Imagine moving out of your family home and into a small apartment with two teammates: one you are close to, and the other you don’t know very well. Now, imagine two weeks later being told training camp is on hold, and you are going to shelter-in-place with those roommates for an indefinite period of time. That’s the reality in the COVID-19 world facing Chicago Red Stars midfielder Zoey Goralski.
However, with great teammates, coaches, trainers, friends, family and “The Great British Baking Show,” she is working through the challenges of being a professional athlete in uncertain times.
The following transcript of our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
TJ Zaremba: We are in really, really weird times, obviously. How are you doing?
Zoey Goralski: I mean, there’s good days and bad days for sure. I luckily have my roommates, which are also my teammates, so they have been keeping me kind of sane. So when we all just have bad days, we get around each other and say, “Ok, let’s do something fun or let’s do something different today to kind of like mix it up”. But, yeah, doing pretty well.
TJ: So, making the best out of a bad situation.
TJ: How long have you been around your teammates/roommates?
Zoey: So, we actually just moved in before pre-season. We have been together maybe a month. So, I have known Emily a really long time, Emily Boyd is my roommate. And then I also live with Bianca St. Georges, and I actually haven’t gotten the chance to know her before, but now we are super close because we have had to spend every day of every hour together so I’ve actually gotten to know her really well. It has been a really awesome experience to get to know them in a different way because we are forced to spend so much time together.
TJ: Have you found roles in how the apartment goes?
Zoey: Oh, like 100%. Emily Boyd, she is like the mom of the house. She makes sure we all do our chores, and gets it clean and all that stuff. And Bianca is just super chill and wants to have fun, and is trying to get us to be happy, but also relaxed at the same time. We have definitely found our roles. We’ve got a whole little family going.
TJ: What’s a normal day? Kind of walk me through it.
Zoey: I mean, for me, I love to sleep in. So actually getting able to sleep in everyday has been kind of a positive of quarantine. So, I kind of sleep in and get up. And then Emily is usually up. I make breakfast, drink my coffee, and then we decide what we’re gonna do for a work out that day. We usually do either a run or a lift. We have some weights that we brought, and we try to lift in our apartment, which has been interesting with three of us, but we make it work.
Or, we’ll just go for a run outside if it’s nice. And then we come home, make lunch, do an activity. We had a puzzle for a while that we just finished. Kind of trying to mix it up and trying not to sit on the couch and watch TV all day, which can be really easy. But, we try to mix it up every day, but trying to like do our workouts together, which has been really helpful. I don’t know if I didn’t live with them, if I would be so on top of my workouts, but it’s been really helpful to have them around.
TJ: So you said guys work out, you guys run, you lift, is there any soccer stuff you’re able to do in a small apartment, in a small area, in a confined space?
Zoey: We have some touches stuff we have been doing. We have a little mini backyard. We can do touches out there. There is a field like not too far from here that we’ve been going to if we go for a run, we’ll get some touches there. Just trying to find creative ways to feel like you’re still a soccer player, able to touch the ball and stuff. Trying to get creative in that sense.
TJ: Are you getting anything from the club. I’ve heard rumors that you guys get homework from Rory [Dames]. Is that going on?
Zoey: Yes, we did have a homework assignment. It was a very intense homework assignment. I felt like I haven’t used PowerPoint since I was in college, and I have been out of college for like three years now. I was like, “How do I even work this?” I had to relearn how to use PowerPoint. It was a whole thing. So, yeah, we’ve been getting homework assignments, and kind of like just analyzing video and giving us time to like reflect on what we can work on as players, and having conversations with them. And then we’ve also been just getting a lot of information from our strength trainer. She’s been amazing. And then also our athletic trainer. She has also been amazing, helping us with mobility, and like, “Oh, you should be doing these exercises every day, because like you’ve had this problem in the past.” We have the time now to work on getting our bodies right, making sure we’re healthy. So, that’s been a real plus communicating with them.
TJ: As a professional athlete, how do you mentally prepare yourself for when you really have no answers.
Zoey: It’s been really tough to be honest. It’s really hard to prepare for something with no end date and you just spent all this time in the off-season working on what you needed to work on, getting strong, getting fit and it feels almost like, not it was all for nothing. But, you lost some of that because you were so ready to go right when pre-season started. But kind of just changing your mind set in terms of, “Ok, now I did all that work, I have that backbone or I have that set strength or mentality that I had going into pre-season. Just maintaining that for so long, and you have to like get creative in ways that you can maintain that now, which has been tough.
But, we’re starting to learn, ok, I’m not going lose that strength, I’m not going to lose that fitness. I can still maintain it. I’m not going to lose my touches. I can still maintain them. So, it’s just kind of trying to stay positive and trying to keep your confidence throughout this whole process, because you don’t know when it’s going to end, and you always have to be ready. So, I think that’s something we’ve learned from playing soccer for so many years is like you never know when your opportunities going to be, so you constantly have to stay ready for it.
TJ: Sure. With your fitness, are you guys kind of anticipating, again, this is under the huge presumption things do get going, how much of a sprint this season is going to feel like once it does get going? Is that kind of like in the back of your head?
Zoey: It is in the back of my head, and especially our teammates too, but I think there so much we can’t control right now, and I think just focusing on what we can control has been our main talk with my roommates and with our whole team, just focusing on what you can do. So, I mean, trying to stay fit has been a huge thing, and trying to get your strength—just doing what you can in the situation is all that we can do at this point. Trying to our best in the situation, yeah.
TJ: And you mentioned your teammates. You live with two of them, how often do you keep in touch with the other teammates?
Zoey: So, we’ve actually been calling pretty frequently. We just are bored so we kind of miss each other. We used to see each other every day, talk every day. I mean, we just FaceTimed with Michele Vasconcelos last night. It’s just trying to stay in touch and feel like you have them as friends and they are there for a support system, and I know I can call on any of them if I ever need anything or if I just want to talk to them, I can definitely call anyone up. So, it’s been a great support system to have in such a weird crazy time, knowing there are people you can rely on to talk to or just distract yourself with.
TJ: And do you guys have any formal team meetings like even like conference calls or Zoom meetings?
Zoey: Yeah, we’ve been doing Zoom calls yeah, a couple of times, just to stay in touch and like to touch base with everyone with so much news coming in every day. We’ve been just trying to getting on the same page and getting on some Zoom calls once in a while.
TJ: Has anybody stood out in those calls…personality you haven’t seen before in a positive way? More in a positive light or goofy that you didn’t expect to. Have there been teammates that have done some of that?
Zoey: Yeah, so, a lot of my teammates have actually been reaching out and Hannah Davison has been reaching out to me a lot. She’s kind of goofy and is just trying to help, and she’s like, “I found this workout today and like I thought it would be really helpful.” So like getting to know people in that sense, stepping up and reaching out to people. So, I think Hannah has been really cool in that sense.
TJ: You’re kind of cooped up. You’re in a small apartment with two teammates. How about your family life? That’s gotta be hard.
Zoey: So, my family is from Naperville. So I grew up in Naperville and I’ve just moved out here recently, but my sisters are still in Naperville and my parents are in Atlanta actually. They just moved. So, I’ve been like kind of keeping in touch with my parents a little bit. Making sure they are doing ok. I’m used to seeing them every day, so it’s weird because I just moved out and then I’ve been talking to my sisters a lot actually because I’m just close to them. So, it’s weird not seeing them every day or not seeing them a lot, but we are trying to do your best.
TJ: You said you guys are trying to avoid watching too much TV. Other than homework assignments…
Zoey: We have been watching a lot though to be honest.
TJ: Sure. I was going to say, are you doing Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime or just whatever’s on?
TJ: We’ve been literally doing everything. We been watching a lot of, “The Great British Baking Show.” I don’t know if you’ve seen it.
TJ: I have not.
Zoey: We’ve watched like four seasons already. It’s great. I don’t know why we love it so much, but we’ve been watching a lot of that. We’ve been doing a lot of, we just got Disney+, so we’ve been watching Disney movies. That’s pretty much it. We watched “Tiger King” for a while, that took up like a day.
TJ: I’m one of the few that hasn’t gone near it yet.
Zoey: Yeah, it’s crazy
TJ: So, what’s your favorite movie on Disney+? What have you found that you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I forget how much I missed that one?”
Zoey: We watched “Mulan” the other day and I was like, “I used to love this movie,” and we really fell back in love with it. Emily can sing every word and every song, so she was just singing the whole time, but it was really good to watch that again, but we’ve been kind of like going back and watching the classics.
TJ: Is there a classic you haven’t seen, that you realized, “Oh my gosh, that was amazing”?
Zoey: We just watched “Coco” for the first time, which is bad we hadn’t seen it yet, but that was amazing. We loved that one.
TJ: Are there any activities, any new activities you’ve found, puzzles, coloring—anything at the end of this you can go, I never would have done this in normal sense, but that’s something you see yourself doing like finding a new passion or rediscovering an old passion?
Zoey: Well yeah, we actually just started coloring last night because we got so bored. So, we got coloring books and started coloring those. We started puzzling, which I haven’t done in years. I used to do with my grandma growing up and I haven’t done in years, so that was kind of fun. And now we’re trying to find a different puzzle, so if you have any puzzle suggestions, let me know. I used to read a lot and I haven’t really had time to do it until recently and kind of rediscovering those and I have a bunch of books I used to love and I’m trying to reread my favorites. So, it’s been really nice to have time to be able to read and relax and do stuff I normally wouldn’t do.
TJ: What’s the book on the top of your list to reread or read? How about both? Which one do you want to reread, and which one do you want to dive into that you haven’t read yet?
Zoey: I’m a nerd and one of my favorites growing up is “Fahrenheit 451”. I really like it and it’s on my list to red next.
TJ: Wonderful book.
Zoey: I think I’ve got some old like books I read in high school. I’m a big Amy Poehler fan and I love the book she wrote, so I’m trying to read that I think. I’ve got a nice list going.
TJ: Have you found anything you missed that you didn’t expect to from your day to day life, or something you took for granted?
Zoey: I really miss going to coffee shops. I love going to coffee shops. Just getting my good coffee, sitting down and relaxing. I miss that so much, and I wish I could go to one right now, but obviously safety is the best concern right now. But yeah, that’s what I miss the most. And then even like driving. I miss like driving and listening to music. It’s just weird not doing that every day.