Jessica McDonald: Chapter 13 – The Competitive Matrix

Jessica McDonald has become an absolute superstar athlete, both on and off the pitch. She has 19 caps for the US Women’s National Team and has led the North Carolina Courage to 2 NWSL championships. At UNC, she was a member of the 2008 and 2009 NCAA championship teams. But for Jessica, the path hasn’t always been easy. She started her college career at Phoenix College and has had to hustle and grind for everything she has. This podcast will take you through Jessica’s humble beginnings starting at Cactus High School in Phoenix, AZ through her World Cup success, and her support of the UNC Women’s Soccer program.


Dean Linke: Hello everyone. And welcome back to the vision of a champion podcast. I’m your host Dean Linke longtime soccer broadcaster, and the  longtime voice of the North Carolina courage women’s professional soccer team. For today’s episode, we will be taking a look at chapter 10 of the vision of a champion titled stepping up.

To college soccer. This chapter goes over the intense transition that many high school soccer stars must make to be competitive on their college teams. The transition to college is inherently difficult for many young adults in the first place. Then. Tack on training, traveling and competing for a varsity sport of a high profile college.

Well, it’s not easy, certainly not a walk in the park or many seniors feel accomplished for achieving a spot on a respected college roster. In many cases, the challenge of getting playing time for that team. Can be much greater than getting recruited by that team in the first place. And we’ll dive into that today.

And as always, I am with the  legend that is Anson Dorrance, and today we’ll be joined by a player I Marvel at from the North Carolina courage broadcast booth, the great Jessica McDonald, as we break down the challenges and memories of what it is like to step up to college soccer. So, let me tell you a little bit more about the amazing real life soccer mom.

That is the incomparable Jessica McDonald, who, by the way, in my view, has done more to step out of her comfort zone and to maximize every opportunity presented her after being a part of the most recent us women’s world cup championship team than I think any player on that team has done. So it was all as I always tell Jessica well done, and thanks for always stayed true to yourself and always be an available and present to the people around her, including me.

Thanks Jessica. For being you.

Jessica McDonald: Yeah, thank you. Appreciate that one. An intro.

Dean Linke: Well, we got more as for your college experience. It was an interesting path for  Jessica. Jessica attended Phoenix college here in her freshman and sophomore year of college, or get this. She played soccer, basketball, and track, and was a member of the honors program.

Remember Jessica McDonald was a high school phenom. She attended cactus high school in Glendale, Arizona, where she played basketball all four years and ran tractor in her junior and senior years in 2004 and 2006. Jessica McDonald was a member of state championship basketball teams, and it was a first team all-state selection.

She was also a state champion and record holder, Darren, her track and field career. Jessica transferred to UNC and she immediately made an impact on the North Carolina team. Despite only playing 75% of the games, she led her team and assist and helped UNC win the national championship in 2008 after finishing her college career.

She made herself a vital asset to many professional teams in the U S and in Australia. She now plays of course, with the North Carolina courage and was a prominent force for their  back-to-back NWSL championships, especially in 2018 where she was named the N WSL championship game MVP. For scoring two goals in a three, nothing thrashing over Portland.

Jessica was called up to the senior us national team in 2016, after an amazing year with the VIN named Western New York flash, she was selected to the 2019 world cup roster. And help the U S prove again that they are indeed the best in the world. So great to have Jessica and as always, we welcome the legendary Anson Dorrance 22 national championships, a world cup championship coach back in 1991.

And Doris has helped so many young women like Jessica unlock their potential and become a mung, the best soccer players in the world, the greatest college coach of all time, and one of the best players to have played for him. It is truly a delight to talk to you both about what it takes to make the transition to college soccer.

We welcome you, both Anson and  Jessica. Great to be with you. Thank you. All right, Jessica, before we dive into this chapter about the transition to college soccer, let me just restate how proud I am of you for all you’ve done with this opportunity presented you being a part of the last world cup team.

You’re doing it all. I love that approach. How did you decide to just go for it and maximize the moment? Because you have seize the day, every day.

Jessica McDonald: Yeah, it’s, it’s all about passion and love of the game, you know, and as you get older, you become wiser as a player and obviously as a human being as well, you know, you, you live and you learn and that’s exactly what I’ve always enjoyed doing on the soccer field is just learning and growing.

Dean Linke: And so that’s obviously what’s led me to. Honestly where I’m at today. So I just enjoy the journey overall. That’s all. That’s what it’s all about. It’s a distill word you might use. This woman is omnipresent. She is everywhere including here right now. You must be so proud.

Anson Dorrance: Well, I am a man. Actually you skipped a  little piece of her resume.

She won two national championships for me, not one. So my gosh, I can’t believe you skip one of her championships. And then actually, what was really cool is because, you know, there’s no live sports right now. I’m watching all these replays of all these games and I’m certainly watching the, you know, 2018 men’s world cup and a lot of those games, but also they pulled out of the archives, our defeat of Stanford at Texas a and M.

And that was an incredible roster. I mean, Lucy bronze was on that roster. Tobin Heath was on that roster. Hey, Casey. Maghera, you know, a lot of these, you know, Tarheel greats of Whitney, Angus. I mean, there’s so many people in that roster and then playing for Stanford or Kelly O’Hara who of course gets objected beautifully near the end of the game.

I love that she, you know, she whacked up angled from behind and then she’s thrown out. It was her second yellow, but less we forget.  Jessica scored the only goal in that game to help us, you know, when that national championship that year. So we’ve got to do a better job introducing our guests. Dean. I just want you to know there has to be more of this detail.

And anyway, so I’m watching this game and I’m looking at that, that field, Jess and my gosh, that was like the original, you know, world cup, babies of video, seeing all you guys run around out there. And I really enjoyed myself.

Dean Linke: Well say the incident, too many championships account for you and for just a McDonald.

And I’m glad that you’ve plugged the other one and Jessica, to be fair, you did not have the best situation growing up. You’ve been open about that. In fact, you have said sports was your outlet from home life. How did you know that going to college as a student athlete was for lack of a better word, your way out to a better life.

And why did you start at Phoenix college?

Jessica McDonald: It was the mentors that I had in my life from. Club coaches to basketball  coaches. I mean, any kind of coach or teacher that I had, they helped lead me down this path. And so I wasn’t getting the right guidance at home, but I was outside the home. And that’s what I love doing was obviously learning from other people and help guiding me into a better life.

And so I’m happy. I listened to be honest, I had a life changing event, happened my junior year in high school. And. It was, it was tough for me mentally and physically. It was, it was draining and my grades dropped my grades drop my junior and senior year and my GPA got a little bit lower and sat scores.

Weren’t right with my GPA. So I don’t know if they still do that. Now, if you test your, if you do the sat and act testing, I don’t know if it has to amount to your GPA, but that’s how it was. When I was in high school and my sat scores never matched my GPA because it all just dropped all my numbers just dropped in high school.

And so I  had to turn a junior college in order to transfer over to UNC. UNC was always my, my path at the end of the day. And I’m just very grateful and blessed that Anson Dorrance didn’t give up on me because I mean, here I am, I’m going into junior college where. Athletically. I’m not really being challenged.

You know, it was kind of a step backwards, but I’m just very thankful that I was able to continue to train with our men’s program at Phoenix college and then ended up making the pan American game team with a us national team. And just being able to still challenge myself on soccer level. Nancy Dorrance was a huge part of that.

He, he kept in contact with me. He made sure I was getting things done and, you know, just so I could end up at UNC. So I’m just very thankful for that. And obviously people will help guide me to university of North Carolina and obviously where I’m at today.

Dean Linke: So I answer not your ordinary transition for Jessica McDonald.

As she said, she went through a tough time. It affected her GPA, but you stayed with her, you followed her progress and  you opened your doors when she was ready.

Anson Dorrance: Well, it was crazy not to do everything we could to get her here. You’re right about the extraordinary achievements. Cause one of my favorite moments tracking Jess.

Was this great story and I’ll let Jess fill in the details, but there’s one of my favorite Jessica McDonald stories. Apparently she’s wandering through the halls of her high school and her track coach walks up to her and says, you know Jess, you know, we just lost our 400 meter runner and we don’t want to forfeit the event.

Do you mind just checking the box for us, just come on out here and, you know, check the box, you know, run the 400 meters for us. I mean, you’re a soccer player. You’re a great athlete. You’re fit, you know, just, you know, check the box for us. Just come out here and run for us. What does she do? Yeah. She decides to, you know, jump into this 400 meter.

She sets an Arizona state record in the 400 meters. And she’s not only, you know, she’s not training full-time so are you kidding me? So when you’re hearing these stories about Jess, when we were recruiting her,  we were not going to make a mistake and let this kid go. We were going to do everything we could to bring her in entirely for selfish reasons.

Because we knew what her potential was. And then the other thing I really admire about justice, look what she’s done. I mean, look at the longevity of her career and look at when she’s making the full team. I mean, this is a gosh, this is an incredible story about grit, resilience, you know, never giving up all this stuff that she’s talking about right now.

I heard her speak at our business school and I was just so. Impressed. And now you’re on the speaking circuit.

Jessica McDonald:  I am. I’m trying to follow in your footsteps a little bit with the speaking portion. So yeah,

Dean Linke: because this chapter is called, stepping up to college soccer. What do you remember about your freshman year?

Starting in Phoenix and then what was it like transferring to UNC and that whole process?

Jessica McDonald: Yeah, like I said before, I was able to train with the men’s team. Because the women’s  team and in junior college for girls, wasn’t it wasn’t challenging enough for me. I needed to challenge myself. And so transitioning from the women’s team at, at PC, and then UNC, here I am.

I’m I’m playing next to. Tobin Heath when the England Ashlyn Harris is our goal keeper and Anna rosenbow is our goalkeeper as well. Anson, how to split their time. That’s how incredible they were our backline line Elan. I mean, our roster was just stacked. I mean, incredible talent. And so to step onto the field with those girls, obviously it was an honor to obviously represent the tar heels.

But with these specific women, I mean, it was absolutely amazing, but the quality. I mean, it was like junior college soccer, and then it was like UNC soccer. I’m not talking college soccer, college soccer. It sounds very basic, but there’s a difference between just college soccer and UNC soccer playing under Anson Dorrance.

You know, he pushed us to a limit. And in a way at the collegiate level, I never even imagined. And I  think it’s because the way he challenged us challenged us day in and day out is, is what made us so good on the field as players. And so with that being said, I think just going from, you know, junior college into UNC soccer was a huge gap.

I mean, there’s just no comparison. And the, the level was just risen and I’m pretty sure. At that time we could have given any protein or run for their money. That’s how confident I am in that, in that squad.

Dean Linke: Answer knowing that you were waiting on her when she arrived in chapel Hill, how smooth was that transition?

Was she legit from day one or did it take some time?

Anson Dorrance:  It was legit from day one, you know, as Jess knows, we try to challenge our kids all the time, but I love how hard Jess works. In fact, it’s her work ethic that put her on the U S full team as well. I mean all a Riley and his culture is extraordinary. And I think what DePaul also loves about her is how willing she is to work for her team and her teammates.

It just sets her  apart. So when she came in, this work ethic is something that our teams have always been known for. So you can’t tell me a 400 meter record hole holder from the state of Arizona is not going to step in and work for us. Oh my gosh. Of course you worked for us. Dino and I tell stories about her all the time.

One of my favorites is we have a substitution pattern at UNC cause we’re going to press for 90 minutes. We want to last the entire game. So we don’t play kids until they’re, you know, absolutely finished. No, we’ll suck a kid in, but while the kids in there, we want them working themselves to death. And what we loved about Jess is it didn’t matter when we subbed her out.

First of all, her attitude was so extraordinary because she wasn’t, you know, angry with us or upset, but all of a sudden the thing that was so impressive is when she came to the sideline, even though she was extraordinarily fit, she was breathing so hard. You’re thinking she’s about to have a heart attack.

And that’s the kind of attitude we loved in our, in our kids and what an example she was, because I remember subbing this  one player out that will go nameless and I subbed her out and she’s an elite player, by the way, she has several. Actually quite a few national team calves. And we subbed her out after about 20, 30 minutes of the first half and she comes running and it was just like, you suck me out.

I’m not even tired. I said, exactly, go over there and sit down. In other words, I was really upset with the fact that yeah, you were out there for 30 minutes and you didn’t do a bloody thing. And so what I loved about Jess is whether her playing time was 15 minutes, 30 or 45 and a half. She was going to kill herself every single second of every game.

And that’s the standard she holds herself to. And that’s why she’s achieved so much. She just works and works and works.

Dean Linke: Jesse did a great job of talking about, Hey, there’s college soccer, then there’s UNC college soccer. They’re going to be quite a few young stars that will watch this vision of a champion podcast, dreaming, having a vision of being a champion, wanting to come to chapel Hill and be on this team.

If  you were speaking to them. And now you are, what would be your recommendation about the challenges coming in as a freshmen to this powerhouse program?

Jessica McDonald: You know, something that I learned from my mentors and coaches growing up is, you know, not everything’s going to be handed to you. Not everything’s going to be easy, especially life life’s hard in general, but if you have a goal like this thruster, you got to work your tail off.

You’re gonna have to prove yourself. You’re gonna have to separate yourself. Your mentality is going to have to separate from other people’s on the field. They’re always going to be bigger people. They’re always gonna be better people. There’s always going to be more technical. There’s always going to be better out there than you, but.

What are you going to do to separate yourself from that player? What are you going to do to separate yourself from everybody else? If you want to be successful, you’re gonna have to grind. You got to put in the work, you have to put in extra work when people aren’t even watching. And it’s also your mentality that you, you will have to keep strong as well because every day is not going to be easy.

It’s gonna, some days are gonna suck. You’re not even gonna want to be there, but if you’re inspired to be great, if you’re going to be inspired  to be a starter on the team, make the team anything, you’re gonna have to do what you have to do in order to be successful. And that’s obviously grind mentally and physically.

Dean Linke: Answered. I don’t even think you can say it better than that, but I’m going to let you try to talk about what your message is to incoming freshmen. That was strong.

Anson Dorrance:  I don’t think I need to say another word. That was absolutely perfect. And I love her selection of vocabulary. It is a grind. If you want to be extraordinary.

I mean, so many people just see the glory. Trust me behind any phenomenal athlete. There’s a grind that most people are not willing to make. Yeah. So her statement is absolutely perfect. Jessica

Dean Linke: aunts and rightfully raves in this chapter about the UNC women’s soccer community. What is that community like?

And do you feel like you are still a part of that community?

Jessica McDonald: Absolutely. I’m still close with a lot of the girls. I don’t even know how he doesn’t answer. I don’t know how you do it, but we right off the bat  first day. I mean, we create this family environment. That’s just what it boils down to. And we all get together in the first week.

Do you still make everybody stay in the locker room for a week before preseason?

Anson Dorrance: Yes because our budgets sucks. So they all have to live in the locker room. Now, obviously we pretend like it’s not because the budget sucks. The reason we’re all in the locker room is the budget sucks. And we pretend like, Oh yeah, this is the way we’re going to create chemistry.

Like we have a choice. No, we don’t have any money. So where are you guys going to live? Yeah. Throw them into the locker room. We’ve already paid. So yeah, they’re still in the, yeah, so we haven’t changed that tradition. I didn’t think great truth to learn. Yes. Well, don’t tell anyone the secret that our, our budget doesn’t, isn’t big enough to pay for the kids.

So I only got to live in, Oh my goodness.

Jessica McDonald: Yeah. He, he throws us in the locker room for a week, but immediately we bond and I think that’s what really brings us together. If we have this goal, like.  If we want to crush them up preseason in order to be successful throughout the season, we’re at, we’re going to have to come together in some kind of way and aunts and shoving us in this hi, any locker room that we used to have back in the day, you know, they’ve got the luxury.

Now they have a proper locker room, which I’m very proud of them for. And jealous, but we won’t go there. You know, we’re all just kind of stuck in this room together, but it’s a very beautiful image to have with one another, getting to know the freshmen, welcome, welcoming them in letting them know, Hey, this is the kind of environment that you’re going to be in.

You have to be on board in order for us to be successful as a team. And if there’s someone that separates themselves, they’re going to have a very hard time. And one beautiful thing about this program is that we create this family environment and yeah, maybe it’s because we’re shoved in a locker room.

We kind of have no choice, but you know, at the end of the day, I think it’s just a very beautiful thing to start off a friendship because now I’m close with all of these girls who were on that roster with me, who were all stuck in a locker room  with me. And that’s a very beautiful thing to start off with your college, with your college career.

Dean Linke: Jay Mac. I’m glad you mentioned the word bond because ants, and as we go to you, you say in the beginning of the chapter that your players don’t bond over wins championships or trophies, then what exactly do they bond over coach?

Anson Dorrance: Well, Jess introduced it so well. We want the kids to get as close to each other as possible.

In fact, the cliche I use now is you’re going to be the average of the seven people you hang out with most. So make sure in those seven. You pick, you know, women of extraordinary character, pick a couple of scholars to inspire you academically, you know, certainly pick some great players. So you can try to emulate them in training and during matches.

But basically I think this bonding thing is something that’s very important to me and we want to bond with them. The staff wants to bond with them. I love the connection with my kids is just nose up. Whenever I see her playing for the national team. I, even though it drives Melissa nuts, if we have four or  five or six kids playing a national theme game, I am texting every one of those kids right after the game.

And of course, some of these games are finishing at midnight. So Melissa’s, you know, wondering what’s going on is like, you know, stagger into bed at, you know, one or 2:00 AM. I am connecting with my kids. I’m telling him how much I enjoyed watching him play. And, you know, someone like Ashland, who of course had to play behind, obviously a wonderful goalkeeper I’m commiserating with her.

You know, even the kids that are on the bench, they don’t even get to play. I will say stuff like, well, I’ll tell you the camera flashed by the bench. And there you were with a big smile on your face. And so, yeah, I want to bond with these kids. I’m proud of them. And so at every opportunity. I want them to know that I’m certainly watching and

Jessica McDonald:  I think that’s so cool because I’ve gone through so many coaches throughout my life.

From the day I was five years old. I mean, I was dang near in diapers until today and answers literally only coach that I have that stays in contact with me. That is like such a cool thing. And I’ve mentioned that to a lot of people, you know, not very  many coaches, you know, stay in contact with their former players, but.

I think he’s connected to like all 800 of us in history, which is like such a cool thing. You know, we’re all in emails together. And I think that’s just a beautiful thing at the start of this family and it’s going to go on forever because he started that. But I think it’s just really cool that. We’re able to stay in contact with him and also use him as our mentor as well.

I mean, he helps guide us as well, you know, and he’s a part of our journey. And I think it’s just like a beautiful thing that he still bonds with all of us and stays in contact with all of us. It’s kind of impressive actually for, for answer. I’m not going to lie, but it’s, it’s really cool. And I’m thankful for that.

Anson Dorrance: Why are you implying? I’m not technically good enough with my different devices. Jensen

Jessica McDonald: surprises me

Dean Linke: well, because of that bond  and this focus on this chapter. And because we’ve been doing all these chapters with vision of a champion Anson,  while you didn’t approve of the bio read, hopefully you’ll approve of this crossover of chapters.

And I started to think about your competitive cauldron. And I often wondered Jessica, particularly as you power through everybody in the NWSL, and you had this bond with all these players and now you’re going against them. Routinely, your former teammates on North Carolina, everyone has three, four, five, six North Carolina players, right?

But you also had this spirit of ANSYS competitive cauldron that brings the fire where now you had the spot, but you want to kill them when you get out there and take them on, talk about that crossover between the bond and the,

Jessica McDonald: Oh man. It’s so much fun. It truly is. At the end of the day, you know, you’re going shoulder to shoulder with, you know, one of your best friends and a game and you know, a little trash talk, but you know, laughter at the end of the day.

So it just makes a game that’s so like, It truly does. We love to compete? That’s what we do for a living we’re  competitors. And so to go against your friend, when your closest friends, it’s probably one of the funnest parts about the game, to be honest, because when I stepped foot up against, let’s say Becky salad bread, I’m like, Oh, bring it on dude.

And you know, we’re looking at each other, you know, through blood, sweat and tears, we have scratch marks on each other, you know, or from each other, like after a game, but. You know, we shake hands and sometimes even have a beer after the game, you know, with, with other friends, from other teams. So it’s a very beautiful part of the game, you know, globally when you’re playing against friends.

But when you go into camp internationally, you know, you still have this, this common goal and that’s obviously to grind and work hard for each other. And then when you go against each other, it makes it that much more fun.

Dean Linke: Answering when you see your former players battling out against each other on a big stage on national TV, it’s got to move.

Anson Dorrance: Yeah, it does. And everyone knows the formula of the team I root for. I root for the team that has signed the most target  deals. And so if there’s a, a team with five Tarheels on it, playing on a team with four, I will root for the team with five on it. Now, obviously. The other four, I’m hoping they have glorious games and go down in flames.

And then if it’s the same number of Tarheels on each roster, let’s say three on this roster and three on the other. Then I go with the number of Tarheels starters on that roster. So I have all these tie breaking mechanisms that I’m sure the girls appreciate, but I’m always rooting for every tar heel, regardless of, you know, what roster she’s on.

I wanted to, first of all, get on the field and ideally obviously start. I wanted to play maximum minutes. I wanted to score goals, create goals. Cause it’s cool about me watching the national team is obviously our kids that are involved in goals and assists and shout outs, if they’re goalkeepers or defenders.

And, and so for me, I’m rooting for something. So my passion is in the game, even when it’s tar heel against tar Hill or even, you know, us women’s national team  against England. Where Lucy bronze is playing for England or us. Women’s national team against Holland where the coach Serena Vic Mon. So for me, I’m rooting for the tar heels in every conceivable way.

And obviously I’m very proud of adjusting all of them that just never quit. And, and now are at the highest possible level. So for me, this is unbelievably enjoyable.

Dean Linke: Chapter 10, the vision of a champion title, stepping up to college soccer aunts. And in this chapter, you have a subtitle called maximizing your chances.

And with that, you mentioned the summer soccer camps for UNC and other college programs. Can you tell us more about these camps and what purpose they serve for the players and coaches?

Anson Dorrance: Well, obviously for me, we get to evaluate the kids and what happened relatively recently with the ID camps. It’s a very inexpensive way for us to evaluate the kids.

And let me mention this publicly, because this means a lot to me, every time we ask Jess to come out to an ID camp or come over and speak at our camps, she does  obviously living here, but also playing with the courage and with all the success of the courage roster. We love the fact that she invests in us because this is recruiting for me.

This is very serious. I mean, there are schools out there we really struggle to recruit against. And when Jess comes over, she lends her professionalism, her credibility to support us. And it means the world to me because, you know, we obviously take this very seriously and a lot of the time, the only way we’re going to end up with one of these great players that’s coming to camp.

So we can take a look at her is because they’re looking around thinking, Oh my gosh, who’s here. I, you know, it’s Heather O’Reilly, it’s just phenomenal. It’s all these great Tarheels though that have climbed to the highest possible level. That have won world championships that are shilling for us in a positive way.

So I just wanted to publicly let Jess know how much that means to me, because gosh, does it impact on recruiting?

Dean Linke:  Oh, I’m sure. Yeah. G Mac in the house, she makes an impact on, on everybody. So we know that you’re now going to the ID camps, Jay Mac, when you were a  youngster, did you have a chance to go to UNC ID camp?

Yes or no. And if not, how did you two connect?

Jessica McDonald:  Yeah, no, I never went to an ID camp. Couldn’t quite afford it. I think that’s actually the reason why playing club soccer growing up. We couldn’t afford that either. So other parents in our club actually paid for me to play for me and my brother to play growing up and.

You know, obviously we wouldn’t be here today without those people in our lives to be able to, you know, help us grow as soccer players and as human beings and given us more opportunity. But with that being said, I think these ID camps are absolutely incredible. I love going to them. I love seeing the new recruits.

I’m super into it more than ants and probably knows to be honest, I’m like, Oh, this girl, she’s very skillful. You see her get out of. Five people pressuring her in this little space. I forgot the girl’s name. It was an eighth grader one day. And I’m like, this girl is absolutely incredible. I’m like, you need to sign it.

I have a little bit,  but yeah, I think he’s ID camps are absolutely incredible. I love to come to them as much as I possibly can. So that’s another thing. What I love about this program that I always want to continue to be a part of.

Anson Dorrance: Just that kid you loved has committed to us. I can’t mention her name because it would be illegal, but I want you to know that little kid that carved up five people one after another will be coming in.

She won’t come in this fall. She’ll come in the following fall, but that little ass kicker is a committed Tarheel. I just want you to.

Jessica McDonald: That makes me so happy.

Well, she’s got a fan in me.

I’ll tell you that story.

Dean Linke:  Anson chapter 10 also has a section that provides a great deal of information to help young athletes choose the best college for them.

You do a pretty good job actually to your credit, staying unbiased with this section, but now we would love to hear your elevator pitch for the university of North Carolina chapel Hill.

Anson Dorrance: No, actually I still have to go with what I wrote in the chapter. There’s a school out there for you. And even though, obviously I am  totally biased in favor of my university in my program.

I’m also a supporter of us soccer and the coolest thing about where we are right now. And what’s interesting. The rest of the world hasn’t really been able to catch up with us, even though obviously the matches are getting closer and closer and more and more challenging for us. What’s really wonderful about our environment.

Dean is the college game. There are over a thousand colleges out there. So if you are a youth soccer player and there’s a college out there for you, and I’m never going to, you know, she’ll my program at the expense of what’s happening across the country. And there are a lot of great programs and there are really good programs at all levels.

I mean, T3 has some wonderful coaches with really high level soccer being played. So please don’t think that the only way you get the elite game is in division one. No, there’s some great coaches across the spectrum. Obviously we’re in there with a collection of schools that have committed themselves fully, and we certainly want to compete with all the best.

It makes us better. But what you still have to do is to go in and see if this is your environment. We’re going to press for 90 minutes. So if you don’t like to defend, don’t come to North Carolina. If for you, it’s all about playing 90 minutes, you know? Well, I’ll tell you, our philosophy is for you to sprint until you’re dead.

And then we drag your carcass off. We put someone else’s to sprint. And so if your ego is so big that you can’t share your playing time with someone else, don’t come to North Carolina and you’re going to learn all about the team game. We’re going to train you to play in a game, to play for the full national team in the Olympic team.

And when you play for those teams, they don’t allow you to take breaks. And so for the entire time you’re out there playing for the university of North Carolina, you’re playing the game of the sprint and my opinion, that’s the best way to play for you to make the U S full team and Olympic team eventually.

But obviously all of my critics will give you other information. Like it’s sort of counter intuitive to try to attract a  girl by letting her know you’re going to get her to the national team faster than anyone else. Even though she’s not going to play as many minutes as this other coach was promising her.

And why this is counterintuitive, but this is the truth. My demands on you are going to be much greater than the demands made on you in the other program. So in your 60 to 70 to 80 minutes of playing time for us, the crystal dones and the Jessica McDonalds, the Mia Hamms the Christine lilies. None of them played 90 minutes, but in the minutes they played the 80 minutes, the 70 minutes a game, they were on a full sprint.

And that’s the transitioning of the full team. So our environment is unique. And if your ego is massive, there are other schools out there for you. Because as Jess mentioned, you’re going to have to sacrifice a lot of ego to come into an environment where you might have to share playing time with someone else.

But the advantage we have is our training environment then goes to a completely. Different level. And then the demands I’m going to make on you  in a game, or also at a completely different level, because most teams out there play a low line of confrontation. Now they’re not parking the bus, but they don’t start to work until basically you’re halfway between the 18 and the tangent of the center circle.

We don’t accept any of that. If the other team has won the ball near their own corner flag, We are all over them. So we are going after people, everyone has to defend, and we’re going to play the game at a sprint for 90 minutes.

Dean Linke: Now, Jessica, beyond that sacrifice, you got to make as a player at UNC chapel Hill.

You now could be a spokesperson for chapel Hill visitors Bureau, because this is now your home. So why did UNC check your box beyond the soccer playing experience?

Jessica McDonald: I just wanted to be a part of something great. And UNC with that university that the whole world was looking at because of Michael Jordan, because of me a ham.

And so  being an athlete, obviously those are people that I looked up to right off the bat. That was very easy. And then, you know, the color, it’s pretty, it’s the color of my wall. Look at this gave me, I can’t leave this color, this environment. This is a second home for me. And as soon as I came on my visit, this was my only UNC was my only visit for colleges.

And so as soon as I came on the campus, I felt right at home. And so because of that feeling, I wanted to continue to feel that. And so it was just a very comforting environment to be in. And I’m just happy to be right up the road because. I love it here. North Carolina has all four seasons, you know, it’s 120 degrees back at home in Arizona.

And I don’t, I don’t know time for that kind of heat. You know, my, my skin just kind of centers out there, but that’s far from the point. But with that being said, it’s just a really family oriented area and I’ve really enjoyed it. And so does my son and, you know, he’s a huge part of this journey as well. I love his school school district is.

The best actually in North Carolina. So I’m kind of winning there too with my, my son’s education as well.

Dean Linke: So well said, Anson, in this chapter, you talk a lot about not putting a high prioritization on skill when you’re recruiting players, what else do you prioritize and why?

Anson Dorrance: Actually, I do have a high priority on skill.

We certainly want to check all the boxes for an elite player, but here’s what I have learned. I’ve learned. There are other qualities that can take you as fast as possible to where you want to go. And what I love about having just sit right here with me as he checks every box. So for me, yes, we’d love a extraordinarily technical player.

Like the kid that Jess is describing, that’ll be here in the fall of, you know, 2021. Oh my gosh. We’re skill set is just, it’s just extraordinary to watch her play. We also want a kid that can make great decisions on the field. So we want a technical platform. We want a tactical platform and we certainly want to a  psychological platform.

And I think that’s what we’re known for. What we’re known for is I think helping kids get to their competitive potential and let’s face it. I’ve talked about this in previous podcasts. I mean, Japanese are more technical. The Germans are more tactical. The French. Or just as athletic, but who are the four time world champions, four time Olympic gold medalists.

The United States. We are basically dynastic in the women’s game. And what box do we check better than anyone else? The box that the university of North Carolina specializes in, which is your capacity to grind. Just as Jess is saying your capacity to win and compete and never give up your capacity. Like one repeatable steps up that, you know, hit that penalty kick to never miss basically, that’s what we specialize in.

We specialize in competing and I think that’s a sort of contribution we’re going to  make to the elite player environment.

Dean Linke: You want to add to that, Jess?

Jessica McDonald: Oh, he hit it’s spot on.

I, I can’t compete with that. So he, yeah, he said it all.

Dean Linke: All right. Couple more questions here with the great Jay Mac and Anson Dorrance and ants.

And what’s the best thing a high school senior can do to prepare for their freshmen season.

Anson Dorrance: All right, here are the nine boxes I talk about this regularly. So it’s almost a cliche, but self-discipline competitive fire. Self-belief love of the ball. If you love the ball, you’re going to eventually master it.

If you don’t love the ball, just cross off that dream of playing at the highest level love of the game. You’ve got to love playing the game. You’ve got to love watching the game, grit, coachability, and connection. You can tell from watching this podcast alone. How everyone loves Jessica McDonald.  You can feel her personality through the screen.

And here’s the way we check the connection box. When we’re in our player at conference, I basically asked every player. This question is we’re discussing connection. Do you love your teammates? And do they love you? Well, I know anyone can tell let’s watch this podcast that. You would love playing with Jessica McDonald and trust me, she will give it right back.

She will love playing with you. So those are the nine boxes to check if you want to become elite. And obviously there’s a certain skill level. There’s a certain tactical understanding and decision-making level. But if you check those nine boxes, you’re going to get to the promised land. I promise you. All right.

Dean Linke: Well said now, Jay Mac, I’ve not been around quite as long as ants. And although I’ve followed his career for a long time, I was with him when he was getting his 91 team prepared and like him, I have a love of the game. And I also appreciate people, as I said earlier, that seize the moment.  When I think about you, and I think Anson will appreciate this story.

I remember you as a youngster at UNC, and I remember calling games then, and then I watched your development. And then last year at the ICC, you came on and scored an amazing goal. And I was in charge of the global feed in the interviews. And I put that microphone in front of you with all these cameras around and it was going across the world and the way you handled yourself, and instead of taking all the credit, gave it back to your teammates, moved me.

But yeah, in a moment that I’ve been moved before and I mentioned it to you again, and as you hear that story and Jay Mac, cause I tell that story again, as we wrap up this amazing interview, your elevation, Jessica, both on and off the field, is that at all? Hi,

Jessica McDonald: thank you.

Dean Linke: Surprise you that she responded that way on that international stage.

Anson Dorrance: No, as she knows my priority. For our kids at UNC is character. Our second priority is his academics. Our third priority is the game itself,  and I’m never surprised when one of our former Tarheels does something extraordinary. And we can go back through history. I mean, One of the great moments for me is when we were trying to set up this women’s pro league back in the day, all of a sudden, the only person that was going to be paid significant money for this league was Mia Hamm.

And this is back when she was the absolute icon. And what I loved about Mia is she said, no, I don’t want to get one dime more than any of my national team colleagues. This is post nine 99 world cup. And so basically the player that didn’t play a minute in that world cup got as much salary. And that league as Mia Hamm did, she could have, you know, asked for, you know, $500,000 a year.

She could have asked for anything and she refused. She made sure all of her teammates were paid exactly what she was. And so none of this ever  surprises me. Cause what I can see is I can see this in them when I’m training them. I can see this ingest, you know, when I subbed her out. And she’s not kicking buckets or, I mean, you know, what’s hilarious.

You watch the EPL play and every camera gets engaged. As soon as the guy is subbed out of the game. Why? Because there’s going to be a little bit of drama. You watch the guy’s face as he is sour. As he goes back towards his coach, his coach sort of reaches out to him and you can see him slap the coach’s hand away.

He’ll have nothing to do with it. And then he goes to the bench and he’s just kicked a water bottle. That’s hidden old woman in the front row, right. Between the eyes. And then he sits down in a harrumph and he’s chatting with a guy in his left that he was right. This is the drama of the way the EPL covers all of their, you know, enormous egos that’s intolerable for me.

I just don’t understand it. So what I love about my girls, I’m never surprised to hear stories like that. Cause that’s what I see every day of their lives when they’re  playing for me. And I absolutely love them for it.

Dean Linke:  Well said, Anson, well, let’s end with this because guess what? Jay Mac, before you know it, your other love will indeed be going to college.

Of course, we’re talking about the transition to college. You’re not just a world-class athlete in a world cup champion, but you’re also a world-class mom. What is it like to train and compete at the highest level? Why raising such a beautiful son simultaneously?

Jessica McDonald: Man, the kid, he, he truly inspires me. And the reason for it is because both of my parents, they had the chance to play at a high level, but they didn’t take their ticket.

They didn’t take advantage of that. And so with that being said, I knew right off the bat who’s I found out I was pregnant. I was going to have to. Grind, literally throughout my life, no matter what it was I was going to do, I wasn’t even sure if I was even going to continue playing soccer at the time.

But when I did have I knew I was going to have to set an incredible example for him because  I just don’t want him to be disappointed in me. And that’s going to be a horrible feeling. I feel like as a parent, maybe, and. Maybe that’s, that might be the wrong way for me to go about things, but I just want to inspire my kid.

And so balancing being a professional athlete and Parenthood, it is so challenging day in and day out mentally and physically, because my job is very physically demanding and mentally as well. And then, you know, all my other teammates, the rest of them. USA team or Carolina Kurt’s team. Everybody can go home, you know, I’ll, I’ll ask a teammate and be like, Oh, how was your day yesterday?

Oh, after training, I was exhausted. I took like a four hour nap. I woke up watch about eight hours of Netflix, ate cereal for dinner, went back to sleep for like 14 hours. And I’m like, what? I would pray for a nap. I couldn’t even tell you the last time I even had a nap, you know, but I think that’s. What’s so beautiful  about the two balances for me is that I’m able to do both on a mental and physical level.

No, I may not be able to get just as much sleep as my teammate next to me, but I’m very proud of that at the end of the day, because it’s like, look at what I’ve been surviving throughout all of this, but it’s also my kid. He inspires me and he’s able to be on this entire adventure with me. He was seven years old during the world cup.

He’s going to remember that he doesn’t understand the magnitude of things right now. He doesn’t understand the magnitude of the Olympics, the world cup, or even being a professional soccer player for the North Carolina court. But what he will understand is, you know, his mother, it’s very hard to be where she’s at and he got to witness that and he’s going to remember that.

And that’s one of the most beautiful things to me is that we’ve been able to bond throughout my career and. I just think it’s such a beautiful bond to have with my son, because when I wake up, you know, I have  to wake up and. Put on this different kind of mentality and the rest of my teammates have, because I have to think for two people and not just for myself.

And so I wake up and I have this goal and that’s to get everything I’ve gotten training, but I also need to apply that at home with my son. I’m trying to be a great mother and a great soccer player at the same time and putting the two together. I absolutely love every bit of it. It may be exhausting as crap.

A lot of days, but it is so worth it and so rewarding at the end of the day. And that’s what I was most this journey being a mom and a professional athlete at the same time,

Dean Linke:  I’m certain he’s inspired. I know I am ants and I’m sure you agree

Anson Dorrance: . Well, I’m so thrilled because honestly, the educational platform that Jess has picked for her son is where all three of my kids went to school.

Went to school right here, chapel Hill high school Smith, middle school. I mean the entire school system, her son’s going through his to school  system. My kids went through and I just love the fact that she’s now this neighbor of mine, because I’m going to see her more often. So I just think this is the coolest thing.

So obviously I’m extraordinarily proud of you and not just because you’re a great soccer player, but I love the fact that you’re a great mom and you’re now one of my neighbors.

Jessica McDonald: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks.

Dean Linke: My neighbor to J max. So proud of chapel Hill. That was the great Jessica McDonalds. So inspirational Jay Mac.

You are a beast, former UNC player and current us women’s national team and North Carolina courage superstar. Now, if you liked this show one where you can support our work is to subscribe to this podcast on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to and leave us a rating and review as well. The show was edited and produced by creative allies.

If you’re looking for information on full service podcast production, head on over to creative for the legend that is Anson Dorrance and the beast.  Jay Mac, Jessica McDonald, I’m Dean leaky. We’ll see you next time on the vision of a champion podcast.

Full Episode Transcript

Vision of a Champion is a production of Creative Allies. Intro and outro music by Conquest.

At the end of this show, you heard a trailer for First Check, with Venture Capitalist Tim McLoughlin, which you can hear on any podcast app including Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

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