Spurs Women Academy player Lenna receives footballing life lessons from icons Rapinoe and Fishlock
Wed 24 August 2022, 14:00|Tottenham Hotspur
Spurs Women Academy player Lenna Gunning-Williams had the opportunity to rack the brains of footballing legends Megan Rapinoe and Jess Fishlock for career advice as she linked up with our Women’s First Team on our USA Tour.
As we based our training camp for the 2022 Women’s Cup at the Lynn Family Vision and Sports training centre in Louisville, we shared the campus with fellow competitors OL Reign, one of the top sides in the United States and one that boasts the talents of both Rapinoe and Fishlock.
Rapinoe is a star of USA Women’s National Team having made over 192 appearances for the United States. She has won 14 major honours in her career to date, including two World Cups while she was also awarded the Ballon d’Or in 2019. Her team-mate Fishlock is also a star for her national team, Wales, receiving 119 caps for her country so far. In her club career, the midfielder has also racked up silverware, winning an incredible 15 major honours to date, including two Champions League crowns.
And, as we crossed paths with Reign in Kentucky, the duo gave some of their time to speak with 17-year-old Lenna - an aspiring forward who was invited to join the senior side on their first intercontinental tour - on professional football, it’s pressures and their journeys to the top.
Lenna: How do you keep a balance in terms of your social life and things like that? Especially because I’m young and I’m still at school, so with school, football and socialising, does it ever equal out?
Fishlock: “It does. I think, at the time, you just have to prioritise what is important in those moments and, throughout your career and throughout your life, those priorities will change. You can then give a little bit more here, a little bit more here but you are the only one who can figure out what is a priority to you in that moment, and then you just have to be strong in making sure you are prioritising that and give the right energy to the right thing at the right time. As your career goes on, that changes and you just have to adapt with that.”
Lenna: I think one of my biggest challenges as a player is ‘self-talk’. Like, I don’t think I played particularly well today (in Spurs Women's training game in Kentucky), and I just went and sat by myself with a grumpy face. How do you talk to yourself correctly in order to be the best?
Rapinoe: “Honestly, sometimes you just force positive talk. It’s hard sometime because you can just get yourself in that mental space, but I think it does really matter the words that you’re saying to yourself. So, even if you don’t really believe it, you’re faking it – faking it ‘til you make it. Sometimes it’s just getting into the habit of positive self-talk or positive reinforcement. I think, a lot of the time, the negative self-talk is just a habit. So, it’s like, if you do something bad, it is immediately you might go to something negative, but we often don’t look at the good things we’re doing as well.
“Being realistic about that balance, I feel enables you to better understand where you need to work and what you need to work on because you’re balancing with the positive as well. I think it’s easy to be like ‘oh, I’m not good enough, ever’ unless you score five goals and get 10 assists, but that’s not realistic. I think just practising that habit is good.
“I’ve always been a big proponent of having other interests. Soccer is not my whole life and not my whole identity and I feel it helps me to be a better soccer player by just having other things to clear my mind with. Obviously, you have other interests but don’t think that those take away from your football – it all adds to your whole life.”
Fishlock: “When you’re pushing and you feel like you’re giving everything, but sometimes you feel that is not enough must take a step back and remember that you’re young and you’re giving everything you have – and that is enough. It’s just sometimes accepting that there is still a way to go but it is the journey of getting there. So give yourself some grace because, if you don’t do that, then going at the level that you feel that you’re going at is not good enough and you come again and you feel it’s not good enough, you’re going to mentally burnout before you even begin to hit the levels that you can achieve.
“My advice is that you don’t do that. You give yourself some grace, you learn, you speak to your colleagues, you have a good support system – that is the most important thing. They’ll sit you down and say ‘you did good today, don’t worry about the rest of it’ because, if you get caught up in that, by the time you’re 21, you’re going to hate this.
By the time you reach 21, you’ll be feeling better, mentally better, physically better and you’ll still enjoy it and then you’ll hit the levels.”
Lenna: “How do you deal with the pressure? Like, for me, I saw you and I was starstruck and I’m sure there’s millions of girls and boys like me who look up to you. How do you deal with that sort of pressure?’
Rapinoe: ‘I try to remember that it wasn’t always like this. To see the game grow is amazing and something that is really special. I think I try to balance it with taking my own time too and making sure that I’m taking time for myself too and not just giving, giving, giving. I have to give back to myself as well. So whether that’s time with friends and family or, I mean, I love shopping, take my own spa day of whatever, but I kind of make sure I’m taking care of myself (as well) so I can give back.
“And, for me, that does (also) give back to me – I see how much the game is growing, how much impact we’re able to have on kids like you or fans or people that don’t really watch football but watch for certain reasons. That gives back to me as well but I think it is all about a balance. Nobody can do everything all the time so it is about understanding when to rest, when you have more energy, or it’s okay to say no to things – it’s hard for me to say no things but it is okay to say no to things, and I’m trying to get better at that too.”