The short 2020 NWSL Fall Series is officially in the rearview mirror. Peyton Perea returned for the series, after a brief European stint. After being part of the practice squad in 2019, Perea supported team’s midfield in the absence of players like Denise O’Sullivan and Sam Mewis at the closing of the 2020 season. The midfielder sat down with Courage Country virtually last week to answer our 2020 Starting XI Questions.
2020 Starting XI Questions: Peyton Perea
If you weren’t playing in the NWSL, where would you be and what would you be doing?
Oh boy. Where I would because I feel like I’ve been like a nomad for the past few years, so I don’t have set home yet. But what I would be doing? I really enjoy videography and photography. So I think something with that, maybe with professional sports teams or even just like traveling and making videos. I love editing, so probably something along those lines.
If you didn’t need to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
Edit — spend some time practicing on my craft and take some more graphic design classes. That’s my problem. I get started on a project and then I don’t sleep. I have to finish it. So if sleep wasn’t a thing, that’s probably what I’d be doing
If a fan recognizes you away from the field (in non-COVID times), what should they do?
Come say hi. I feel like I’m an approachable person and I like talking to people and getting to know everyone. So I think that’s cool too because it shows that they’re paying attention to their local team or women’s soccer. So if they see any of us, I think that they should just come up and say hi.
Do you have any stories about fans approaching you?
Yes, so I was in Spain. It was our last off weekend and it was right before COVID hit Spain and locked down. I went on a solo trip to Seville and I was getting lunch in one of the busier parts of town. I’m sitting there eating my lunch and it’s really touristy city. So there are all different kinds of people there. There was this girl and her dad sitting next to me and they spoke English — Americans. We just started talking and the dad was asked me what I was here for, and I told him that I was playing professional soccer in Badajoz, which is the city I was living in.
He was like, “Oh my gosh. No way. Me and my daughter, we love watching women’s soccer, like the Women’s National Team and like NWSL. They were talking about the World Cup and then they started talking about the NWSL. I feel like there’s such a gap between the two still sometimes. People know our national team, but the NWSL, they’re not as familiar with it.
So I told them I actually trained with an NWSL team last year and I told him I was with the Courage. They were going through the roster — they knew everyone. I was so taken aback, but so excited because I am literally on the other side of the world, randomly sitting next to these two people. They knew everything about women’s soccer. I was like, “Please do not lose faith in the game.”
It made my day honestly — made my year because I will never forget that. It was awesome.
What’s the skill you want to improve the most this season?
I have a few, but I think getting into tackles more and finishing my tackles stronger. I think the position I’m playing right now requires me to just kind of clean up things in the middle. I feel like I can definitely be better in that area. So that’s something I’ll be practicing offseason somehow. But I think this season, like really focusing on sticking in my tackles and getting the job done. Getting the dirty work done in the middle.
What do players talk about in the tunnel before matches?
Oh, that’s a good one. Honestly, I feel like it’s in the moment conversations. Some people are talking about the game — tactics. Some people are just cracking jokes, just trying to be relaxed. You know, there’s never like one topic of discussion. I feel like you’re always talking to the person next to you and it’s kind of just random.
Which player are you most glad is a teammate instead of an opponent?
Debinha. She is just ridiculous — just the things she does in practice. So when it’s in a game it’s like, “been there.” I don’t feel too bad you know. I get megged by her like three to four times a practice so I’m used to it. I’m like, thank goodness you’re not doing this to me on game day.
What is the best part about competing?
I think it just drives you to be better. There’s a lot of growth that comes from competing, especially in this environment. We have it in training. You have to be competitive to even make an impact. So I think that having that competitive drive, it forces you to be better. It forces you to get better every single day and grow and it keeps things fun. I feel like if it’s not competitive, it’s not fun.
Who do you wish was watching you at every game you play?
My dad. I feel like that the game is something we bonded over since I could play. I grew up in California, so obviously, he was every single game and then moving across the country, to go to Wake [Forest], that was hard. And so I know that, if I get to have him at every single game, that would mean the world to me.
What do you do to calm your nerves leading up to, during, and after a match?
I feel like before the game, I try to honestly not think about the game. I’ll just try to make it feel like a regular day, kind of just chill out, relax, watch TV, or whatever. I call my family a lot before games, just like you know FaceTime.
Then during the game, I try to just get as many touches as possible — just try to get on the ball, complete simple passes. Also If I get into, a really hard tackle, I feel like that, just shakes all my nerves out. So that’s kind of my rule for the first five minutes of the game is sticking into a tackle.
Then after I feel like after is really hard for me because I’m always thinking about the game and even it’s hard for me to fall asleep, because I’m replaying the game. But it’s probably the same things as before the game. I just watch Netflix, call my family. I just think, “It’s done. It’s over with,” and try to put it in the back of my head until I need to like watch film again.
Where do you see the sport in 10-15 years?
I hope that there are just fans filling stadiums, and I hope that there are a lot more teams in the league. I hope that younger girls are taking a chance on playing professional soccer. I feel like sometimes they think there’s a limited opportunity, maybe because they don’t want to go overseas, they’re too scared, or they don’t know about it. And I hope that they can. The game will be so big when they realize there’s another avenue to get to where you want because I feel like a lot of people think the NWSL is the end all be all and I think we need to normalize that not every journey is the same.
You don’t have to start in the league to get to where you want. So, I hope, obviously for American soccer, I hope the game really grows and like I said, more teams, more fans, and just more support. But as a whole for women’s football around globally, I hope that there are more girls wanting to go overseas and make that jump because it’s just going to grow. They’re just going to get more exposure and I feel like that’s what we need right now.
Question from goalkeeper coach, Nathan Thackeray: What’s been the biggest adjustment to life as a Courage player?
Oh man, there’s been a lot of adjustments. You cannot shut off. The expectations are up here and you have to do everything in your power to meet those expectations. You have to keep pushing the envelope. You cannot settle on any day. I think that’s the biggest adjustment, especially from college, I guess. Not to say like I was ever someone that didn’t work hard, or just wanted to get by, that’s not my personality at all, but if you did have a bad day, you can kind of just fly under the radar and it’s fine. But here, it’s like you have a bad day, that can’t happen tomorrow or it shouldn’t happen tomorrow. Obviously, things happen. You can get in a funk. But I think, stay consistent in your efforts and like being at a high level, that is the biggest adjustment, I would say.
2020 Starting XI Questions
Check out our first ten 2020 Starting XI Questions:
All of our Starting XI Questions can be read here.
Look for more articles on Peyton Perea and the entire North Carolina Courage squad throughout the 2020 season here on Courage Country.