District Fray: How was training camp in Florida with the team?
Andi Sullivan: Training camp was great. We were fortunate to be able to travel and train safely. It was helpful for our group to ditch some bad weather days in the DMV for some sunshine in Florida. Palm Beach Atlantic [University] hosted us on their field and in their gym. The trip definitely was a great opportunity to prepare for the season and for our team to bond more.
You are entering your fourth season with the Washington Spirit and third season as a captain. Since your rookie season in 2018, there have been a lot of changes to build up this team to be a title contender. How are you feeling coming into this season and what have you learned since 2018?
The Spirit, as an organization and team, has changed constantly and improved drastically since my rookie season. I feel like I could write a book about all the things that have happened and what I have learned in my first three seasons with the team. Every day, week, month and season, I am learning. And I think that is the best lesson I have taken from my experiences here: to keep having a beginner’s mind that allows me to stay present and continue to get better every single day.
This was a busy offseason, with an impressive draft class coming in and also a few big roster moves (the departure of Mallory Pugh and Rose Lavelle, but the arrival of Kelley O’Hara and Emily Sonnett). How has the current squad been looking on the field and what are you excited for this season with the new additions to the team?
Every year I’ve been here, there have been several entrances and exits. It’s a big part of the business. I don’t envy the decision-makers in those situations because it’s very difficult to balance consistency and change, which are both usually needed in an off-season. My time at the Spirit has always been filled with skilled players, but more importantly, incredible people to be surrounded with. I firmly believe our current squad will have the best on-field product we have ever had — one that looks to bring home a championship.
You’ve had the unusual experience of playing without any fans. Thankfully, you have two home games coming up this month in the Challenge Cup where a limited number of fans can attend. Can you describe the last year as an athlete during Covid and what you are most looking forward to post-pandemic?
The earlier stages of the pandemic were very uncertain for us as professional athletes, as it was for the whole world. We were very isolated and some of us were questioning our careers and our futures. As time passed, we became a lucky group because, with some additional safety measures, we were still able to physically go to work and be around our teammates and staff. We know that so much of the world has not been able to do the same with their peers. It is something we don’t take lightly. That is part of our motivation: to work hard to perform well so we can entertain our community, whether in person or virtually. On the other side of the pandemic, I can’t wait to spend time with my family and friends. To me, interacting with our fans is an extension of that.
With the attendance limitations for games currently in place, what are other ways fans can engage with the team during the pandemic?
We hope fans are looking forward to watching our games however they can. We still do events virtually, especially with our season ticket holders. If fans have other ideas of how they would like to safely engage with us, I’m sure everyone at the Washington Spirit would love to hear them.
For those new to soccer, what are some skills that are key to develop? Any tips you can give on some solo work one can do to improve their game?
The best way to improve with the ball is just to spend time with it. There are infinite things you can do with a ball and no one path to get better. Figure out what works for you. When I was getting started, I would just look up different moves or skills on YouTube to mimic at first. Then I would go find a space to just break it down and try it. This is a strategy I still use when analyzing and improving my own skills.
As a native of the area, what are some of your favorite local spots to explore?
Growing up in this area, I didn’t realize how cool it was to have such a global and exciting city so accessible to me. Another thing I am looking forward to when we’ve hit a turning point in the pandemic is to spend more time exploring my hometown again. I usually spend most of my city time going to other professional sporting events. I’ve also enjoyed spending some afternoons in Georgetown walking near the water, and probably eating a cookie from Levain Bakery. I am looking forward to doing those things, and hopefully going to some Smithsonian museums and trying out other restaurants.
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