This is The Tribune Mailbag, a new series in which athletes answer questions directly sent from our readers. Our first edition featured The Captain himself, and our second edition featured NHL enforcer and Twitter savant Paul Bissonnette.
Next up, we feature a True American Hero and 2015 World Cup champion, Megan Rapinoe. Take it away, Megan.
If you had to be trapped on a desert island with one member of the USWNT, and you could only bring one thing from home, who and what would you pick? – Michael
Oh gosh. Well, assuming I actually want to get off the island someday instead of taking a much needed vacation, the first question that comes to mind is which one of my teammates is the most resourceful. I’d go with Kelly O’Hara. She’s tenacious, outdoorsy. Does she camp, though? I dunno. I just feel like she’s a survivor. She could hunt with her bare hands and get it done.
Hmm. What would I take? I’m not going out there with my headphones. I’m getting off that island. I’m bringing a flintstone to make a fire … with a Swiss army knife attached to it. We’re gonna make a big old fire and roast … some … island stuff.
What’s the funniest or most embarrassing story from your time in Canada during the World Cup? – Julie
So we had these vans that transported us everywhere during the tournament. To and from practice. To and from the airport and the hotel. The players only had a certain number of vans to split between them, so they were like a precious commodity. It was always a mad hunt for the keys every time we wanted to go somewhere. Eventually someone would find the keys in their pocket and that would be it. But after we won our Round of 16 game, we had to leave Edmonton and go to Ottawa. Only our van keys went missing. And they stayed missing. To the point where our GM Tim Ryder was sending out panicked emails. URGENT: WHO HAS THE VAN KEYS? We were all about to call cabs when Tim opened his hotel room door and the keys were lying right there. Somebody with a guilty conscience tossed them and ran. Nobody claimed it. We think it was Sydney. But she denies it to this day.
Let’s do some quick word associations. When you hear these names, type the first thing that comes to mind. We’ll know if you’re lying! – Josh
Coolest most awesome person ever
Jerk but entertaining
Who was the most impressive player you played against during the World Cup, and what do they do that makes them so special? – Lauren
Wow, that’s tough. I enjoyed playing against Aya Miyama, the captain for Japan. She’s equally skilled with both feet, and she’s so smart that she can dictate the game in a different way than most players. Instead of running past you, she thinks past you.
You had to play on artificial turf despite protests from women all across the sport about injury risks and equality issues. After playing on it for a month and winning a World Cup, what’s your opinion now? – Ryan
Honestly, I think it’s even more crap now than I did before. I hated playing on it. And look, I get it … We don’t have the ability to play on natural grass fields all the time. Sometimes it’s not logistically or financially possible. But at the international level, to hold a major money-making global spectacle and to have to play on turf is ridiculous, in my opinion. The World Cup is hard enough on your body due to all the travel. To add extra wear and tear because of the turf isn’t fair. I definitely felt it on my lower back and my ankles in particular.
When myself and many others filed the lawsuit before the tournament, it was a little late for anything to be done. I get it. But a World Cup should never be played on artificial turf again. FIFA should be at the forefront of equality and safety issues, not lagging behind.
You just won the World Cup for the United States of America. You are a hero. But think past that for a second. What does the women’s game need to do to go to the next level in this country? Is there a next level? What do we need to work on? P.S. You’re a hero. – Alex R
Yes, there’s a next level. We need more funding. Listen, it’s awesome that people got on board and watched the World Cup and say we’re awesome and we’re heroes. And it’s cool that businesses like us, but I really hope they put their money where their mouth is. The women’s game can make money. It’s proven. It’s not a handout. It’s not “you should do the right thing.” More than 20 million people watched the Final in the U.S. alone. That’s real money. We’re not niche. We’re in the pop market. We’re getting that big.
Come on, corporate people: Give it to me I’m worth it. You know that song? If advertisers caught up with our fans, we could use that money to provide a more reasonable living for all players, not just those on the USWNT, and invest in proper facilities and fields. We’re currently on a victory tour, playing matches across the country. Out of the 10 games, seven will be on artificial turf. In one stadium, we were literally picking up bolts from the turf before the match. I want as many people to see us as possible, but my ankles could use some nice, soft grass for once.
Is a hotdog a sandwich? Thanks in advance. – “Boss”
No. A hot dog is a hot dog. A burger is a sandwich. But a hot dog? Not a sammy.
As someone who is very new to soccer (thanks to the USWNT and the English Premier League), I love everything about the sport. However, I have a little trouble understanding what a manager actually does. Can you explain to a novice like me what makes a great manager (and what makes a bad one)? – Angela
It’s a lot about tactics and putting together training sessions and communicating your vision, but I think at the highest level, it’s mostly about managing your players as human beings. How do you get the best out of them? How do you get people to leave their egos at the door? Your players have to play for each other. I think sometimes it doesn’t matter how good you are at Xs and Os, if the players aren’t with you, it’s really difficult. You might have a player who responds well to criticism and you can be harder on them. But others are very sensitive. That’s not a knock on them. It’s just their personality. If you bash them for being mentally weak, they won’t respond, so what’s the point? Knowing how to push the right buttons is a lot of the job.
What did you do at a younger age, like at age 12 (like me) to be able to play on the U.S. Women’s National Team. – Erica
Listen, Erica: I’m going to tell you something you probably don’t hear enough … HAVE FUN! Don’t just concentrate on soccer. Play all kinds of sports. It will help you be more well-rounded athletically and help you have a more well-rounded life. I was lucky from a young age to have coaches who valued creativity on the field and who let me make mistakes. Don’t worry about being perfect out there. Use your imagination. Be creative with the ball. Can I tell you a secret? My teams lost all the time when I was growing up. Don’t worry too much about winning yet. My teams didn’t start winning until I was midway through high school. Oh yeah, and watch a ton of soccer on TV.
Listen, Erica’s parents: People are starting to take youth soccer way too seriously. Don’t have your kids play year-round. They need a break. In reality, 99 percent of kids aren’t going to make it to the pros. But there’s a misconception out there that you can plot your kid’s road to stardom. I sympathize with parents, because I think they’re sold this idea: If you do this, this and this … if you have your child join this club, then do this camp, then meet this coach, then they will be on the path. The only true path is this: Give your child the freedom to have fun and be a kid and see what happens.
Of all the stadiums in the world you’ve played in, which one is your favorite? – Mike
You know what? It’s still my Merlo Field at the University of Portland, where I played college Friday night, under the lights, in front of 5,000 crazy college students? There’s nothing better.
I’m 13 years old and I play soccer for my club team and it is my dream to play for the USWNT. Sometimes I get made fun of by the popular kids for training like a “boy.” Did this ever happen to you? How did you deal with it? – Kara
I feel you, Kara. I was very different from a lot of the other girls. I wasn’t going to all the dances. I wasn’t in cheerleading. Sometimes that was hard. But you know what? For me, I always told myself, “I love doing what I’m doing.” I know: Kids are so mean sometimes. Remember that it comes from their own insecurities and their weird teen hormones. Keep believing in what you’re doing. Don’t let someone rain in your parade. It’s okay to love what you’re doing. How many people find something they truly love? You’re the lucky one.