Sunday, July 24, 2016

OLYMPIC PLAYLIST

I need your help!! I am planning out my playlist for the Olympics and I need suggestions! We will have to travel at least 30 minutes from the village to the field for training and games and I need to make sure I can be rocking out and getting in the zone for the whole bus ride! Send me some of your all-time favorite pre-game songs, new or old! I'm taking any and all suggestions, any genre. I'll post my final playlist (with shout outs to any suggested songs I pick!) on a future blog.


Here are a few of my favorites:
Weekend Warriors by A Change of Pace
Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen
Small Town Throw Down by Brantly Gilbert, Justin Moore, Thomas Rhett
'Till Collapse by Eminem
Go Hard by Lecrae
Hall of Fame by The Script, will.i.am
My House by Flo Rida 
I Took a Pill in Ibiza by Mike Posner
Light It Up by Major Lazer
This Is How We Roll by Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan
Move (Keep Walkin') by TobyMac
Fix My Eyes by For King & Country

As you can see... I pull from many different genres. It all depends on the mood I am in before the game! I look forward to hearing your suggestions!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Life of an Olympic Athlete

What is it like being a professional athlete? What is it like to travel the world? What is it like to play for your country? What is it like to go to the Olympics?

The answers to these questions may surprise you. Because the glorified life that may be projected by many professional and Olympic athletes, is not the life that all of us “professionals” live.

This is my real story about my journey with USA Field Hockey and I want to share with everyone just what it is really like. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t be here doing what I am if it wasn’t for the love of the game. At the end of the day, I love the sport of field hockey, I love my teammates, and I love being able to represent my country more than any sacrifices and struggles I’ve had to go through!

First off, let me start by saying that I am so fortunate. I grew up in a family that gave me every opportunity to succeed in whatever avenue I so chose. I was privileged to go to great schools and try any sport I set my mind to. That is a huge reason I am here today. But even though I had these opportunities, nothing has been handed to me. I still had to work extremely hard to excel on and off the field. I still had to earn it.

I often read much of what the US Women’s Soccer players write about their struggle for equal pay, facilities, and treatment as their male counterparts. I also read many of the stories and struggles faced by other Olympic athletes like myself, in lesser known sports. There are some similarities, but there is also stark contrast. I want to share what it has been like for me.

What is it like being a professional athlete?
For me, being a professional athlete should mean that you play your sport for a living. This, to me, would mean that you get paid enough to cover your expenses in order to train and thrive. To be the best in the world, you must train pretty much year round, you need to be able to eat the right foods, rest properly, and not worry about the stresses of money. So here is where I’m going to talk about the money! We don’t make anywhere near what NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, even MLS makes. Not even close. We don’t even make a quarter of what the talented women of the US Women’s soccer team makes. For my teammates and I, like many Olympians, we live just above the poverty line. And I consider us some of the lucky ones. I can live off of that. We don’t get housing or other living expenses paid for. Many live with teammates in order to share costs. We are fortunate that all of our travel, including housing, food, etc. are all covered when we go to tournaments and games overseas! We all look forward to these tournaments, not only because it is a test of our abilities, but because we save money when we travel! (I’m not kidding about this one!) It is actually quite amazing that some have even saved up enough for down payments on a house (well, a small house in Lancaster, PA! J). We have learned to become pretty money savvy! Field hockey isn’t a hugely popular sport that garners lots of outside sponsorships. Due to this, some have chosen to find part time jobs that are flexible on hours or let them work from home. I personally, did not feel I had the mental or physical capacity to work on the side and still be at my best for every day of training. Yet, some don’t have a choice financially. This is the dilemma for us as professional athletes. And this is on top of getting a paid more than we had been in years past. But I don’t have to sit at a desk all day, I get to work outside, and I get to do what I love. I still consider myself lucky! But hopefully, one day, the future USA Field Hockey stars will have more than we did!

What is it like to travel the world?
I’ve been playing field hockey for 17 years. Over half of my lifetime. In that time, I have traveled to more countries than I could have ever imagined! Hockey has brought me to 5 continents and 13 different countries. I’ve played against 31 countries in over 200 games for my country. Although we are traveling for business (games) and we rarely get more than a day (if that) to be a tourist, I have still learned so much about the world and about other cultures from all of these experiences. Just seeing other countries, interacting with the people there and being immersed in their world, if only for a short time, has really  opened my eyes to how people live differently. It makes me appreciate America and miss home. But it also allows me to see the world through others eyes. Traveling has made me more aware of world issues and has helped me understand how to see through other perspectives. There are drastic distinctions between how people in China live to those in Azerbaijan. The foods Indians eat are contrast greatly with those in England. The humble, quiet nature of the Japanese is offbeat from the upfront Dutch. (Don’t get me wrong, I love the Dutch and very much love their culture after living and playing there for a season!) At times, I do wish I could have been more of a “tourist” in many of the places I’ve been, but I am so incredibly thankful to have been able to learn so much about the world and see some unbelievable countries!

What is it like to play for your country?
Despite the money, this is the real reason why I continue to show up every single day and push myself past limits I didn’t even know were capable. It is difficult to put into words just what it feels like to play for your country. Putting on the red, white and blue with USA emblazoned across your chest represents so many things. I get a wave of emotions every single time. When I put on my jersey, pull up my socks, and grab my stick, I know every hour, minute and second of hard running, diving, lifting, pushing, and pulling my body has endured has been worth it to arrive at this very moment, prepared, confident and excited to put it all to the test. Competition fuels me. But walking out onto the field, when I hear the USA chants coming from the energetic, watchful crowd, I am brought back to a bigger purpose. I was once that little girl in the front row, eyes wide, smile beaming, with a world of possibilities in front of me, watching my heroes show their strength, courage, determination and heart. I want to show that impressionable mind that her dreams can come true! I want to encourage her to one day be even better than me! But I look past this child to her parents, to my parents, to all Americans and I am inspired on another level. Sport can bring so many people together! When the stands fill with the buzz and excitement of a nation, there is an incredible energy that allows me to forget the world and live in the moment. When I stand in front of the American flag, one hand over my heart and the other around my teammate, proudly singing the National Anthem, I fight back tears every time. Those moments are truly about something bigger than myself and our UN1TED team. I know my teammates would agree that there is nothing better than standing together, as teammates, as fellow Americans, in uniform, ready to show the world what Team USA is all about!

What is it like to go to the Olympics?
THE OLYMPICS. Wow. Unbelievable. I was blessed to go the London 2012 Olympic Games and I am just as blessed to be just days away from my second Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016. Although this is my second Olympics, it is not any less special. Each Olympics and it’s build up is totally different. The team, the way we qualified, it is all a process. I have had my dreams set on the Olympics since I was a little girl. US Women’s soccer played a huge role in my childhood dream, which evolved into a life goal, and a reality. To be joining the most elite athletes in every field of sport is amazing. It is the pinnacle of an athlete’s career. Greater still, is what the Olympics represents. The world coming together, to celebrate peace and pursuit of greatness in each and every person competing, no matter the gender, race, religious affiliation, or other categorizing aspect. Each athlete proudly wearing its countries colors under the Olympic Rings. I am excited to be a part of the world’s greatest sporting event (and probably the world’s greatest event), and I can’t wait to share the rest of my journey with you! In a world full of chaos and contrast, there is no better time than now for the world to come together and celebrate all of its people once again!

I’ll leave you with this:
The Olympic motto:
CITIUS – ALTIUS – FORTIUS    [Faster – Higher – Stronger]
The Olympic creed:
“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well.”


Time to fight well. GO USA!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

May Recap

Things have been busy here in Lancaster, PA the last two weeks, but especially for me! All in good ways though! As you probably already know, we had a 4 game series with Chile last week in which we swept all 4 games. Chile was a great opponent that had some key strengths which are similar to many of the teams we will face this summer. It was good to get back into the swing of things and get some games against someone other than ourselves! Chile is a hard working team with a lot of skill and we are very thankful they traveled to play us in our preparation for Champions Trophy next month, as well as leading up to the Olympics. Another amazing part about this series was that my aunt MaryAnn attended. It was the first time she has ever seen me play in person and she is by far one of my biggest fans! It was truly an amazing experience for both of us and I was reminded of how great my family support system is, no matter what the result! I am so blessed!





                                     


We had a “regen” week this week, which means we take a little time away from practice to recover our bodies a little bit. On Tuesday, we hosted an outstanding fundraiser at Radley Run Golf Course in West Chester and we had an amazing turnout! Thank you to everyone who came out, golfed, had some fun with us, and continues to support our dreams! We are so incredibly thankful for all of the people who back us throughout this journey!!


Then on Thursday, I turned 29 years old! My morning consisted of a sprint workout with the team (which seems to happen every year on my birthday!), but I guess I wouldn’t have it any other way! My birthday is no different than other day when a greater goal of standing on the podium is always in the forefront of my mind! Plus, it feels amazing to be done with a hard workout. I felt accomplished and not as bad about eating just a little bit of sweet treats for my birthday! ;) I have to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who made my day so special! Special shout out to my teammates, my family, my boyfriend, and my boyfriend’s family! Thanks to all my friends who also sent me wonderful texts and messages through social media! It was a special day and reminds me how many amazing people have come into my life in 29 years! I still feel young, fit, and ready to live out my dreams! J XO



Finally, we have one more week until we leave for Champions Trophy! We are stopping over in the Netherlands for a holding camp and a few games before heading to England for the tournament! I am super excited to play in this prestigious tournament for the first time! It will be a good test and preparation to see where we stand for the Olympics! GO USA!


Friday, May 27, 2016

Foodie Friday!

Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice with Sweet Onion Sausage, Peppers and Onion

For my birthday last night, my sweet boyfriend Eli and I cooked a delicious meal together! He was in charge of the meat portion of the meal (like usual!) and I was in charge of the sides (as always!). I really enjoy having someone help cook because they have different ideas than me on how to combine foods. I love trying new things in the kitchen and my mind can only get so creative!

Eli cooked up some Sweet Onion Sausage from the local market and combined some peppers and onions in the mix. It was delicious! Since I am on a low carb diet, instead of making rice, I made Cauliflower Rice. I added some cilantro and lime juice to spice it up and it was absolutely delectable! Eli even told me that was one of his favorite side dishes! (It was probably just because it was my birthday and he was being nice… hehe, but I’ll take it!) I will definitely be making this again in the near future! It was yummy and was pretty easy to make!




Wednesday, April 27, 2016

100 DAYS

WOW! THERE IS ONLY 100 DAYS UNTIL THE OLYMPICS!!! WHERE DID THE TIME GO?!

Time has been flying in 2016 and the Olympics are literally right around the corner!!! We have been working our butts off here in Pennsylvania! Every single day counts and we've been making the most of each and every one. The crazy thing is that most people think of the (summer) Olympics as every 4 years, but for us, it is every day. When the time finally arrives though, after 4 years (and more!) of giving it our everything day in and day out, to put all our work on the line against the world's greatest athletes, it is magical. It is the culmination of everything we've sacrificed, we've sweated over, exhausted ourselves with endless sprints for, and yet it will be here and gone in a flash! I have vowed this whole year to make the most of the journey and enjoy the ride because in the end, that is life! It isn't all about the outcome, even though we strive to be our best and believe we have the ability to stand on the podium down in Rio this summer. These last 100 days are bound to be some of the hardest and test every part of my body inside and out, but I can't wait to embrace every moment! One day at a time, one game at a time, one moment at a time! 100 MORE TIMES! :)





Also, anyone watching the Today Show this morning?? Keep a lookout for some of my teammates! OR if you are in NYC, get down to Times Square, meet some of the hard working field hockey team, and watch a demo they are putting on! It will be a lot of fun to support my teammates and all of TEAM USA!!

Counting down the days.... almost in double digits! :)


Here are a few memories from London 2012:









Friday, April 8, 2016

Sun Safe Play

Anyone who has been around USA field hockey long enough will probably remember our Sun Safe Play Campaign from 2008. It stressed the importance of protecting your skin and health from the detrimental effects long term exposure to the sun can have on not only your skin, but on your overall health. The sun is very powerful and we need to take the proper precautions when we spend so much time enjoying its beautiful light and comforting warmth!

Besides the fact that the sun can dehydrate you and negatively affect your performance, the sun can do a number on your skin. It can cause wrinkles, brown spots, red blotches, accelerate sagging, and of course that ever painful sunburn. But what many don’t realize is that is can cause cancer. Melanoma by definition occurs when the pigment-producing cells that give color to the skin become cancerous. If not treated early, this cancer spreads to other parts of the body at which point it becomes more difficult to treat and can be fatal.

Melanoma kills an estimated 10,130 people annually! It is not even the most common of all skin cancers, but it causes the most deaths!

These stats are staggering to me, because a lot of this can be prevented with the proper protection and awareness. I urge you to take this to heart. No one is susceptible and invincible.

This subject touches me and the field hockey community deeply. As most of you know, I spent my college days at Wake Forest University. Growing up in Chapel Hill, I spent many summers down the road in Winston-Salem, for camps, Futures and attending games. I was inspired by many of the great players before me who had such a passion for the game and for life. There was one individual who stuck out though. She was my coach one summer at Wake camp and something about her was infectious. I was drawn to her. Maybe it was her height, she was short like me! Maybe it was she was always smiling and having so much fun! Maybe it was her competitive spirit that urged my extreme competitiveness to proudly come out! Maybe it was the constant encouragement and positive energy she exuded. I know it was all of these things and more! Maria Whitehead just had an energy that made you want to be around her.

  
I remember being at Wake, when Jen (our coach) told us that Maria had cancer. I was shocked and saddened, but like everyone else, I believed that if anyone could fight it and win, it was Maria (Re). She had been coaching at St. Louis University, but she moved down to Duke to get treatments. My mom worked for Duke Hospital as a nurse and I knew Duke was one of the best cancer hospitals in the country, so I knew Maria would be in good hands. In true Re fashion, she couldn’t stay away from the field hockey field. Despite getting treatments often, she would spend every moment she could out on the field with the Duke team. I loved that about her. Still doing what she loved in the face of adversity.

This was my freshman year. We made it to the final four. We had to play Duke in the semifinals. We were in Louisville and we had practice the day before our game. It was below freezing and everyone was bundled up. Jen comes over and rips her hat off to reveal a shaved head! We were shocked but knew that she had done it for Re who had just had another round of chemo and couldn’t be at the Final Four with her teams. Those gestures and moments in life will always be bigger and more important to me than any game. Not only because it is a symbol of the community at Wake Hockey, but because it reminds me of the importance of life, friendship and living ever moment to the fullest.

But at age 25, Maria lost the battle with cancer. I remember it was the week before our ACC tournament my sophomore year (2006). I remember Jen was a mess. It was like she had lost a part of herself when we lost Maria. We fought hard for the ACC championship and it was all in honor of Re. We proudly took home that championship trophy with Re smiling down on us the whole way!! We barely even had time to celebrate our victory, but we didn’t want it any other way. We wanted to support Jen and attend the Euology and celebration of Maria’s life that took place just mere hours later. We went in the lockerroom, changed, and drove over to Duke Chapel (from UNC) to honor the life of Maria Whitehead. I will never forget that day.




To this day Maria Whitehead leaves an everlasting mark on Wake Forest field hockey. To read more about how her spirit still remains, read this phenomenal blog by one of the current players, Heather Wiley. https://heatherwiley.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/a-firecracker-with-a-never-ending-flame/

I don’t know anyone who knew Maria and didn’t love her. She was the life of the party! She enjoyed life to the fullest and brought all those around her with her on her wonderful journey. She is surely missed.

I wanted to share this post now since Wake Hockey is putting on their annual fundraiser this weekend. All proceeds go to Melanoma Research. Please donate if you can!


I want to close this post by saying thank you to my sponsor Aeonskin who provides me with the best sunscreen I’ve ever used and encourages everyone to protect their skin! I can’t thank them enough for keeping me healthy and allowing me to focus just on hockey because I know I am protected every single day I walk out onto the field.





As spring hits and summer is just around the corner, please enjoy the sunshine and all the happiness it brings! But don’t forget to protect yourself the right way!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Foodie Friday- Spaghetti Squash Lo Mein

Anyone who knows me, knows I love GOOD food! Food that is not only good for me, but DELICIOUS! Training at the highest level, means I have to fuel my body at the highest level, as well. I love trying new foods and looking up new healthy recipes to try and I do my best to make at least one new thing a week! So, FOODIE FRIDAY is where I will share some of my food adventures... hopefully, they will be delicious... and you can try them, too!

Last weekend, I found a recipe for Spaghetti Squash Lo Mein. This spin on Chinese Lo Mein Noodles was super fun to make and was quite delicious! I recommend trying this one! It did take me about an hour to make... and 5 minutes to EAT though! Haha! I made this for my boyfriend and I, and we both loved it!

If you've never cooked with spaghetti squash before, I highly recommend it! It is super easy and a great replacement for any kind of pasta noodles! 

Here are a few pictures of the process and final outcome:





Here are the ingredients and directions:

Ingredients:
1 large spaghetti squash
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 celery stalks, sliced diagonally
2 cups cole slaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrots)

Directions: 
1. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Lay skin side up in a 13x9 dish and pour 1/2 inch of water in the bottom of the pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until flesh is tender. Once done, scoop out flesh with a fork so it breaks apart into strings, then set aside.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, garlic, brown sugar, and ginger, set aside.
3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet (or wok) over medium high heat. Add onion and celery, and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in cabbage until heated through, about 1 minute.
4. Stir in spaghetti squash and soy sauce mixture until well combined, about 2 minutes.
5. Serve immediately and enjoy!!


Here is the link to the blog that I found the recipe on:
http://littlebitsof.com/2014/10/spaghetti-squash-chow-mein/

I did tweak the ingredients a little bit. I skipped the white pepper. And it calls for 3 celery stalks (which I already had chopped up, so I guessed on the amount) and I would personally put a little bit less in for the next time I make it, but it is up to you!


Let me know if you try this recipe, how you put your spin on it and be sure to share some pictures!
Happy Eating!