FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME AND SANITY by Justin David Kish
For a sports athlete in 2020, it has been the ultimate struggle. The struggle has also been real in the upstart X League as well; getting ready for the upcoming season in the middle of the worldwide pandemic has put its athletes to the ultimate test. The ultimate test of preparing yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This week, I went behind the scenes and spoke with the athletes about how are they preparing for the upcoming season and dealing with the pandemic during their workouts. You will hear from athletes like Ashley McCaughan (KC Force), Lauren Crouch (Omaha Red Devils), and Aneshea Shali (Austin Sound).
The ultimate uncertainty of ever playing this year has been on the mind of the athletes of the X League and for Ashley McCaughan, she had some doubts that the season would not happen. “From the beginning of the pandemic, I had a gut feeling the season would not happen even though the league had teams on the stand.” McCaughan continued, “From an organizational standpoint, I can understand why the league wouldn’t want to make a quick to cancel or continue the season. It was somewhat frustrating to be in limbo, however, for myself, it has given me more preparation time as a rookie quarterback.”
For Lauren Crouch, “Personally, I haven’t been as frustrated as much due to my health conditions.” Lauren Crouch sustained a collarbone injury last season and has been recovering during the pandemic. “I’ve used this time to recover my body and get a leg up on the mental aspect of the game since I am newer or classified as a rookie.”
Missing the game and getting the itch to play football has been on the entire league’s mind, including Austin Sound’s Aneshea Shali. “I miss the game like crazy! I’m ready to get back on the field… Ready for the new era with X League, ready to hear the crowd, ready to prove people wrong and show them that women are out here making history!”
But what about COVID? Has COVID given these athletes an appreciation for the love of football? For Anesha Shali, it has given her a greater appreciation for life. “COVID has given me a greater appreciation for life! No question about it. We get so wrapped up in the things we can’t control, the failures instead of victories, we forget to give ourselves credit for how far we’ve come! I think of the lives lost, the people who will never be the same, unemployment, depression, and anxiety… and I think about football and how it has brought so many people together and I hope the X League does just that. It brings people back together, gives people something to talk about, something to smile about… I appreciate the people, the fans, the coaches, and the league.”
For Omaha’s Lauren Crouch, COVID has given her a greater appreciation for playing football saying, “Yes it has. I was a rookie when I got hurt, so this season I was supposed to come back stronger than ever, but because of COVID I couldn’t come back right away and show out! But this added more fuel and motivation to break out stronger when we get back on the field.”
What about when we get back to work? What are they most looking forward to upon their return to football? For Ashley McCaughan “when it comes to the season, I am looking forward to growing as a team and proving to the league that KC is not a team to take for granted.” McCaughan continues, “We have worked hard as a team to build chemistry and have created a very positive environment. We click on all aspects. Not only are we a team, but we also have each other’s backs. We are truly a family, and that will show on the field.”
For Aneshea Shali, “I am looking forward to seeing my kids and boyfriend in the stands cheering for me! Knowing what I’ve been through knowing that I pour my heart into this and that I’m seeing it all the way through. I look forward to getting my coach and my team a championship ring!”
For Lauren Crouch, “I’m looking forward to transforming my game while building a franchise team to work side by side with.”
In 2021, it’s a new year, a number of new first-year athletes will be playing the game of football, and for the veterans of women’s professional football, what advice would they give to the other athletes in the X League as they prepare for the 2021 season?
Aneshea Shali says, “Find your WHY! It’s more than just football. What motivates you to keep doing this? Early mornings, late nights, working that 9-5 then going to practice, good days, bad days, days you want to quit! You have to dig deep! Be able to see the bigger picture! You are a female athlete; you are the slim percent, set the example, be the example. There are little girls out there that want to be you, girls that didn’t make the cut at tryouts that are gunning for your spot next year! Show up and show tf out, you owe it to your teammates, the fans, YOURSELF!”
But for Lauren Crouch, she is ready to bring the hype into 2021. “Being in the learning phase, I wouldn’t say it is advice right now but more of the hype. I try to bring the energy throughout the team that will want everyone to work hard and push everyone to a win.”
The Beginning… Begins April 2021!