Courage Country sat down with North Carolina Courage‘s left-back, Jaelene Hinkle, after a hot and humid morning practice session soon after the conclusion of the World Cup, which explains her last texted soccer player answer.
Like all our interviews so far, she concluded the interview by answering the Starting XI Questions. Read her answers below.
Starting XI Questions: Jaelene Hinkle
1. What’s a pre-game ritual you’ll never change?
I always have pancakes and eggs before games, which my mom thought was so silly last weekend when she was here. She was like, “Why are you eating pancakes?” “Just let it be. It’s what I do.”
I can’t always control that on the road, but at least at home, that’s always my go-to three hours on the dot before kickoff — pancakes and eggs.
2. What’s your best suggestion to youth soccer players to up their game?
I think just spending quality time with just you and the ball. I don’t think I did enough of that growing up. I think I had to really hone in a lot of technical things each level that I’ve played at that I think I could have developed earlier on. So I think it’s just important that if it’s something you really are pursuing — not to make it a job — like you have to spend an hour in the backyard, but I think when you have the opportunity to just always be cleaning up your touch, working you, the ball, and the wall or if you have a sibling like I did, going out in the backyard and playing. It doesn’t have to be some plan or an organized practice, but just always being on the ball. I think that’s a big part.
3. What’s something people don’t understand about you?
I think that my team understands me in this area the best because they’re around me, and just knowing how important my faith is, but that it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m a saint or that I have it all figured out.
I think sometimes in an arena where any player, Megan Rapinoe in the last few weeks have been told to stop sharing her political view. That’s just nonsense. We are still humans that have outlooks on life outside of just the ball and us on the field. So I think I’m just grateful for the team I’m on that recognizes that importance in my life, but that doesn’t determine how much I love them or where I’m at for them, or if they could ever talk about things, or if we could just hang out. I think that sometimes that’s misunderstood as players that we’re only supposed to be soccer players. But I think when you have the right people around you, supporting in that, you feel the freedom to express yourself outside of just being their co-worker or someone they kick a ball with on a day-to-day basis. So I think I’m, just wanting people to understand the love that comes with the faith I have. I would hope that would be seen, even on the field, in the little things like picking up a player after you foul them, not wasting time all the time. I don’t know, just the little things where I want the love to come across in a way of I am a competitor and I’m competitive inside and out, but there’s a love that comes with that.
4. What’s the best praise someone could give to you on or off the field?
I think praise or encouragement, but just the little things. I think McCall does a really good job of just unexpectedly complimenting you on anything. You’re just like, “Wow. Thanks for noticing or that was really sweet of you to say. You didn’t have to say that.” I think sometimes it’s not even like praise about soccer that really gets me. It’s just like, “Man, I love your laugh.” People comment on my laugh all the time. I hate my laugh, but if it makes you laugh, I hope to keep laughing this way. I don’t know. It’s just little things that make you feel just like yourself. Sometimes, even in these questions, you go back to as a soccer player. I’m a soccer player. I’m a professional soccer player. But I think when people see you outside of that arena and compliment you on it, or encourage you in it, I think it’s sweet. It blesses me for sure.
5. What’s the first thing you do when you get home from a match?
I go straight to my couch. I usually have time to shower here, and they give us food after the game, which is a huge blessing. The last thing I want to do is go hunt down some food. When I get home, it’s usually straight to my couch. Since my dog’s been inside for about four hours, he’s a tornado of energy. So he’s usually fun. I feel like I’m so exhausted, but I’m wide awake because we’ve just played a game with all this adrenaline and energy still. So my body is tired, but I’m mentally like, “Cool. What are we going to do?’ but it’s 11 o’clock at night.
6. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Gosh, I’ve gotten so much advice. I would probably say the theme of the bits and pieces I’ve gotten whether from family or friends is just to be you. I think it’s easy to want to conform to something you’re not or to give into something that you’re not, but I think it’s a testament. I love seeing people, whether I agree with them or not on certain things, that they’re just themselves. They know why they believe what they do and they true to it. But it’s from a loving aspect. I think it’s genuine. I’ve been always been encouraged to be the exact same way. Just be you.
I think McCall is a great person who sets an example like that. Jess McDonald is a great person who sets an example. Maybe it’s just their maturity and how much they’ve been around in the league and how it is to be swayed in different things, or to follow after different things, but I love the examples I have — even just on my team of people just being themselves — not being afraid or ashamed to let that be seen, so I think that’s the best advice I’ve received.
7. What person outside your family has done the most for your soccer career?
Oh gosh. You can’t pinpoint one. There’s probably two people I can think of and the teams that they have. It’d probably be my club coach, Lorne Donaldson and then someone who was really influential beside him was Jared Spires. They were the ones that moved me to left-back and I was like oh my gosh, please don’t do this. That clearly developed me into learning to accept that role. Then, probably my college coach, Tom Stone. We went through a lot in college. But both on and off the field, you are really figuring out who you are and what your dreams are. I think it was really cool to have a college coach that supported a lot of my ideas and pushed me in directions I didn’t think I could go in, especially with the national team. He was really a big role in that. I guess Paul right now — who he is and what he does for the team — the sacrifices he makes alongside his wife and their dogs, who he considers their children, which I think is so cute. It’s probably those three, and their teams alongside them.
8. Of all the teams you’ve played with, wherever you go, what’s the one thing that always stays the same?
I don’t know. I guess just maybe the passion itself for soccer. Whatever team I’ve been on, whether we got along or not, or we hit a bump in the road, or we were super successful, I don’t think I’ve been on a team where the girls just didn’t care about what they were doing. I feel like there’s always an element wherever you find yourself, you’ve been brought together because of soccer, and that’s your objective. I think that’s a pretty consistent piece of my journey with all of them.
9. Who’s the last soccer player you texted?
I think it was Jess McDonald. I congratulated her about the World Cup, and then we were just messing around and joking, as we always do, but I finally get to see her this weekend, so I’m stoked.
That’s my homie. it will be sweet to see them after so long, and just hear about their journey. I’m sure it was incredible.
10. What’s your best guilty pleasure?
Ice cream hands down. I probably eat it way too much as an athlete, and if a dietician came in, they’d probably be like you need to relax. I can’t get enough of ice cream. That’s like me and Jess’ pre-game as well on the road — Ice cream every night. People are like, “Why would you do that?” I feel better and we love it.
Around here, it’s FRESH. Local Ice Cream, specifically the one on Glenwood. There’s one in Cary that’s still good, but Glenwood has way more options, and it’s so good. I highly recommend it.
11. What brings you joy off the pitch?
I’d probably say it’s three things — but like all together. It’s definitely my faith, and I guess maybe going back to what I’d be doing outside of soccer, I really want to be in ministry one day full time, however, that looks like and however the Lord leads. My faith is what keeps me smiling — just the whole aspect of what the Lord’s done for me. It’s huge. My family for sure, they’ve been through literally everything possible with me. It’s a sweet gift because I know a lot of people are missing family, or aren’t close to their family. I don’t take for granted the family the Lord’s given me. Then a recent addition to the family is my fiancé. We laugh a ton. If that’s one thing that I am grateful for, it is the laughter to be had between the two of us. He’s good.
Bonus #12 question from McCall. Your dog, Tucker, is he a good boy, or a bad boy?
Well you know, I can’t say I’m a parent, nor would I ever relate my dog to a child, but I guess he has his good moments and his bad moments. But yeah, I mean I wasn’t anticipating getting him, but I always wanted a dog. My mom actually went with me and she said, “I don’t know why you’re doing this. You move every six months.” I was like, “No, he’s going to be fun.” It’s worked out. It’s been better than I thought it could’ve been. The only part I wish I would have researched is before I got him, being a golden retriever is that he sheds an unreal amount of hair. He should be bald the amount of hair that he sheds. He still has the thickest coat. So that’s a downer. But his personality and dogs are crazy to me — how joyful they are. You could be so mad at them for peeing on the carpet or something, and two seconds later they’re still licking your face off. It just teaches you about life too. Don’t get your panties twisted over something small. Life’s good. I love him so much.
But your clothes are constantly covered. We have like five lint rollers between my apartment and [my fiancé’s] apartment. We will be getting more dogs for sure. We’re going to have kids but, dogs will be a staple in our family for sure.
Give me a question for the next player doing Starting XI Questions? Next interview looks like it’s going to be Abby Erceg
How do you stay so motivated to stay so fit? I lose interest at some point in my fitness. I’m just like, “Forget it.” Her nickname should be “Superwoman” because none of us understand the capacity of just her body to do things. It’s absurd. So how does she stay so fit, and does she ever indulge in anything? She’s really strict with her diet too, but she bakes for everyone else. I’m just curious, do you eat what you bake. Because if I was baking things, there would be none left to share.
Other Starting XI Questions
Check out our other Starting XI Questions from the 2019 season so far:
Look for a follow-up article on Jaelene Hinkle shortly here on Courage Country.