We had the honor yesterday to sit down with North Carolina Courage forward, Jess McDonald to do an in-person interview and of course had her answer the Starting XI Questions. Read her unique answers and insights.
Starting XI Questions: Jess McDonald
1. What’s a pre-game ritual you’ll never change?
McDonald: I have to nap before every game. I have to shower right before we head to the stadium. I have to have pancakes as part of my pre-game meal, and just listening to good music before the game as well. I go on a 20-minute walk before each game/gameday and chill most of the day. I don’t even like to move at all — because every ounce of energy I need to apply it to the soccer field.
2. What’s your best suggestion to youth soccer players to up their game?
McDonald: Whatever free time you have, have a soccer ball at your feet. Fall in love with it — every single day.
3. What’s something people don’t understand about you?
McDonald: My approach. I hear this a lot — people think I’m just this unapproachable person and they think I’m mean and angry — despite looking at me. Once I get to know someone, they say, “you’re the polar opposite of what I thought you would be.” I don’t really know any other way to carry myself besides chest out and good posture, and just go on about my day.
4. What’s the best praise someone could give to you on or off the field?
McDonald: Juggling being a professional athlete and a mom for sure because both are hard. By themselves, it’s hard and then incorporating the two together — absolutely.
5. What’s the first thing you do when you get home from a match?
McDonald: The first thing I do? I can’t say this. I sit down. Let’s put it that way. I go and sit. It’s just such a relief. You hang out with the fans. You get in the car, and are like, “Oh gosh, I can’t wait to get home.” You walk in the door, and then by the time I just sit down or lay down even, it’s just such a relief. One of the hardest things is actually to fall asleep after a game for a lot of us because of your adrenaline. Just laying there is the most amazing thing — even if I don’t fall asleep — the simple little things in life — just laying there.
6. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
McDonald: My grandmother used to always quote the Bible, and one of her and my favorite Bible verses is, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I think me thinking about that verse a lot of times like when things get hard for me. Say we’re in the middle of fitness, and my mind is telling my body, “you’re about to shut down and crash,” that Bible verse pops in my mind and it’s mind over matter.
7. What person outside your family has done the most for your soccer career?
McDonald: I have a really good friend, Dave Cameron who’s done a lot for me. He’s bent over backward for me. For example, he set up my soccer camp for me. I didn’t do anything. He did everything: the advertising, he had all the gear. He’s the one that brought people in for my camp. He hired people for my camp. I did nothing. I just showed up and coached, and called it a day. He’s been an incredible human being to me. He’s a soccer coach at Millenium High School girls varsity team and also a head coach for a junior college team at Phoneix College men’s program. He’s just this incredible human being. I’m obsessed with his family. They’re amazing people. He’s got four kids and you can only imagine the days he goes through in his household — everybody not just him. It’s an incredible thing to see him being a good husband, a good father, an incredible soccer coach, and an incredible friend.
8. Of all the teams you’ve played with, wherever you go, what’s the one thing that always stays the same?
McDonald: The Portland environment, man. It’s always going to be the same — either they hate you or they love you. That’s all you’re going to get. There’s no in-between. So it’s cool to see the love that a lot of the fans show me because I used to be a player there. Nothing’s going to change in Portland. That’s one of those places that’s never going to change.
9. Who’s the last soccer player you texted?
McDonald: [Laughing] Crystal Dunn was the last person. Sorry, it’s because of the conversation that I started laughing. I had to ask her a question about something specific from the national team, “Hey what is this?” There’s always different names for exercises or whatever the case may be. I was like, “I have no idea what this is.” She was just laughing at me, and then I was laughing at myself.
10. What’s your best guilty pleasure?
McDonald: I drink coffee around the clock and the crazy thing is coffee doesn’t even phase me. It does nothing to me. I drink it so much and so often — with no shame whatsoever.
11. What brings you joy off the pitch?
McDonald: Oh, my child. Easily — especially when he’s happy. Oh my goodness. It’s the most amazing thing when he’s happy and he’s this energetic ball. I’ve witnessed other parents who can be impatient and they’re like, “Sit down. Be still.” And I’m like, “Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Let’s go fast!” So I’m encouraging him to wreck things pretty much. He’s a boy, so he’s jumping off of counters and refrigerators for crying out loud and landing it. But I’m like, “at least you’ve got good insurance.”
Bonus #12. Give me a question for the next player doing Starting XI Questions. Not sure who it’s going to be yet, but if you’ve got a general one …
McDonald: Yeah, I’ve got one. If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with your extra time?