and for the most part, I did not eat bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, and corn, avoided certain fruits, and tried to not eat sugar. I basically just ate protein and vegetables. And if I did eat carbs or sweets, I would spiral out of control and binge eat these, then feel disgusted with myself. It was so difficult because bread, potatoes, and rice are a huge part of the cuisine in Serbia (and Europe in general). Therefore, completely avoiding these foods was almost impossible. I also love these foods, so I really did not want to stop eating them! As a result, when I did end up eating these “forbidden” foods, I would lose it and decide to have a full-on cheat day, binging as many sweets and carbs as I could. All because I had a piece of bread or some potatoes…

During this time all I thought about was my acne, hair loss, food, and my body. I became even more obsessed with working out. My thinking was that my body had to look its’ best because my face did not. To make things worse, my soccer playing really declined during this period. I had no confidence on the field and had the worst season of my life. It was really embarrassing, honestly. I could not connect a pass for my life and second-guessed every move I made on the field. It made me question if I was even a good player anymore.

I really think my diet and mindset played a huge part in this. I was so worried about what I looked like that I was willing to do whatever it took to fix that problem instead of focusing on what was going to make me a better player. I over-worked myself off the field, under-ate, and had no confidence at all.

I decided that I was sick of feeling this way so I decided to get professional health with a holistic doctor. Thankfully she has helped. The first thing I did when I went back to the United States for Christmas break was get a food allergy test and blood pannel done. Turns out, I have NO allergies to foods. I have slight intolerances, but nothing to the point where I must cut a certain food out of my life. My years of insisting that gluten and carbs were the culprits causing my problems, was proved untrue in about a day. I felt so happy but also extremely confused. What could be causing my problems then?

Due to a couple other factors (I’ll get into them in a future blog post), I believe the WAY I was eating food was a main contributer to my problems. Binging a ton of sugar and snacks when I got my hands on them, or overeating at restaurants/cheat meals because I thought “this is my one time to do it”, definitely caused stomach problems and breakouts consistently.

THANKFULLY after getting my food allergy tests back, now I allow myself to eat all foods in moderation. I know that specific foods aren’t the sole reason for my problems. This new mindset has really helped limit my binge eating and created a healthier relationship with food. Because I genuinely love the taste of healthy foods, I’m starting to trust and listen to what my body is craving. If I’m craving toast with peanut butter, then I’m going to eat it and not feel guilty for it! It’s been so freeing not placing these restrictions on myself anymore and honestly my stomach problems and acne have gotten so much better! What a concept huh?

I’m also starting to play like myself again. I have a lot more confidence on the ball and don’t feel like a lost puppy dog running around the field. Thank god.

I absolutely still struggle with binge eating and body dysmorphia but I can genuinely say that I am so much better. I feel like I finally have control and am aware of my triggers.

Unhealthy Signs that made me realize I Have a problem

Poor Eating Habits:

  • I’ll stand in the kitchen for long periods of time snacking on foods from the cabinets and fridge, instead of putting them on a plate and sitting down to eat them. My thought process is that “I just want a few chips”, but then I end up eating half the bag and didn’t even enjoy it because I was thinking about how I needed to stop the entire time.
  • I eat when I’m bored, anxious, or trying to avoid doing something.
  • When there are sweets in the house, I eat all of them because I want to get rid of them, so I don’t eat them later. Therefore, instead of having 2 cookies, I’ll binge eat 10 because I just want them out of the house so I can start eating “healthy” again.
  • I feel bad leaving food behind, so I always eat everything that’s on my plate (and other people’s plates too!) even when I’m full.

“Checking myself out” in the mirror constantly: The first thing I do in the morning is go to the bathroom, lift my shirt up, and examine my stomach in the mirror. The first thing I do to start off my day is see how skinny I am. If I’m a little bloated or not looking the way I think I should, it immediately leads to a negative day where I am worried about the foods I eat because I think I am getting fat. I did not realize I do this until recently. But this is something I do and have been doing for years. I now have taken note that I actually go to the mirror and look at my stomach multiple times a day. I’ve found that I plan my meals based on how my stomach looks instead of the hunger I am feeling.

Thinking about food 24/7: When I am eating breakfast, I am thinking about what I’ll eat for lunch. When I’m eating lunch, I am thinking about dinner. And during dinner, I am thinking about the food I will eat the next day. At all times of the day, I am planning my food and if I eat something outside of my plan I feel guilty for it and spiral out of control.

Over-exercising: While living in Spain and Serbia, I got into the bad habit of going to the gym even when my body was tired and sore in addition to our soccer practices. I did this because I felt I needed to do two workouts a day in order to stay super fit, not gain weight, and earn the food I ate. However, I realized the gym workouts weren’t aimed to improve my game, but instead make my body look a certain way. As a result, my body became tired, not stronger, and my playing level dropped.

I also would go on really long walks to burn more calories and to get myself out of the house so I wouldn’t eat. If I was at home for long periods of time, I would consistently eat because I was bored. I really enjoy walking, but after two practices, walking 4 miles is not healthy. In addition, my lack of ability to control my eating at home was not healthy.

Stealing other people’s foods: I have always been very good at not buying junk food when I go to the grocery store. I have self-control in that way. However, when there is junk food in my house, I have absolutely no self-control, even when it was not mine. Living with a bunch of roommates in college and in Spain was torture sometimes because the house was always stocked with something sweet. Because I would try to restrict myself from eating sweets, I couldn’t control myself if I did get my hands on something sugary.

I would also like to take the time to apologize to all my roommates I’ve stolen from! I’M SORRY AND LOVE YA’LL!

Comparing myself to all my teammates: In my experience, being an athlete causes a lot more unhealthy habits than one may realize. For example, because you are surrounded by so many badass women, comparing yourself to your teammates is inevitable. Even if you don’t realize it, it subconsciously happens. For me, not only am I comparing my playing to my teammates, but also my body and what I eat. Wishing my legs were as toned or my arms were more muscular as some players’; every day is a constant comparison and the desire for my body to look differently. In addition, living and eating many meals with teammates has created the unhealthy habit of me constantly comparing my food portion sizes and what I eat to theirs. I notice the smaller portion size of my 5’3 teammate and get mad at myself for eating more than her when I am significantly taller than her and obviously need to eat more calories. Instead of listening to my own body (which is completely different than all my teammates!), I subconsciously mimic their food choices and feel embarrassed if I eat more food. Ridiculous right?

Final Thoughts

Thanks for reading this lengthy and personal post lol! My goal of this isn’t to give any advice, but rather to share my story to bring awareness. Eating disorders among athletes are something that is unfortunately rarely talked about even though it is incredibly relevant in this population. Like myself, many people don’t realize that their eating and working out habits are actually disordered and therefore, decreasing their athletic performance. I hope that if anyone reading this is also struggling with something similar that this gives them the courage to get professional help! Peace and love to everyone. Thanks for following and supporting me along my journey 💜