Monday, July 18, 2011

UAB staffer and former soccer pro sees World Cup and muses about the 'good old days'

American soccer fans watched with bated breath on Sunday as the US soccer team battled Japan for the Women's World Cup championship. It was a hard-fought battle and neither team was willing to give in. In the end, however, Japan was victorious.

“It was heartbreaking to watch,” says Lauren Whitt, Wellness Coordinator for UAB. “To come so close to victory that you can touch it and then see it slip away. …They fought hard and represented their country well.”

Whitt is not the typical soccer fan and her twice-injured ACL can attest to that. She was a goalkeeper for Vanderbilt and Clemson universities and then played in the semi-professional league (before there was a professional league to join). Three of Sunday’s players were former teammates.

“Ahh…the good old days,” she says with a chuckle and sigh.

Whitt, a Birmingham native, has been playing the sport since she was 4. She played at Briarwood Christian School and was there with soccer superstar and ESPN commentator Catherine Reddick Whitehill.

She knows what it’s like standing on a soccer field with a whole country cheering you on. She represented the United States in the 1999 Pan American games in Canada.

“There is nothing more spectacular than to play for your country,” she says. “We represented something bigger than ourselves and our family; we represented a country.”

In the aftermath of Sunday’s defeat, Whitt suspects that the women are likely looking back at yesterday’s game and saying, ‘What if.’ But then, after a few days, they will reflect upon the entirety of the competition and be proud of what they have accomplished, she said.

“They will bounce back,” she says. “Their motto is: pressure makes us.”

Whitt, who also coaches soccer at Briarwood and for the Alabama State Olympic feeder team, says that although playing for an athletic team is now behind her, she feels like she is now a part of a new kind of comraderie. She leads UAB's wellness program and partners with campus experts to create employee programs that incorporate nutrition, exercise, stress management, etc.

“It was an honor to wear the crest of the USA National team on my jersey as an athlete, and I feel the same sense of integrity now being part of the UAB team leading employee wellness initiatives,” she says.

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