Courage Country sat down after a practice leading up to the 2019 NWSL championship on North Carolina Courage home turf, and talked to two of the goalkeepers, Adelaide “Addy” Gay, and Samantha “Sam” Leshnak. Both keepers played down the road in Chapel Hill for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and now are both playing for another North Carolina team.
The pair of goalkeepers finished their post-training interview by answering the 2019 Starting XI Questions.
Starting XI Questions: Adelaide Gay, Samantha Leshnak
1. What’s a pre-game ritual you’ll never change?
Adelaide: I would say the prehab stuff — like foam rolling, stretching, the physical warmup would be the particular pre-game ritual.
Samantha: I’m pretty particular about my shoes. I like them tight, but not too tight, but then there’s this bone in my foot I go softer around. Then I tie them on the sides three times.
Adelaide: Oh yeah, extra knots in the shoes, extra hair ties.
Samantha: I’m not weird. I kind of already said I’m weird, but it’s just the shoe. It can’t be too tight. It can’t be too loose. So if I mess up, I have to try again.
Have you tried the laceless cleats?
Adelaide: Uh no. Maybe that’s too much for me.
Samantha: Maybe I should do that.
2. What’s your best suggestion to youth soccer players to up their game?
Samantha: Watch the game.
Adelaide: Play a lot — all the time. Any extra sessions, go do them. Just play a lot.
Samantha: Just have fun.
Adelaide: I read an article that said that athletes are primarily visual learners so it doesn’t make sense when you’re coaching, it doesn’t make sense to explain things verbally because if you’re athlete, you’re physical. You’re a visual learner, so I think that watching the game is huge.
3. What’s something people don’t understand about you?
Adelaide: I own a soccer notebook company, Duktig Brand .
Samantha: Yeah, plug it. I got married right out of college and I just turned 22.
4. What’s the best praise someone could give you either on or off the field?
Adelaide: She’s a good teammate.
Samantha: Maybe anything that shows they appreciate me — maybe a high five or locking eyes. Something like, “Let’s go, Sam. Let’s go, Smurf,” or “Good save.” I don’t know, just some compliment really. Something. That goes a long way. I love that part of being on the team.
4. What’s the first thing you do when you get home from a match?
Adelaide: I’m not going to lie. I usually watch it. I mean especially when I was overseas, if we had the video, I’d go back and watch it pretty much as soon as it was available.
Samantha: If it was an important game, yeah yeah. I always loved being with the family so going out to eat, or bringing everyone together. My parents separated, but I always wanted everyone together. So I just always wanted everybody near me. I think as a goalkeeper too, I’m locked in the full game. I’m always thinking things. I’m always in my head. I think afterwards, I just want to be out of it and outward focused if that makes sense.
Going back and watching the games, how much of it is watching your own performance, versus seeing what you missed or how you perceived something versus how it actually was — like oh, maybe the ref wasn’t as bad as I thought?
Adelaide: I don’t actually know what the fascination is — definitely if they scored or I made a good save, I want to see those things. I don’t know exactly what the fascination with it is. But yeah, I always wanted to watch it.
Samantha: And we just get this level playing view and it’s like, “Were we really under attack the whole time? Did we really have more chances?”
Adelaide: Even watching from the stands versus from the bench versus watching from the goal, it’s different perspectives for sure.
The best matches for the team are when you all are bored. How do you balance that? I really want to be challenged, but it’d be nice if we were attacking the whole time?
Adelaide: Those are the hardest games, when you don’t have anything to do, and they come down and you have to make that one save. If you don’t make it, you just think that you had just one thing to do, and I didn’t make that one save. But, when you’re under attack the whole time, you’re like, “I’m doing some good things. I doing great things.” You’re warm and you’re in it so I definitely think — obviously you want your team to do well, but I would say those are the tougher games to mentally stay in it.
Samantha: True. I would just say for me, just making sure I have a good warmup. I make sure I’m confident on the ground and the hits, but also I’m moving the ball and I’m talking to my team the whole time.
5. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Samantha: The latest advice I got was I was telling my dad, “I’m just trying to be married.” He told me don’t try to be married. Just try to be best friends. That was the best advice to date for me for life. And yes, my husband Kyle is my best friend. He’s ridiculous.
Adelaide: I feel like I’ve been given a lot of good advice in my life. I think the best advice would be to help to create the environment you want to be a part of. I just remember my first year as a pro, I didn’t understand that — especially from coming from Carolina where everything is so well done already and it’s set up for you and then just walking into environments that maybe aren’t perfect. I think a lot of players are like, “Oh this environment is no good,” when really you should help create the environment that we want. You can make it so much better if you come into the locker room and address everyone and say, “Hello. How are you?” and then when you leave, say, “Goodbye, I’m leaving. It’s been a great day.”
Samantha: That’s super-good.
6. What person outside your family has done the most for your soccer career?
Samantha: Inside my family, my dad — mentally, emotionally, and financially.
Adelaide: Probably Anson [Dorrance]. That sounds so stupid, but he could have easily — I only got to play because somebody got injured. When they got healthy, he could have easily play them again, but he let me continue playing because I did a good job. There’s not many coaches that would do that, so I would say that would be the biggest. Part of that decision was also my teammates, the people who were leaders of our team that year supported me in that moment. They were a big part of that also. It’s big though. As a teammate, you don’t have to say anything. You can just let the coach make his decisions.
Samantha: Well I want to say God. I fell like that’s a good answer too — my Man upstairs, always watching me. I almost want to say [those] two. I’ve got some life mentors here that I just bounce things off of and they really help me with my mental game. I would probably have to say Chris Ducar, goalkeeper coach at Carolina — he gave me exactly what I needed in the moment that I needed help — beating myself up too much, or maybe I was taking it too lackadaisical. He was just a coach that would always put me back on path. It wasn’t an issue for me to show up every day and train really hard. He was just always making sure my mind was in the right place and just keeping my belief high. I think that’s a really cool thing if you’re a coach — keeping your team or your player’s belief high — not doing anything to waiver their belief.
7. Of all the teams you’ve played with, wherever you go, what’s the one thing that always stays the same?
Samantha: I would say the choice to be yourself — the choice for you to always be competitive. I think the environment can always change. The team can change. Whether it’s a national team, or in another country, or you’re just playing pickup. At the end of the day, you’re always going to be with yourself. You’re always going to be with your own mind and it’s up to you to choose if you’re going to give what you have that day. Sometime’s it’s hard for you to choose. I am going to be the confident, relentless, brave goalkeeper when it’s not your environment, when it’s not something you’re familiar with. You want to shy away. So I think you always have a choice to play your best.
Adelaide: I would say the need for relationships between players. It started me thinking about it because your relationship between your center backs and your goalkeeper, I would say that it’s fairly similar across teams. Obviously, it’s different people, but a need for that relationship and the need for the backline and the goalkeeper. What did they call it? Small societies? The relationship between the right back and the right midfielder. They’re all different obviously, but I think the need for these smaller connections within the larger group is important.
8. Who’s the last soccer player you texted?
Samantha: Maybe Kenzie — Kenzie Meehan. I just asked her for a favor.
Adelaide: It was probably our group text. No, it was Julie. It was her birthday — Julie King.
9. What’s your best guilty pleasure?
Adelaide: Oh gosh. I feel like I’ve said this a million times, but I really like Andy Capp’s Hot Fries. I’m a big fan.
Samantha: I would say either a hot bath, or key lime pie.
Adelaide: Oh, I like key lime pie.
Maybe both at the same time?
Samantha: [laughs] Both at the same time.
Adelaide: Ok, don’t act like you’ve never eaten in the bath tub.
And if you haven’t, don’t judge
Adelaide: Maybe I take my hot fries in there. Just kidding.
10. Question from Abby Erceg: Adelaide, talk what your inspiration for your business was and how you got started.
Adelaide: I was playing in Sweden at the time, and I’ve always written everything down. I’m a big journal fan, even when I was a kid. My mom was like, “No you cannot have another journal, Adelaide.” I just wanted more notebooks all the time. So it was probably predestined a little bit. I’ve always written everything down. After a game, I’ll draw the situations that happened and if I have a goalkeeper drill I really liked, I’ll write it down for later. I’m a big fan of writing in general and it always bothered me. I wanted to have a moleskin and nice look. I didn’t want to just draw the field in myself because it’d be ugly. I’ve got some OCD issues obviously.
I started emailing notebook companies, asking if they’d make this. I was going to help them, but they [responded] no, but we’ll sell it to you. Duktig is a Swedish word. It means to be good at something. At first, we just bought, me and my co-founder, Tiffany Weimer — we just bought 500 notebooks and what’s the worst that could happen. We sold out of those, so we bought more. Then we’ve added a whole bunch more notebooks — different kinds. We have have hardcover, softcover, big, small. We have a player notebook and it’s grown from there.
Last year, one of the biggest pieces of feedback we got right off the bat was it needs to be waterproof. That makes a difference when you’re coaching — the times you’re caught in torrential downpours a lot. It’s hard to waterproof a notebook because it’s paper. A lot of the way you waterproof the notebook is to coat the pages. They end up feeling waxy and you have to write with a certain kind of pen and it doesn’t feel like regular paper. We’re kind of notebook snobs. Someone suggested stone paper. I looked it up and it’s just a little bit different because the water doesn’t run off of it. It absorbs it and then dries. You still have to write with oil-based ink. So a ball-point pen is fine — just not a fountain pen, anything that’s water-based basically. You can write with pencil or whatever and it just keeps your notes safe. We’re trying to transition everything over. Some of it’s still paper now. Some of it’s stone paper. It’s good for other reasons too — trees and all.
11. Question from Debhina: What do you think when you’re in goal? What do you think when it’s all happening?
Samantha: I’ve got this. Always best case. Always best case scenario, unless it’s Deb, then I’m like, “see ya!” No, I’m just kidding. I’m just kidding. If there’s something in my head, I’m not going to save it. Usually if it’s blank space, it’s good. It’s going to be a good one. Just happiness. I love what I do. It’s so fun to play. They’re such good players. She probably asked that because any good save that I would have, I would just be like, “Woo! Let’s go!” The girls just crack up. I just love it.
Give us a question for the next NC Courage staff member doing Starting XI Questions, assistant coach Nathan Thackeray.
Can you talk about your knee injury?
What’s your funniest goalkeeping story to date?
Can we get a video of you doing your American accent?
Other Starting XI Questions
Check out our other Starting XI Questions from the 2019 season so far:
Cari Roccaro & Ryan Williams