The Iso: Andi Sullivan

Andi Sullivan
The Players' Tribune

The Players’ Tribune is introducing a new series called The Iso. With so many of us keeping our distance from each other in a variety of ways, we decided to ask some of our favorite athletes to share how they’ve been dealing with life in the Covid-19 world, and how they’re spending their time away from their sport.

There are a couple of things you might remember about that time. The early days. First: The moment when it hit you, I mean really hit you, was different for everyone. There were levels to processing the initial spread of the coronavirus. 

I was on the road with the national team, and we played our last game at the SheBelieves Cup in Texas. That was the night that the NBA made the first move and shut things down.

Kate, our GM, came in right after and said, “Our next games are canceled.” I thought, That makes sense with people coming from other countries. I was like, “Well, we’ll still get together.” But then she said, “No. The entire camp is canceled.”

I remember Pinoe’s words: “Go to where you want to be stuck.” In my mind I thought, Maybe it’s not there yet. But Pinoe was smart and well-informed. I had what she said in the back of my mind when I was in Sacramento with my husband, Drew, who plays soccer as well. We got married in December. Wherever he is, is where I’d like to be stuck. I flew from Florida, to Vegas, and then to Sacramento to be with him.

The second thing you might remember: It was very hard to know whether you were making the right decisions in the moment. I felt like I had a big role on my NWSL team, the Washington Spirit. We have a young team, and I’m a leader. I’m also a returner. I talked to my coach, and he said, “We need you.” My husband was supportive about it because at this point we didn’t realize how big these shutdowns were going to be. So after being in Sacramento for a few days, I left him.

Now, I’m alone in my apartment in Maryland. I have roommates, but they all left.

So you make the decision and then ask yourself after the fact, Was that a good decision or not? Levels, right?

My thoughts on how I am change all the time. So what I say now might be different than how I feel in an hour, but honestly in the grand scheme of things, I’m healthy, I’m safe. So all in all I’m doing pretty well, and I feel like I’m doing my part to not spread things. In the not-so-grand scheme of things, it’s tough. I’m jealous of all the people who are with their families. Also, I think being an athlete you’re not used to downtime. It’s just a weird, nebulous space.

I’m running on the sidewalk and doing technical drills on the tennis court, or in a parking garage, or in my living room. It reminds me of when I was a young kid. When it snowed, I had a very dedicated coach who would meet me and a few other players in a parking garage and continue our training. I know that sounds super weird, but at the time when I was young I was like, This is cool. This is what it takes. It takes creativity, and dedication, and problem solving. How willing are you to do something like this? And so, in a way, I kind of enjoyed those first few days of my quarantine-limited training sessions because I felt like I was choosing it. I thought, This is bringing me back to my roots, back to my basics. This is going to be great. Some days I feel like that, and other days I feel like I don’t want to do anything. And why am I even trying?

Well, I’m trying because we all have to try. I developed a routine. I’m trying to be like, This is my routine in the morning, and this is my routine at night, just to give myself a little bit of structure. 

I like to make lists, a list of things that I could do, or need to do, and even just spewing out my thoughts. Sometimes my teammates laugh at me on our Zoom calls because I have a piece of paper, and I’m always scribbling down things that people say, or thoughts that I have in the moment. I think now is the time for me to experiment with things like journaling.

I also really like cooking and baking, but the problem is I love junk food. Normally, if I make dessert I would go bring it to teammate’s place to share. It’s very hard to make dessert for one. And it’s very hard, if you make a dessert for more than one, to not eat all that dessert at once.

I’m reading a book called Never Split the Difference, by Chris Voss, which seems like a good practical life-skills book, but I’ve been a little slow on it because I think I need a page-turner. I actually have been joking — when I’m in season, I live with Rose Lavelle, and we make jokes about how we love buying books, but sometimes they just sit there for a long time. So between me and her in the apartment, we actually have a good stack of books that I would like to get through.

I recently read something that gave me a little bit of comfort. In this book called Chop Wood Carry Water, there was this little anecdote about building your own house. It was the story of a man who worked for a very long time. He was a great architect who was set to retire, when his boss said, “Can you please stay and make us one more house?” The man begrudgingly agreed, but he built the house half-heartedly. Things that he was normally very detail-oriented about, he slacked on. Once he finished, the boss said, “This is your house. This was a gift for you.” And the man thought, If I had known I would have tried harder.… 

Every day that this goes on, act like you’re building your own house. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot as I respond to the situation at hand. It’s all about growing for the future. This is just an opportunity to test myself, like when I was a kid, training in the parking garage while it snowed. This is a time to discover patience and creativity with problem solving within yourself.

So my message for you is to just try. Try to make the best of it, in a sense. Try to set a routine. Try to pick up something new. You can’t really control a lot of things going on in the world right now. So take ownership of the things that you can, and try to embrace them.

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