Interview with former college soccer player, Megan O'Keefe
Updated: Aug 7
We sat down with Megan O'Keefe, former college soccer player at American University. Read our interview with Megan and check out her new podcast below!
SH: What has it been like for you, a former college player and a fan to see the NWSL be the first sports league in the U.S. to return to play?
MO: It was really exciting. I mean obviously I was a little bit nervous because it’s a really uncertain time so everyone is trying to figure out how to navigate COVID and playing a sport during a pandemic. I was not only excited to see that the women’s league was the first to do it, but that they did it successfully. So, I was just excited to see it all get done and to see that it was done the right way, it was really really cool to see.
SH: What lessons can be learned from the way the NWSL handled the return to play?
MO: Well, I think you can just tell that these are professionals, they respect the game and they did what they had to do to make sure they could continue to play the game. So whether that was wearing a mask 24/7, when they weren't playing or staying at the hotel and just staying in that bubble because all they wanted to do was play a game. Not to say that other athletes in other sports aren't like that, I’m not saying that they don't not respect their game, but I think that you really saw a good example of that set by the Women’s Soccer players because they had a goal and they did it flawlessly.
SH: Which team was most exciting to watch in the Challenge Cup?
MO: I don't want to be biased because I worked for the Courage for a little bit so I was really excited to see them play and they, as we know, were going to be one of the only teams with a lot of National team representation compared to some of the other teams whose National team players decided to opt out or were injured and so obviously everyone's eyes are always on the Courage and everyone really expected them to win the whole thing. So, I think that they came in with a lot of pressure, the target was on their back so I was excited to see them play but watching the whole tournament, to the end, its an easy answer, Houston. They had a really weak start honestly, I mean you look back at some of their games, I think one of their first games, they were up three goals and they let Utah come back and they ended up finishing with a draw so they had a really weak start to their tournament. Then all of the sudden, they make it to the Championship and you’re like where did they come from? So, that was cool to see especially since they hadn't had a very good season last year and they just haven’t seen a lot of success, I love that. In all, I loved seeing all the rookies playing because I think there was a very strong rookie class this season in the entire league. To see Morgan Weaver literally knock the Courage out with her very first professional career goal was very cool to see even though it was against the Courage. It was fun to watch. Not only those teams, but the young players.
SH: As a former defender, who do you think was the best defender in the tournament?
MO: Well, I am the biggest Julie Ertz fan just because of how much of a b***** she is but also, I’m not going to be biased... okay, I am going to be biased, Abby Erceg who reminds me a lot of Becky Sauerbrunn she is just solid in the back. She’s not flashy, but you can rely on her and I think that although the Courage didn't make it very far, she is a rock in the back. She can't do it all, clearly because they ended up being scored on but if I was still playing and even though I’m not, she’s an idol to me, I think she really exemplifies a great center back and a great leader.
SH: Why do you think that a team like the Orlando Pride, a squad with multiple positive COVID-19 tests removed themselves, but the Miami Marlins, a team in a similar situation has not removed themselves?
MO: I think its really tough, I'm sure the Orlando Pride making that decision was really hard for them, I'm sure they tried to think of ways to make it work and they said at the end of the day that this isn't going to be safe. I'm sure Miami is having conversations like that, weighing the pros and cons and the risks. Some people might agree that they need to drop out but all I can say is that I’m lucky that I’m not in one of those positions where I need to make the call to make a team drop out or not because I can't imagine how difficult that is. I'm sure they're trying to be as safe as possible but personally I think your health and the health of others should be the #1 priority. I know that everyone wants to get back to playing and watching sports, but health should be the number one focus so I respect the Pride for making that difficult decision.
SH: Now that the NWSL challenge cup is over, which league are you most looking forward to watching, if any?
MO: I definitely am excited to see the NBA, they just started last night. I've been thinking about this in general, but I think that every league right now is creating a really safe space for players to finally open up about social justice issues, Black lives matter, and giving them a platform to finally speak their voice. These players have been trying to speak all along, but its really cool to see this year. It shouldn't have taken this long but finally, players are supported by their leagues to have these moments of silence and write Black lives matter on the court and have signs everywhere so I'm excited to see that finally be incorporated more into sports and all leagues.
SH: Tell us about your new podcast!
MO: I have been wanting to start a podcast for a couple of years now just purely about transitioning into the real world. After being an athlete my entire life, all I ever focused on was soccer, that was my goal, to play soccer, to be the best player I could be and then all of the sudden, my career ended sooner then I had hoped. I had a career-ending concussion my senior year of college and within an instant, my identity as a soccer player was taken away from me so I was like who am I now? All I’ve ever know is that I am a soccer player so I started this podcast to create an open space for people to talk about how difficult it is to transition into finding a new identity whether its in sports and all of the sudden you have to look for a job and you’re like what am I interested in? Or if you're just a regular person graduating college and you're just like holy cow, this real world is scary, I don’t know what to do. My podcast is just going to be about new chapters, mid-life transitions, and about how we are all faking it until we make it. It might seem like everyone has their life figured out when I think that behind the scenes, we're all just trying to figure it out day by day and its okay not to have it all figured out. Four months ago, I was giving a career day speech at my high school, talking about my job at ESPN and here’s how you get to this sort of career and a couple months after that I accepted a dream job working for the Courage, getting to be their reporter, and now where am I? Unemployed at my parents house and so it is crazy where life takes you, it's all about adjusting to the crazy stuff life throws at you. I'm learning that everyday.
....You might think you've got it all planned out and all of the sudden, there is a pandemic...
Photo: Megan O'Keefe
Check out Megan's new podcast 'So Now What?' at the link below!