“Learn to take comfort in rituals”
One of the most common questions you can be asked is, “so what do you do for a living?” Now, when someone asks me that, and I respond with “I play professional soccer overseas” I get a lot of strange looks and double takes.
It’s definitely not what people are expecting to hear! Normally people are curious and want to know more, so one of the questions I hear the most is, “well, so what do you do all day!?” A lot of people don’t know what my average day-to-day life is like, so I thought I would use this post to shed some light on what a normal week in France is like for me!
In my opinion, one of the best things about playing in Europe is the cadence of the season. Training all week, travel Saturday, match on Sunday. Week in and week out, with few exceptions, that is how the season flows. It is very different than both the American professional season and collegiate season. Back home everything feels very rushed: games are played every couple of days with very little recovery time in between. Road swings in which you play back-to-back away games are very common and to be expected. During my time in France, with such a defined rhythm to the season, I have been able to make a routine that allows me to be successful and feel comfortable even with being so far from home.
Truth be told, my life here in France is extremely simple. Contrary to what a lot of people think, playing sports overseas does not equate to a super glamorous lifestyle! I am definitely a creature of habit, so the cyclical flow of the season fits well with my lifestyle. And while I have been really lucky to take some great trips and visit some really amazing places this year, more often than not our schedule does not allow for a ton of extracurricular travel. We play our matches on Sundays, so most weekends are taken up with game prep, and the only day I have off during the week is Thursday.
I have really come to enjoy the routine that I have made here. Even though I don’t set an alarm, I normally wake up early (which will shock my mother; she knows first hand just how late I am capable of sleeping). I will go for a run first thing, to stretch my muscles and help wake my brain up. I am more often than not the first one up in my apartment, and I really like having the time in the morning to myself. It is very peaceful to have the time to drink my coffee, eat my breakfast, and think about what the day has in store for me. It has become part of my process and it helps me organize my thoughts to keep the rest of the day in order. Another unchanging part of my morning routine is to some time with the handy dandy language app, DuoLingo. It has been amazingly helpful with my French, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in studying another language!
Once my roommates start waking up I am normally headed out the door. I share an apartment with three of my teammates. I live with another American player, a girl from Cameroon, and a teammate from France. It is definitely interesting living with girls from such different cultures, but we make it work. This is my first real experience living with teammates, and there has been a bit of learning curve with getting used to being around each other so much. One of our biggest challenges is finding creative ways to fit enough food in our tiny fridge for four girls!
Right across the street from our apartment building is our practice field, which makes training very convenient, especially since none of us can drive here! It is great just to be able to walk down the stairs (granted going back up all five flights is not so fun afterwards) and out the door to training. Worrying about a ride and being on time can be a bit stressful, so our proximity to the field simplifies everything. Three other girls from the club also live in our building, so I am surrounded by teammates. Our apartment is also very well situated in regards to getting around Yzeure. There are two different grocery stores within a fifteen-minute walk, and there is also a convenient store right around the corner if I need something last minute.
The gym that I work out at during the week is also just a fifteen-minute walk from my apartment, so I definitely take advantage of that. I play for a smaller club, so the vast majority of my teammates work or are in school. This means our team must train at night so that everyone can be there. While this is good for the team, it has made me get creative with filling the hours of the day. I try to go to the gym every day during the week. My workouts depend on the day and how my body is feeling from training, but overall I feel like a better athlete when I have a strength component added into my daily routine. I have also been experimenting with some yoga-like, stretching-based classes, and I think it has had a positive effect on my playing!
When I get home from the gym, I have the whole afternoon ahead of me. I will do a lot of random stuff that simply needs doing: going to the store, cooking, laundry, blog writing. I try to keep up with my friends and family regularly, so I will make sure to write emails and messages to different people. I also have a couple friends and family members that I correspond with the old fashioned way, writing letters! It is always fun to get something other than bills and advertisements in the mail. One afternoon a week, normally Wednesday, I tutor a group of kids from a school in Yzeure in English. It helps break up the week, plus it’s fun to try to help them improve their language skills! Other than that, I try to relax and get mentally prepared for that night’s training.
My club trains four nights a week. While Monday is a recovery and regeneration session for my teammates, I do something a bit different. Our club shares the same goalkeeping coach with the men’s football club, AS Yzeure 03 Auvergne, so Monday nights I join their team for training. Training with guys who are more athletic and who can hit harder shots has forced me to step my game up. It is definitely my hardest night of training, but it is without a doubt my favorite night as well. We work really, really hard, but we also have a lot of fun together!
The rest of the week of training follows a distinct rhythm. Tuesday is a pretty typical training session, with more skill work and a technical emphasis. Wednesday I do an hour of goalkeeping training before beginning the team training. Wednesday training is a bit more fitness based since Thursday is our day off. When we meet back up again for Friday training, it is more focused on preparation for the weekend’s match.
As I mentioned before, Thursday is our day off. When the weather is nice, I love walking to Moulins, the next town over, and spending the afternoon in the Place d’Allier, or the city center. It is only a twenty-minute walk from my apartment, and there are some shops and boutiques that can keep me occupied! I have also made some friends outside of football here, so we will try to meet for coffee on Thursdays. I have one friend who wants to improve her English, so when we meet up the idea is that I can only speak in French while she can only speak in English! It makes for some interesting conversation to say the least!
Since Thursday night is the only night we have off during the week, I like to try to do something outside of the apartment. As luck would have it, the movie theater in town does a series called Les Jeudis de David, where they show a version originale sous-titree movie! This means once a week (conveniently on my only night off) they show a movie in English! Happy day. It’s the little things, right!? I have been able to see Captain Phillips, American Hustle, and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Thursday nights are also perfect for having dinner at a normal time since we don’t have training! Some weeks I will meet up with my host family from the club. I stayed with them when I first got to France, to help with the transition, and they have honestly become like my second family. We always have a good time together, and so I really enjoy getting to have dinner with them every couple weeks.
So there you have it! That is a basic breakdown of how I spend my time here in France. The weekends always revolve around our match, so I lie low and just try to rest up for the game. If the men’s team plays at home on Saturday night then I will go and support, but other than that my weekends are pretty quiet.
It’s not the most exciting life, but I have really come to enjoy my routine here. It has been wonderful to have time to explore hobbies and take time to enjoy the little things in life. A lot of people and other players find it surprising that I enjoy being in Yzeure so much! They think it’s too small, that there’s nothing to do, that I must be bored all the time. Nope. Nope. Nope. The truth is I really enjoy living here! Don’t get me wrong; it did take a little bit of time to adjust to the size of Yzeure. But since I relocated from Houston, Texas, the fourth biggest city in the United States, really anywhere was going to be a big change! I feel that being in a smaller city really allows me to appreciate the culture of a different country in a better way, as well as slow down the pace of my life. Who knows when if I ever will have this much time again in my life to read books, learn how to cook, try to speak French, write old fashioned letters? I am not sure what the future holds, so I am going to embrace the creature of habit I have become and keep trying to enjoy the little things in life!
Peace, love, and the simple pleasures in life,
Professional goalkeeper for ASPTT Albi in the French Division 1. Previous player at Foot Féminin Yzeure, Forfar Farmington FC (Scotland SWPL) and the Houston Aces (USA WPSL). Inquisitive adventurer uniting my first great love, football, with my passion for exploring. Proud alumna of Rice University (Go Owls!)