Interview: Red Stars' Alyssa Mautz
Women's Sports Chicago's Christine Steinmetz had the privilege of sitting down with Alyssa Mautz, midfielder for the Chicago Red Stars, to gain some insight on
1. her experience playing at an elite level in the NWSL
2. how she takes care of her body and mind,
3. some advice for athletes looking to get into the game.
Alyssa has played the last 4 seasons for the Red Stars in the NWSL and is looking forward to the 2017 season. The Red Stars play their first regular season game this Saturday, April 15th, vs. the Houston Dash. Home opener is scheduled for April 22nd at Toyota Park, 1:00 pm!
1. Tell me a little bit about your experience transitioning from college to professional soccer. What are the biggest differences about playing at the next level?
The transition from collegiate to professional soccer was a lot harder than I expected. The biggest difference was the pace of the game. The quickness of your decision making has to improve and you have to know exactly what you are going to do with the ball before receiving it. Players are smarter with their body position which makes it harder to play the ball you want. So not only do you have to play quicker, but you have to be more accurate. Lastly, in college I was used to being the fittest on the team which was an advantage, however, everyone now is fit and strong so you have to stay at your peak.
Another big transition is the recovery of my body. It used to be ice baths after training and games, but at the professional level you have to do things pre and post workout in addition to your fueling. Your body is the most important thing and you have to keep it healthy. At the professional level training is much more taxing because you are also getting older. I am always conscious of what I am doing before and after training and what I am putting in my body to recover as quickly as possible. Activities after lifting, training, and games may include stretching, foam rolling, and taking ice baths – the key is listening to your body. You are being evaluated at every training session so you have to stay at your best.
2. If you could give some advice to women who are looking to start participating in organized sports or used to play but haven’t lately, what would you say?
First, I would let them know that with any new activity your body is going to feel different. Expect to feel some muscles that you didn’t know existed to be sore. Give your body some time to adjust. If you are returning to the sport, you might know what to expect but the performance and how you feel might not live up to your standards right away. It can be frustrating at first to not be as quick or skilled as you as used to, but it can come back with consistent play.
What are the benefits that you see from playing with women, specifically?
The benefits of playing with a women’s organization is the ability to grow the sport. Younger girls these days need role models, especially active women. Women do not get enough attention as compared to men’s sports. By participating and demonstrating our ability to play at the same level will only drive more interest and more respect for women’s sport. Additionally, your teammates become your friends, best friends, or maybe even family. It is important to have those people to spend time with or even help you through things that you may experience outside of soccer.
3. How do you feel like the Women’s soccer landscape has changed over the past 5 years?
Women’s soccer has been rapidly evolving over the past 5 years and continues to do so. Each year I have played professionally the competition has increased and better quality players are coming out of college. They are able to quickly adjust to the speed and quality of play, and forcing the veterans to work hard for their spot.
On a worldwide scale, other countries are also catching up to the US Women’s National Team. This year’s FIFA rankings put the USA at #2 in the world. It isn’t as easy to beat other teams. The level of play continues to increase, and it’s amazing to see the change over the past few years. I think this has something to do with the increasing opportunities for women to play at a higher level. The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) is going into its 5th year, the longest standing league to stay alive in the US. The fans and media coverage is growing. The Women’s soccer game is still trying to make it’s breakthrough but we continue to grow closer.
4. As a Registered Dietitian I’m always asking athletes how they take care of their bodies. Can you give me some insight into how you take care of your body? Sleep habits? Nutrition? Stretching? What are the 3 biggest things you do to keep you feeling great?
Taking care of my body is one of the most important things to continue playing soccer at the top level. Over the years I have become more and more conscious of what I am putting into my body, how I take care of it after training sessions and games, and how much sleep I need. I keep a balanced diet and try to get in a protein source at every meal. With this balance I also ensure I am getting my vegetables, fruits, and carbs on the plate. I rarely dine out because I want to know what ingredients they are using and how it’s being prepared.
I always try to carry water with me and stay hydrated and my main drinks are water and tea throughout the day. Hydration is huge for me because I am a salty sweater and can cramp up during games. I have found drinking Pedialyte on game day helps me to get more electrolytes in.
Pregame meal is usually just a slice of toast with almond butter, bananas, and honey. I will also add fruit with it as well. I don’t like to eat a heavy meal before I play. Before exercise I try to foam roll for about 10 minutes and include some muscle-activation exercises. To recover after training I get a good stretch, foam roll, and cold tub if I’m super sore. I also try to do a yoga session once per week so I keep up with my stretching and flexibility. Now that I am getting older what I do before and after depends on how my body feels. I know that I have to keep up with it in order to continue playing at such a high level.