KJ Gillanders, a 31-year-old mother, won a Prost Amerika competition to win a place at the Sounders Women try-outs. As part of the competition, she also won the right to publish her story about it here.
Here is her story:
My Day as a Sounders Woman Trialist
by KJ Gillanders
Let me start with the question you all want to know, am I still alive? Yes! I believe I am alive and well, albeit a bit sore. This was a fun experience; everyone was very friendly and welcoming.
I am in a bit of a unique position, on Saturday I played on the field and Sunday I was able to play between the posts. Being able to experience both aspects of the tryouts was great and not something everyone can say they have done.
Saturday, I was glad to have the distraction of a 3 year old in the morning but after dropping her off with grandma for the day (since dad was working) the nerves really kicked in.
After arriving and getting a few touches on the ball I started to feel a bit better, another woman who I play soccer with was at the tryouts as well which was a nice surprise. The day started off with a passing drill as a warm up, everyone worked together well; if things got off track players quickly stepped up to set things right.
After passing we broke into small groups of three to take some long kicks to each other. Oh, did I mention it started raining as soon as we got out onto the field? At one point it was literally raining sideways, but what else would we expect from the Pacific Northwest?
After long kicks for a while, we were broken into four teams for some 9 v 9 with goalkeepers. Our team was given a chance to play each of the other teams and they were all well matched games.
After one short foot race to the ball, which I was determined not to lose, another player and I ended up occupying the same space at precisely the same time.
This did not end terribly well for me, as I was the only one who ended up on the ground. I give myself a little credit though, as she did not score her intended goal. We were then called back to center circle and divided into two large teams to play full field, 11 a side and we played a full field match for the rest of tryouts.
At the end of Saturday some ladies were thanked for trying out and sent home because they unfortunately didn’t quite fit what the coaches were looking for.
KJ was however one of the players invited back for Day 2.
Here’s the rest of her story ..
Sunday, much to our surprise, we welcomed some new players to tryouts. I did not get a chance to talk with many of them since I was training with the goalkeepers but the goalkeeper that came was already signed with the Sounders Women’s team and also plays for the University of Washington.
The day started out with a warm up and a few other drills. As goalkeepers, we did some work on our own then paired up to work on volleys, collecting balls in front, and some footwork drills. The goalkeepers ended the first portion of tryouts fielding some shots from goalkeeper coach Kelly Bendixen.
At this point the goalkeepers were divided in half as well as the players and an 11 a side scrimmage commenced. As goalkeepers we rotated into the goal for a quarter of the match and it seemed as though there was more action on our end while I was in goal. I did make a save or two and it was a plus that I did not get scored on during my stint in the goal.
After seeing the level of play on the field and being a bit sore from the day before I was a bit relieved to be playing in the goal; my midfield skills and conditioning are not the same as they were nearly 20 years ago.
The weather was much nicer on Sunday; we even saw some sun although it was still quite windy. We were gathered back together at the end of the match and Coach Hube thanked everyone for coming out and showing such great sportsmanship and a high level of play. He fielded several questions about various aspects of the team, such as when players would be notified about being given an extended tryout and potentially how many players would make up the squad.
After seeing the level of play this weekend, I am excited to watch the Sounders Women’s season this year. I look forward to attending matches with my daughter and some of the Silver FC crew.
Or even as a member of the squad.
Well alas, that was not to be. Coach KJ didn’t quite make the squad.
Here’s a gallery of photos of her days out at the Sounders Women by Dan McCooey and Jane Gershovich.