On the road: Pack mentality
I have done a lot of traveling over the course of my career as a soccer player, so you’d think I’d be pretty much a pro by now.
And I am. In fact, I pretty much live out of my car, driving over an hour each way from where I live in Manasquan, N.J., with my husband, Chris, and daughters, Reece and Rylie, to where I practice with my NWSL team, Sky Blue. My car is always stocked: sweatshirts, jackets, pants, old cleats in case we’re on a turf that’s not so good, better cleats for when I need those. I’m a just-in-case person.
The same goes when we travel. I’d rather be overprepared than underprepared, so I like to throw everything in my bag just in case. In fact, I always pack both my light blue and my white uniforms for every game even though I know exactly which one we’re wearing.
Though sometimes, we do get a little mixed up on gear. One game on the road, I almost wore my practice shorts (which were very similar to the game shorts) out onto the field. As I was going through the tunnel someone realized and I had to run back to the locker room to change. Whoops!
The truth is, though, when I’m traveling my kids take a lot of the focus. I would say a quarter of what I pack is for me and the rest is for my younger daughter Reece, who travels with me these days. I bring the essentials for myself -- soccer clothes, a couple nice dinner-out outfits, face stuff and my straightening iron -- and then the rest is pretty much a bag full of toys, books and electronics.
She’s 4 now, but when she was younger, I would always have to make sure we had binkies and Reece’s favorite monkey that she traveled with -- this pink monkey with a blanket and a rattle on it. I can’t tell you how many times it got dropped or left behind and we would have to go back to a hotel or wherever, searching for this thing. There was no replacing it if it was lost, either, because apparently this rattle has a different sound than any you could buy. It was all worn where she would rub her fingers on it to get to sleep. Life has gotten a lot easier since she outgrew that monkey!
In general, though, I tend to be pretty high-strung about keeping the kids happy on the flight, and doing whatever it takes. You never know how they’re going to react so I always pack their favorite snacks -- the unhealthy ones they don’t get very often. Oreos and mini-muffins are the main go-tos. (For me, it’s Lara bars and Udi’s granola bars now because I’m trying to go gluten-free.) And then, of course, I’m loaded up with stickers and games. It’s a lot to carry, but it keeps me at ease to have everything I can think of.
As long as we survive the trip, I can handle if they’re up all night at the hotel. To me, that’s just something to overcome, like being a little sick when you’ve got a big game. I’m not going to complain or use it as an excuse, and I’m not going to let it distract me. In fact, in some ways it helps to keep me more focused, because I don’t have time to worry about the game until it’s actually game time.
It’s all a balance you learn through experience. It’s definitely not easy, but it’s all worth it in the end. Life on the road is just one of those things you get used to when you’re a pro athlete. Even if it means you’re always searching for a pink monkey.