With all the focus put on nutrition, rest and balanced workouts for world-class athletes, being a mom trumps it all for U.S. Women’s National Team captain Christie Rampone.
Rampone’s two daughters, both school-age now that the youngest recently turned five, have been a constant fixture on the road for Rampone the past nine years, traveling everywhere with the star center back.
“I have played games with no sleep,” Rampone tells SI.com. “It can be exhausting, but rewarding at the same time. As captain of the team, you need to be a good teammate and then be a mom in the hotel. I can’t focus and concentrate on mistakes and getting too hard on myself as I did as a younger player. Then I would focus on the wrong things instead of being a mother.”
Bringing daughters along, across time zones and international boundaries hasn’t been all late nights and struggles, though. Rampone says the “girls on the team” have proven amazing in entertaining her daughters and making the trips easier for them. Now, though, with time dwindling before this summer’s World Cup in Canada and her youngest daughter spending more time at preschool, Rampone’s on-the-road adventures focus less on bringing along her daughters and more on prepping for the World Cup.
At age 39, Rampone admits that her travel routine looks a lot different than it once did. Nutrition and rest play central themes in every trip.
“The nutrition part is tough,” she says. “When traveling, you are primarily eating hotel food.” As a gluten-free eater—there are a handful of gluten-free women on the national team—she “definitely brings extra things with me in the suitcase.”
Through the buffet line, Rampone is careful to stay as plain as she can. One benefit of the USWNT is the ability to enlist the help of the team's nutritionist and fitness coach, Dawn Scott, working with the hotel kitchen so Rampone isn’t fending for herself.
Just to be sure, she carries in her suitcase almond milk, gluten free Larabars and, when traveling internationally, tuna fish for guaranteed protein. During her most recent trip she added some gluten free mac and cheese. As someone who also battles Lyme disease, Rampone uses the supplement EpiCor to help with her immune strength. “Staying healthy is the most important thing on the road,” she says.
For workouts, she follows the team’s instructions, often hitting two or three team-led sessions a day. With up to four hours every non-competition day devoted to either tactical or technical workouts and additional time watching game film, when the team responsibilities end, Rampone’s resting begins.
“In my younger years I would venture out in the cities and do more shopping and exploring,” she says. “As I’ve gotten older, I have been more about the recovery.”
For Rampone, resting includes watching TV shows and movies on iTunes. “I’m checking out,” she jokes, whether with shows such as Scandal or Grey’s Anatomy or by supporting a friend who co-wrote How to Get Away with Murder.
Other than her shows, Rampone doesn’t have too much in the way of essential packing items. Most of her basic soccer gear is taken care of by the team. Beyond that, she travels with a heart rate monitor and watch, as the coaching staff wants the players clocking heart rate.
“Every day we report and log in how our legs feel, what our heart rate was,” Rampone says.
For gear, Rampone brings comfort clothes and recovery compression pants for the hotel. For the pitch, she goes old school, using the same pair of Adidas Predator cleats for as long as possible.
With USWNT trips lasting days or weeks, there’s always one day during a road trip on which the team will “go on an adventure and make those memories.” Rampone certainly takes part in those, but has long left the life of soaking up culture. Or soaking up sun.
“The younger years I used to do too much sunning,” she says. “Being in the sun too much at the pool and strolling out by myself adding extra wear and tear. I’m relaxing in recovery pants nowadays."
“As you get older you educate yourself on off-the-field stuff more,” Rampone says. Since soccer was a part of her life since age five, she now understands that recovery and health are what keep her going. “You don’t get those days off, there is no ‘I’m sick and I’m taking the day off.’ You are constantly pushing through it and the stress on the body and the stress on the mind, if you stay ahead of it, you are in a better place to be more successful.”
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When it comes time to hit the various cities in Canada in June—the USWNT is guaranteed games in Winnipeg and Vancouver—Rampone will “definitely focus on the World Cup” and not worry about taking in culture and bringing upon more distractions.
“Hopefully we are hoisting up that World Cup," says Rampone, "so I will want to return to Canada and go sightseeing."
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.