I first discovered Yael Averbuch on Youtube when I was watching different skills training videos. I then linked over to her blog and what really caught my attention were her posts about individual training, mental toughness, and dealing with adversity. She must know something about preparation and mental toughness; at the best college soccer program in the country she set the school record starting 105 consecutive matches at the University of North Carolina.
Yael currently plays for the F.C. Kansas City in the National Women's Soccer League and the United States women's national soccer team. During her career as a center midfielder at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Averbuch was named national player of the year by both Soccer Buzz and Top Drawer Soccer. Averbuch was selected in the first round of the 2009 WPS Draft (4th overall) by her home state team, Sky Blue FC. She played for Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC in the Damallsvenskan of the UEFA Women's Champions Leagueand made a brief stint with WFC Rossiyanka. She is a two-time WPS champion with Sky Blue FC and theWestern New York Flash. Averbuch played for the United States at every level of the youth national teams, and as of 2013 played for the United States women's national soccer team.
I am sure you will get a lot out of this interview so here, we, go....
1. Yael, as someone who has US Women's National Team experience, what are your thoughts on the way the WWC went down? How about the way people were turning on Jill Ellis during the opening games and how things turned out?
YA: From my experience with the USWNT, I know that the team, and individual players, ALWAYS show up in big moments. The team definitely didn't start the tournament with the type of dominant performances they are expecting from themselves, but that actually made me even more certain that they would have the desire and capability to come together when the pressure and stakes got raised. It's easy to be critical from afar and question tactics, individual performances, etc. but the team was so full of experience that I think we all should have had trust that they would figure it out and were prepared to do so.
2. I have read Anson Dorrance's book, Training Soccer Champions and from what I gather your mother was a co author on Dorrance's other book, The Vision of a Champion. UNC soccer culture is extremely competitive and each practice was a competition. Being a former Tar Heel, please tell the readers what your experience was like and some of what you learned by being in that environment?
YA: Yes, the UNC training environment is like no other team of which I've been a part. Literally EVERYTHING you do in training is recorded there. I went there knowing that this was the case and with the intention of having every weakness in my game exposed and addressed. And that is exactly what happened. There are no secrets when you play for Anson Dorrance. You know exactly where you stand in every aspect of the game. For me, the big challenge were the physical areas. Anson traditionally recruits some of the best athletes in the country. Speed, agility, and physical combativeness are not my strengths as a player but I improved those areas enormously during my time at UNC. More importantly, it was an important step for me mentally to compete every day against the absolute best in those areas and be completely vulnerable and have to figure it out. That was my intention in going there and for all 4 years playing for Anson I was pushed to my physical and mental limit. It helped me to add things to my arsenal as a player that I would have never been able to otherwise.
3 . You mentioned recently that since playing for F.C. Kansas City, you are learning about footwork as it relates to defending, and how you no longer perceive the beautiful aspects of the game entirely related to having the soccer ball. Please discuss what you are learning, this footwork, and how this has changed your approach to the game.
YA: I've been playing center back for most of the season so far. I've gained a huge appreciation for all aspects of the game that are played without the ball. I have had to pay much more attention to positioning, communication, following directions, marking, and efficient movements in important moments. Playing in the back line has made me see the game from a completely different perspective and I've enjoyed it thoroughly. I now see defending as an art and can appreciate the defensive role of a midfielder so much more. I'm excited to play midfield again and see how well I can implement my new perspective.
4. On your blog, you also have a great article about embracing change as a way of life. In fact, that is the title of your post. Professional athletes are constantly on the move, sleeping in different places, dealing with injuries, losses, and things outside of their control. Do you have any practices or routines you use to stay grounded while things make change externally?
YA: I think that I have developed a personal philosophy that helps me cope with change and all the things I can't control. I focus extensively on the things I can always control and take a great deal of pride in doing them to the best of my ability. I take care of my body religiously. I create routines and rituals that make me feel happy and relaxed mentally and spiritually. I try to surround myself with people that help me maintain and build positive energy. I focus on my own character and how I treat others. And I try to remain constantly aware of all the things I have to be grateful for, which are a lot. I love the quote, "what you see depends mainly on what you look for," and I try my best to remember that and see the positive in situations. This is always much easier said than done and I do have moments when I get overwhelmed by things out of my control. But the more I reinforce the positive habits, the easier they are to rely upon in tough times.
5. I am digging the philosopher side in you. You wrote "In Everything extraordinary — passion, faith, love — goes against logic." You also wrote, "When I lace up my boots there is no room for logic." What are the costs of being too logical both in life, and on the soccer field? Do you ever look back and wish you were more logical?
YA: This is a tough one! I don't think there are necessarily costs to being too logical, but more if you expect those things to work in logical ways. Every time I expect logic from situations that don't work through logic I am left baffled and disappointed. So this piece was more about reminding myself not to expect logic from things that are inherently illogical. I actually think I am a very logical more person and try to make my world fit the logic I attempt to live by. But it never does! I have to constantly remind myself that so many things do not and will not subscribe to my personal logic so I must let go. Letting go of the expectations that things and people will be logical can be very freeing - and I wish I was able to do it more! So I guess to answer your question, I wish I was less logical.
For more on Yael, visit her website at www.yaelaverbuch.com