U.S. Women's National Soccer Team forward Alex Morgan is known for making plenty of noise with her play on the field. The speedy scorer has a penchant for big plays, including a hat trick against Trinidad and Tobago earlier this year. But you won't hear her hooting or hollering before games.
"I never get too hyped up too early before a game—I feel like that leads to having restless legs and mind," Morgan says. Instead, she says, "I do a lot of mental visualization and use breathing techniques just to kind of calm myself down before a game."
An avid practitioner of meditation and yoga, Morgan says that keeping and maintaining a sense of calm is a hugely important part of her success—especially since she reached higher levels of her sport, like playing in the 2012 London Olympics or last year's World Cup.
"A lot of people think [the sport] is physically taxing on our bodies, but it's actually just as taxing mentally," Morgan says.
The U.S. squad's epic blowout win over Japan in last year's World Cup Final brought the team more notoriety than ever—and more pressure. She says the team only got about two weeks off before beginning preparations for the Rio Olympics.
"Although we had a lot of success last year, we have to look at this year as a brand new opportunity to create our own success again," Morgan says. "The first step was just making sure that our mind is right, and that we've completely moved on from the World Cup."
The team that will take the field in Rio will be younger and less experienced than previous aggregations, due to a combination of high-level retirements, injuries and some athletes taking time off to start families. Morgan says that places more pressure on her and other veterans to set the tone.
"With a younger team, it's our job to make sure that we're not overlooking anything mentally or physically, because a lot of these players haven't gone to a major tournament before," Morgan says. She thinks the team has had ample time to gel as a unit, saying, "I feel like it's been a really drawn out pre-Olympics. We've had a lot of games. We're just ready to get down there."
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