Behind the scenes with Sofia Huerta and the USWNT
Someone once told me that I needed to "stop and smell the roses" more along my journey of life.
I'll admit that I've experienced a whirlwind couple of weeks. Various sporting events and life events have occupied a majority of my time and it has become difficult to appreciate the journey that I am on and what it means to my personal growth.
In addition to my writing responsibilities for Massive Report, I've joined a news agency in Chicago, Illinois that covers the NWSL's Chicago Red Stars and I've added another new publication to my arsenal here in Columbus.
So free time has become sparse. Albeit the feeling of accomplishment has been very rewarding.
Massive Report recently sent me on a trip to Cincinnati, Ohio to cover the United States Women's National Soccer Team. The Lady Yanks were scheduled to play a friendly soccer match against New Zealand at Nippert Stadium.
Many interesting story lines would emerge from the match, such as hometown hero Rose Lavelle returning to the Queen City to play her first professional match.
It was neat to watch a fellow Ohioan kick butt for thirty-plus minutes, but I paid special attention to the Chicago Red Stars contingent. Six Red Star players made the international squad for the United States.
Two players interested me greatly during my trip. Chicago Red Stars midfielders Julie Ertz and Sofia Huerta were two players that was dying to speak with. Not only about their international success, but how they were performing with their club team.
Ertz underwent a transition from defense to midfield has been phenomenal for club and country and Huerta because she made history in her previous appearance. Huerta became the first women in the history of US Soccer to appear for and against the United States.
I approached U.S. Soccer press officer Aaron Heifetz about the possibility of interviewing Huerta. He said if she dressed, it would be likely that I could interview her following the match.
Huerta didn't dress for the game so my chances of getting an exclusive interview looked bleak.
The United States cruised to a convincing 5-0 victory over the Kiwis and swept the series. After the match I made my way down to the field for a press conference with Head Coach Jill Ellis.
I had never interviewed someone with the stature of Ellis. I was quite nervous, but I raised my hand to get the press officer's attention and then it was my time. I asked Ellis about Julie Ertz and her performance as of late.
Here is what she had to say:
What ensued was a great banter between myself and the United States manager. Soccer is still a relatively new sport to those in Cincinnati. Thus, some of the reporters are relatively new to covering the spot.
Ellis seemed to identify my soccer knowledge and progressively became more open with me as the interview progressed.
My confidence then grew and I asked her a question about Chicago Red Stars midfielder Morgan Brian.
At the conclusion of the press conference they escort reporters to what is call the "mixed zone."
The mixed zone is defined as an area near the United States locker room that players are available for interviews following the match.
After Ellis' press conference, I talked to United States press officer Aaron Heifetz requesting an interview with Sofia Huerta. He said that he couldn't make any guarantees but would do his best.
I didn't have high hopes.
I made my way out to the mixed zone and from the locker room emerged hometown hero Rose Lavelle. Reporters asked her questions about what it ment to play her first professional game in Cincinnati and what she was most looking forward to about her time back in the Queen City.
Lavelle then retreated back to the team bus and the scrum of journalists were once again waiting for the next US athlete to emerge from the locker room.
I began to hear Aaron Heifetz speaking with one of his assistants and I heard Sofia Huerta's name come up. As I began eavesdropping on the conversation, I heard Heifetz's assistant say it shouldn't be a problem for the young midfielder to come out for an interview.
Huerta emerged from the locker room moments later looking for Heifetz. Once she located the United States press officer, they both found me and he granted me a one on one interview with her!
I was absolutely floored
Not knowing where to begin, I identified myself and gave her my affiliation. Huerta was very kind from the word go. Nerves were making their presence felt as I began to shake as I held my recorder.
I struggle with my fandom from time to time.
I mentally calmed myself down and continued my line of inquiry to the United States midfielder. I even broke some news to Huerta, I alerted her that she was the first women in the history of the United States National Team to play for and against the U.S. in competitive play.
She was shocked and even cracked a smile once she realized the gravity of the situation.
I thanked Huerta for her time as she retreated back to the team bus. I then sought out Heifetz and thanked him relentlessly for the opportunity to speak with Huerta. He happily accepted my thanks and he told me I was a "good guy" and he wanted to see what he could do to help.
The young midfielder gave me my first exclusive interview. I ran the interview days later and she shared her appreciation.
On the way home I called a few friends to express my joy. My best friend Jared told me this is the happiest he has seen me in sometime. I took a step back and realized he was right.
I began to reflect and think about how I've become this lucky. I couldn't be more thankful for the people who have given me my opportunities and put me in a position to be successful.