Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Hey y'all I'm back in Kansas City nearing the start of my 2nd season in the NWSL! After 4 weeks of soccer practice, fitness testing, naps and lots a food, we are ready to embark on another season here with FC Kansas City. The change in personnel makes this year's team far different from the team that won back to back National Championships. That being said, over the course of this preseason I feel like we have been able to redefine and mold this team into what I hope will be another championship squad. And I think that's such an important lesson to learn, as your team won't always be the same. I remember growing up, playing with the same 10 players for most of my youth career. They knew exactly where to play me the ball, they knew when I was going to make a run and I was comfortable playing in front of them. But that didn't exactly prepare me for the collegiate, professional and national team levels. If you can change your environment and put yourself in a position to challenge your comfort zone, you will learn to adapt quicker, which will in turn make you a more valuable player!

With preseason wrapping up, I couldn't help but feel like I'm in a similar position as all of my ECNLers out there. Although y'all are nearing the end of the ECNL season and I am only beginning mine, I still feel like we are in a similar situation. For months you and your teammates have trained and played games in hopes of making the playoffs. The months of preparation are about to put to the test for some of you, as you embark on the post-season. In the same way, I feel my team will soon be tested too. We have practiced twice a day, we have ran endless amounts of sprints, struck hundreds of balls and prepared for the weeks ahead. On April 16th, we will be tested for the first time. Our preparation will be judged and we will begin to define the season ahead of us. 

Our bodies and minds are tired from the last 4 weeks of training, but the excitement that comes with the beginning of each season has provided us with the adrenaline we need to be successful. Many of you may find yourselves feeling the same way. For some teams, Jersey will be the place to compete for some of the final playoff spots. Other teams may have clinched a spot and are in the midst of training to win it all. No matter your situation, it is crunch time. Your muscles may feel sore, legs heavy, but the time is nearing where you will be forced to forget the bumps and bruises and do whatever it takes to help your team come out on top. 

So as you go into the final stretch of your season and the pressure sets in, here are my 3 pieces of advice! 

1. Trust your preparation
-You have prepared for these moments. You've ran the sprints, taken the shots, practiced the touches that will help propel your team to the top. Let those hours of preparation comfort you in times that you feel the pressure to perform. At the end of the day, trust that you have put in the work and good things will happen.
2. Stay discipline 
-It's not good enough just to get there! You have to finish it. Remember the things that got you to this moment and understand it will be a very small margin that seperates your team from the others. Whether its eating the right food to fuel your body, foam rolling after practice or a game even though you want to go to your friends house or putting your phone away earlier because you have a game the next day and you need more sleep. Do what you have to do so that you give your team the best shot at winning. Because at the end of the day that's what great players and great teams do; they sacrifice the little things so they know they did everything in their power to help their team win.   
3. Stop & Enjoy it
-We often get so caught up in these moments that we forget to enjoy them. Make sure you take that time to recognize the work you put in to get there and enjoy the opportunity to compete for a championship. Even if it is taking 5 minutes before you warm up to sit and think about the process or use the time you're putting your cleats on to replay your favorite memory from the season. Just make sure you take the time to stop, remember how you got here and enjoy the present opportunity because one day, when you're an old ECNL alumni like me, it will just be a distant memory that you wish you could relive. 

That's all for now! Hope all of you find the time to tune in this season to watch some NWSL games. If you don't have a team near you, check out the NWSL youtube channel to catch EVERY game. The best players in the world play in this league and it is our duty as AMAZING YOUNG WOMEN to help grow OUR game. So make sure you support in whatever way possible! Good luck with all of your seasons, go finish strong! 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Person Behind the Player: Sam Witteman

Last week the U23 US Women's National Team traveled to Umag, Croatia to compete in the Istria Cup. This will be my final competition at the Under 23 age level. The Youth National Team experience has provided me with so many tools and memories I will use and cherish through the rest of my soccer career and beyond. The opportunities I have been given through my sport and this organization allowed me to grow both as a player and as a person. My experiences with these teams allowed me to see the world, play with the best players in the country and create some memories I will never forget. This trip, I'm sure, will be nothing less, if not more memorable than the rest.

22 players from 13 different states.  Our paths all very different, merging with this team and opportunity. Each player on this team has a unique story to tell. There is no formula for success and no shortcut to reaching the highest level. Each found their way to this very moment with this very team in a different way. Our journeys through this sport and to this level have all taken different courses. Some battle injury, some develop later than others and some find their breakthrough at the most unexpected time.  So let's take a look into some of my teammates, and the journey they experienced.  If there is one thing I have learned, it is that we each have a special story to tell. 

The Person Behind The Player: Samantha Witteman

I met Sam about a month ago in Carson, California at the last U23 training camp. Her bubbly personality and grit on the field made this friendship almost instant. As a player, Sam is a communicator, she's feisty and she works harder than anyone on the field. Her competitive spirit and passion to win makes her the ideal teammate and friend. This past January Sam was drafted by the NWSL's newest team, the Orlando Pride. This is a big move for Sam, who originally grew up and played college soccer in California, but she is excited for this new chapter in her life. Although her soccer career seems to be falling into place somewhat perfectly, this was not always the case. 

Sam's path was different from most. Sam's club team was not a part of the ECNL, but she still found a way to pursue her dream and continue her soccer career in college. She attended the University of California, Berkeley where she struggled to find playing time in the early years, rarely seeing big minutes as a freshman.

While her lack of experience and limited time off the bench could have kept her from developing, she instead used it as motivation. She began training on her own, doing extra fitness and doing the little things to push her into the next level of her potential. By her sophomore and junior year she was playing big minutes. She finally felt like she was coming into her own and feeling more comfortable at the college level. Her senior year, she was the captain and she played a variety of positions, and by the end of the year people began to notice. Those little things she did in the beginning got her to where she is today. Representing the United States of America at the Under 23 age level. She will also represent the city of Orlando after she was drafted this past January.

Sam's story was interesting to me because she wasn't the kid who everyone knew about in the beginning. But her story proves that hard work and dedication WILL make the important people notice. She decided she wanted to make a name for herself, and then she did. There is no formula to success or to reach your desired goals. Sam didn't play on an ECNL team, therefore her exposure was limited. She wasn't given a huge scholarship to play soccer, but she never gave up on her dream and she found a way to make it happen. "You just have to want it badly enough and be willing to do the things necessary to get there. You have to be willing to do what's best for your team and find a way to make an impact no matter your role". Sam took ownership of her training and because of that she now has the opportunity to play professional soccer.

Another way she made a name for herself was by being versatile. Sam can play almost any position, but explained that there are difficulties that come with it. "Changing positions can be difficult, especially within a single game. In college I played 7 different position over the course of one game. It can be hard to get comfortable and establish a rhythm, but really it comes down to doing what's best for the team". Being versatile and having the ability to play different positions also increases your value as a player. At both the collegiate and professional levels, this quality can be your ticket on the field.

As for me, I am just enjoying my time in this beautiful country. So far we found a good result in our first match vs. the full Slovenian National Team, where we won 3-0. We have two more matches against Poland and France later this week. I got the chance to ice tub in the Adriatic Sea and am attempting to learn some Croatian while I'm here! Hope y'all enjoyed the first installment of the Person Behind the Player. Stay tuned for another great story!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Shea Leaves VA

Four months ago, I drove 1,071 miles from Liberty, MO to Richmond, VA. Little did I know I would be in for one of the best experiences of my life. The ECNL has given me much more than just another section on my resume. Over the last few months, I learned more about myself than I could have ever expected. And that's what it's all about, right? Using these experiences that we are presented with to grow and discover the person that we are supposed to be. While I am thankful for the work experience I gained, I am more excited about the friendships made and the personal growth I have experienced during my time in Richmond.

When handed an experience, we are always told to enjoy it and soak it all in. While it sounds cheesy, I have grown to understand that there is a lot of truth to those silly and repetitive sayings. So here's 3 pieces of advice I have gained through my ECNL experience, and words I hope will empower you through the opportunities you may be presented with in the future.

1. Never shy away from an unexpected opportunity

Sometimes it is hard to push outside our comfort zones and try new things. But I promise you, if you choose to do so, it will be a life-changing experience. When I came to Richmond, I did not know one person. I lived with a family I did not know and I showed up at an office for a job I really knew nothing about. It was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time. I learned that I am much more than just a soccer player. I learned I have more talents outside my abilities on the field. I made great friends, who I will remain close with for years down the road. So never let the fear of the unknown make you shy away from an opportunity. Take all the experiences and opportunities you can, because I promise you will be better because of them.

2. Reflect on your experience before, during and after

I am big on using a journal, but just taking moments to reflect works just the same if you aren't the writing type. Often times we get caught up in the stress and craziness of life. It's important to take time, even if it's just a few moments, to reflect on where you are and what you have accomplished. Looking back I always think I could have done it more, but it's pretty amazing the opportunity I had and what I was willing to do with it. I traveled to new places, I hiked for the first time, I learned about an organization, I lived in a new city, I contributed to a team, I made new friends and I relished every moment of the experience that I could. So amidst the stress, the worry and the craziness, don't forget to take time to realize what you are doing and ENJOY IT!

3. Let your experiences carry far past the experience itself

Sometimes new opportunities last for weeks or even years, but make sure they serve a purpose beyond the experience itself. If its a soccer camp, a summer job or a family vacation, make sure you take that experience and the things you learned to the next place in your life. My experience with the ECNL gave me confidence, friendships and a drive that I will take with me as I start my second season as a professional soccer player. I had the opportunity to witness the beginning of soccer careers for many young girls. I remember being one of those girls, playing to get noticed by the coaches on the sidelines. The experience reminded me of where I came from and refueled my passion to keep fighting toward my own goals in this sport. So remember the significance of each experience and understand it will carry on far past the actual experience itself.

So what's next for this girl? Hard to say when I haven't been in one spot for more than 2 weeks at a time. But the next season of the NWSL is just around the corner! I will be starting my second season with FC Kansas City, 2-time NWSL champions. This year's team is shaping up to look a lot different than years before, but I am confident that Blues fans are in for a big treat this season. To follow all things NWSL, check out their website and other social media platforms at nwslsoccer.com!

I know I have been off the grid for the last few weeks, between driving home 17 hours to KC, training and repacking for new adventures, I've had little time to update!

Last week, I was given another incredible opportunity. I traveled west to Carson, CA to train with the Under 23 Women's National Team. From the time I was 14, I have had various opportunities to train at the National Team level and if there is one thing I've learned, it's that it never gets old. Suiting up in your country's colors and wearing the crest is such an honor at any level. During this camp we trained at the Stub Hub center, we traveled to San Diego to watch the full Women's National Team and we had the opportunity to play the full Irish National Team at the end of the week. It was a great week of training.

Next stop for this traveling girl is Houston, TX for my last event with the ECNL. Texas is like my second home and I could not be more excited to end my time with the ECNL in one of my favorite places. Hope you all are ready for another Fuel Your Fire Skills Challenge and I can't wait to see y'all at #ECNLTX!

While my time with the ECNL is coming to a pause for now, it will not be the last you will hear from me.  Tune in to Stoppage Time with Shea Groom weekly, to follow me as I embark on season two as a pro.  I will continue to provide entertainment through my trials and tribulations, and provide positive words of wisdom to inspire the next wave of Amazing Young Women.

Share something positive that has happened to you in 2016 in the comment section below.  Also, still waiting on some song suggestions for the Ukulele.  :)  

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

We're Not in Kansas Anymore

Hey y'all I know you've missed me! To catch up and see everything I've been doing over the past couple of weeks, check out the latest installment of the blog here:

Hope y'all had an amazing New Year celebration! Tune in next week to hear all about my New Year's Resolutions and my final week in RVA!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Setback that Fuels HER Comeback

“Every setback is setup for a comeback”

As athletes we face many setbacks, just take a look at the picture below and you'll see I've experienced my fair share. It's easy to get caught up in the negative and the what ifs, but through each of these experiences, I saw how a disappointing setback became a victorious comeback.

Visualize: July 9th, 85th minute. The ball was rolling on the top of the 18-yard box, the goalkeeper and I approaching step for step on either side. We finally met, my foot went numb and my body went limp. I laid there on the field, grasping my foot, knowing the pain I was feeling wasn’t temporary this time. But in that moment, after so many surgeries and past injuries, it was the thought of the rehab and the games to be missed that hurt more than the broken bone in my foot.

So here I am, in the midst of my own setback.

Being able to get a taste of playing at the professional level last season definitely changed the way I attacked this injury and the recovery process. There is nothing like playing at the highest level and I would do anything to get back on the field. It changed the way I trained this off-season and really posed the questions, “am I doing enough and can I be doing more?” I implemented more skill work into my workouts and took the time to seek out the best resources to make me better. But do not misinterpret all this optimism for a perfect recovery process, just last week I called my dad in tears. I know I will have hard days, but those are the days when we grow and learn the most about ourselves.

With any setback, it’s the mental aspect that can be the most challenging. While the initial shock is heart breaking, it’s the days after that pose the biggest struggle. The days when your discipline, your fight and your will to get back on the field is put to the test. Some days you will cry and convince yourself that you will never be the same. Your doubt will get the best of you and that tiny voice inside your head will try to justify a reason to give up. But it just takes one good day to shadow over every bad one. The day you get to start running again, the day when the stress is lifted, or the day when you are reminded that you are an amazing young woman. And it's those days that restore your hope and drive. It’s the memories of winning and playing the sport you love with your best friends. It’s the thought of playing in college, professionally or for the national team that reminds us why this temporary suffering will be worth it. So if you find yourself in the midst of a setback, pick yourself up and keep fighting for that one good day, because it will change everything.

I’ve also experienced other types of setbacks separate from my injuries. Whether it was a boyfriend, a friendship, bad grades or just the emotional stress that comes with balancing life, they have all hindered my ability to preform at my highest level. I know what its like to be up on the phone all night and watch a relationship end, then wake up and play the next morning. I know what its like to get a bad grade on a test and drive straight to practice. I know what its like to lose a loved one and run a fitness test a few hours later. We all experience these heartaches and stressful situations. We are expected to preform no matter the circumstances and that pressure can often be overwhelming. It’s important to understand that these setbacks, these times where we may lack the ability to preform at our best, are simply temporary. It is part of the magical process that makes us into the person and the player we are supposed to be. Every setback is setup for a comeback.

I have had some of my best comebacks after some of my biggest setbacks. Having that time to take a step back and really evaluate yourself as a player has made the difference for me. It exposed my weaknesses, it pushed me to work harder and expect more, it created a toughness I never thought I was capable of, it helped me value the game more and understand that my time playing this sport is never promised. Without these setbacks, I may have never reached the place I am today and the places I will be in the future. 

So wherever you are in your journey, I hope that you take these setbacks head on. Don’t lose hope when that voice tells you it’s easier to quit. Tune out the doubt, believe in the process and know that your comeback can only be defined by you. So no matter the severity of your setback, just remember it is setup for YOUR comeback. Own your comeback and let your hope in it be the strength that carries you through the process!

As for my adventures…this week I participated in the annual office cookie exchange in which I made Grinch cookies and wore the coolest sweater ever made #believeinyourELFIE!

I also did my first spin class...800 calories later and some extremely sore quads, I have gained an overwhelming respect for cyclists.

Last week I visited Proper Pie where the Peach BBQ meat pie and caramel pumpkin pie exceeded all expectations! I did not get the chance to visit Carytown yet, but hopefully I will get to check that off the list NEXT year!

Most importantly, I was a part of another championship this week. Shoutout to Team Bae for winning the Division 1 Co-ed Indoor Soccer Championship on Monday night. I’m not sure which National Championship felt better, NWSL or D1 Co-ed…I’ll make that decision once I receive my championship t-shirt.

Now off to Kansas City for Christmas with the Groom Family! Make sure to check out next week’s blog as I’m going to try something a little different! Tune in Wednesday to TAKE A LOOK at what I’m doing in KC! Happy Holidays y’all!

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