After a week or so away from the NWSL Challenge Cup bubble, I have had some time to sit back and reflect on the experience. Firstly, thank you to the NWSL and all the selfless volunteers and staff that worked day-in and day-out to provide all the teams with the appropriate measures to ensure everyone’s safety. I was so happy to see you all honored before the final match, and hope that you were thanked each and every day. Also congratulations to the Houston Dash, as well as all the teams for their hard work and the sacrifices they made to attend this tournament.
When I look back at this tournament, I am met with gratitude and fullness. Although the tournament ultimately did not end the way our squad had envisioned, this experience provided for me in ways I never could have expected.
With this being my first year on OL Reign, I was instantly impressed by the team’s closeness, individual strength, acceptance of differences, and leadership. This team truly has some inspiring women on it and I can genuinely say I learned something from every girl on the roster.
One person in particular who stuck out to me was captain Lu Barnes – who by the way had an unbelievable tournament! Let’s appreciate that for a second. Lu has the world’s biggest heart. She also makes the best vegan pancakes, which we had every gameday morning. She leads with love in all that she does and as a member for all 8 years, she is a big reason why this team has been so successful.
While in the Bubble, Lu, Rosie White and I noticed there was an absurd amount of waste. So together, we worked with some amazing companies to provide the team with reusable water bottles courtesy of Crazy Cap, reusable cutlery courtesy of Albatross Cutlery, and reusable plates courtesy of Eco Lunch Box. This cut back our use of single-use plastic immensely, and it was empowering to see the whole team buy into reducing their waste.
Although it was always an exciting day when we were able to leave the hotel, I do not particularly miss the invasive biweekly COVID testing. You would walk down the long halls of the academy and step into what appeared to be a doctor’s office in a makeshift classroom. You would sit patiently trying to distract yourself before kindly being asked which nostril you prefer. Left side strong side, every time for me. Apparently, I also have a small naval cavity… you learn something new every day.
Rosie graciously volunteered as a tribute to give you a visual of how long these swabs were.
When it came to hotel living, I enjoyed learning about my teammates and playing card games. I’m already missing our little bundles of joy and bright lights: Steph Cox’s two beautiful daughters.
I have nothing but admiration and respect for Steph, who was a fearless leader within our squad, and for her two little girls. From watching ballet recitals, basketball shootouts, pool excursions, and so much more… Steph chased her children around the hotel while putting in 90-minute shifts. Hearing their laughter fill the hallway broke up our monotonous routine and served as a constant reminder to choose joy throughout the journey.
For us, the success of this tournament was about our team’s ability to come together. No amount of PKs will ever disprove that. And if you ask me, we achieved that and so much more.
I left this tournament a better person, and that is all I could have asked for. I gained friendships I will have for a lifetime. I confirmed what a profound impact we can have on one another through our own personal stories. I learned what it meant to voice your opinion, ask questions, and engage in tough conversations. I learned that the only way to grow is to be brave enough to put yourself out there. And in doing so, more often than not, you enable the people around you to grow as well.
I couldn’t be more grateful to have been surrounded by such an intelligent group of powerful women passionate about making a difference in the lives of many. We left the tournament inspired and committed to making a difference in our local Tacoma community and to putting all of our incredible conversations into action. I will be forever grateful for this unique experience that brought us all together during such a pivotal time in society.
And thank you JWS for giving me the platform to share some of my thoughts!