At Peak Sports spent some quality time with former University of North Carolina NCAA national champion and current U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team midfielder Crystal Dunn last week. We talked about when she decided to pursue a career in soccer, her passion to pass knowledge on to young, aspiring athletes, and dealing with her recent injury, a torn hamstring. The 2012 Hermann Trophy winner (college soccer’s top player award), Dunn, a Rockville Center native, currently spends time training for the World Cup, on top of living up to the pressures that come with getting selected first overall in the 2014 NWSL Draft (Washington Spirit).
Read along below for our entire conversation, and to learn more about Crystal’s involvement with At Peak Sports, stay tuned to AtPeakSports.com!
At Peak Sports: You’ve had quite the young soccer career, Crystal. You’re only 22 years old, yet you’ve got so much experience! When did you know that soccer would be your career?
Crystal Dunn: Good question. I did not think it would be my career. It was always a fun sport to play. You get to run around, waste all this energy. For the longest, it was just really fun to me, and I didn’t think I was actually going to turn it into a professional career after college. So probably not until my junior year in college.
APS: When you realized soccer had a chance to be your career, was there a newfound gear that you would go to, searching for new motivations?
CD: Yes, definitely. My team (University of North Carolina) had just won the national championship, and I think from then on I was more motivated to go as far as I could. It opened up a lot of doors for me. Right after we won, I got call-ups for the national team, and a lot of things started falling into place. Winning the national championship was definitely what sparked my drive to take things to the next level.
APS: What was the process of getting called up to the national team?
CD: I heard some things before I actually got the real call-up. Some of my teammates were like, “Oh, Crys, you’re gunne be at camp this summer, ” and I would be like, “Ohhh stoop it, ” ya know? So when I really did get the call-up I was like “Whoa!” — other people knew this before I knew it. So, I had heard some things, but I didn’t know for sure … until I got the phone call from the head coach.
APS: In terms of preparation and training outside of practice, how has your experience with the U.S. National Team and the Washington Spirit compared to your preparations when you were a younger athlete?
CD: As I got older and started playing at higher levels, recovery exercises became really, really important. Very important. Growing up, I was like, “Oh, I don’t really need to stretch, I’m not going to pull anything or get injured.” But I will say that I think I suffered some injuries recently because it hadn’t really caught on yet to me how important it is to stretch and exercise before and after playing, in and outside of practice. At age 22, just out of college, I’m learning now, it is very important to stretch properly and ice your muscles, hydrate — all those things are so important and they all matter.
APS: On any given off day, what might your favorite stretch be?
CD: I would say rolling out is really important. It’s basically what we do on our off days. It’s really amazing. You have your own roller, and you roll your quads, hamstrings, the major muscles that you work the hardest. I’ve had hamstring issues, quad issues, those are the major muscles that are working constantly, especially in soccer. And rolling them out helps tremendously the recovery process.
APS: How much time do you spend rolling out?
CD: Before practice, everyday we spend about 20 minutes rolling out. On off days I try to spend a little more time working on that, especially the days after a game, when my muscles are very flared up. So, on average, about 35, 40 minutes. And it doesn’t have to be all at once. You can do 20 minutes here, and then come back to it later in the day. That’s the good thing about having an off day, more time to work on keeping your muscles healthy and there is no rush! I’ve been fortunate enough not to have any serious injuries. I will say that it can be worse if you go through life without getting injured, and then something happens when you’re further along in your career. Before my senior year in college I never missed games due to an injury, so my recent injuries are a new process to me, and show why it’s really important to stay in your peak condition. And teaching young athletes what can happen with injuries is really important, too, so they know how to approach injuries later in their careers if anything happens. For me, being 22, out of college, I’m like, “OK. I’m suffering injuries now, I’ve never really went through this before.” At least I know exactly what the cause of injuries stem from, and I think just having that type of knowledge is important at any age or skill level. I will say that my injuries came from not taking the time to stretch properly.
APS: Did you watch the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team during the recent World Cup?
CD: Yes, of course. Everyone in America should have been watching!
APS: What went through your mind when Jozy Altidore went down with a hamstring injury in the first ten minutes against Ghana?
CD: I could feel his pain because I have had the same injury. When they announced that it was a “pull” and not a “strain” I knew that was wrong. I actually tore my hamstring and when that happened I had to get carried off the field. So when I saw Jozy get pulled off in a stretcher, I was like, “Ok, that’s definitely not a pull.” And I knew he wasn’t going to be back on the field anytime soon. It’s unfortunate. He’s a big player for them and he only got to play 15 minutes at the World Cup.
APS: And he was just getting an international momentum, heading into this World Cup.
CD: And that is when it happens. When you’re feeling great. That’s why you always have to prepare, even on off days.
APS: What are some key stretches to prevent those types of injuries?
CD: Stay away from static stretching. I think it’s important to keep your muscles moving and stretching at the same time. That way you’re training your muscles to be prepared to start running at any time. I will definitely say it is important to keep your muscles warm at the same time as stretching. It’s probably the most important thing.
At Peak Sports is thrilled to have Crystal on our team! For more from Crystal, and more from At Peak, stay tuned to AtPeakSports.com!