Stuart is the kind of guy everybody wants on their team. His energy is infectious. His razor-sharp banter keeps the mood light, but his work ethic and talent makes your team better.
When I first started playing in the UK, I hadn't played yet for the National Team and didn't know much about him other than he was an American playing for Bolton. I remember reading the paper one Sunday morning and there was an article about him on the front page of The Guardian, telling the masses of the football world that based on his stats so far that season he was the most complete player in the entire Premier League. I immediately had respect for the man.
Not long after, I started getting called into National Team camps, and Stu and I hit it off from the start. I'm not sure if it was our mutual liking of singing Justin Bieber songs together, or if it was our mutual liking that it annoyed the hell out of everyone. Either way, it wasn't a surprise that we became roommates.
In 2010, the World Cup loomed in the distance and we were both in battles with our fitness, as I was just coming off a corneal transplant surgery on my eye and Stu had just broken a bone in his knee against the Netherlands in Amsterdam. We talked a lot about what it would be like to be named to the cup squad later that summer, and talked about the mental and physical battles we were going through just to give ourselves a chance. In all of our conversations, we always talked about the positives and schemed about our plans to make sure we were going to be named to that roster. The roomies made it.
In South Africa, we had an isolated hotel just for our team, so there wasn't much social interaction. Our room number was 214, so we promptly turned it into what we called "Studio 214" where we spent countless hours making up chants and songs about our teammates that we would introduce to the team each day on the bus ride home from training. By the end of it, we had song sheets printed out with numerous songs about Landon's hair line, my wonky eye, and Brad Guzan's missing tooth, amongst others :)
Stu was at the forefront, making sure everyone knew the cues to when we would start the songs and get the bus erupting with the lyrics and laughter. After we beat Algeria on the last kick of the game to win our group, our bus arrived back at the hotel to find the whole hotel staff outside the lobby doing a choreographed song and dance to greet us in celebration. Stu immediately got off the bus with a vuvuzela and joined in on the routine with the hotel staff, blowing on that thing like he was one of the fans in the stands for our game. Although we didn't get past Ghana in the next round, Studio 214 had firmly made its mark on the tournament.
I only had a few more games on the National Team after that, and Stu continued to battle injuries. But every time I talked to him, his positive attitude always rang through. His infectious energy was still a catalyst to keep trying, and even just a few weeks ago when his decision still hadn't been made to retire, his burning determination to join the National Team one last time to see if he still had it in him was still there.
His ability over the last few years to keep battling and keep smiling is something that has never ceased to amaze me, and no doubt will serve him well in the future.
I'm truly excited to see what's next for you, Stu. You have a new addition to the family now to look forward to, and I see nothing but more success in front of you. Why? Because you will still be the guy that everyone wants on their team. And to think, you won't ever have to hear "He's stronggg, he's fassst, his knees are made of glasss! Stuuu Holllden", from opposing fans ever again :))
Ever wondered what a day in the life of a U.S. Women’s National Team player is like? We followed WNT goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris to get an inside look at a day inside WNT training camp, a day that included a weight session and on-field practice.
After a grabbing a quick coffee, the busy day starts early for Harris and the WNT, as they are headed to a weight lifting, the first of two trainings sessions that day.
“The bus ride is always total shenanigans with the people I sit around with. Usually that group is Allie Long, Megan Rapinoe and Ali Krieger. It’s just fun and good vibes heading into our workout.”
First stop of the day: weightlifting. The WNT usually spends about 90 minutes at the gym, and each player has a specialized workout sheet that is tailored to their needs.
“At lifting I usually spend time on my shoulders and continue to strengthen my back; things I need as goalkeeper. Every day I hit the ground, so I have to make sure my arms are strong. Shoulder strength and shoulder stability are key to make sure my arms are moving well and to prevent any injuries.”
As the team exits the gym, several fans await them by the bus and most players, including Harris, stop to sign a few autographs and pose for a few selfies.
“It’s always just really cool to stop and have a chat with the younger generation after or before training sessions. They’re just awesome.”
“Our van leaves the hotel about 45 minutes before the field players whenever we go to the training. I always have a pre-training and pre-game routine of taping my fingers and hands. It’s a personal preference and to be honest, I’ve always done it. Being at training earlier helps us get some good stretching in, stay focused and it allows us to nail down techniques and work individually and collectively as a small group before we jump in with everyone else.”
For afternoon training, Harris, along with Alyssa Naeher and Jane Campbell, as well as goalkeeper coach Graeme Abel, all pile into a team van and head to training earlier than the field players to spend some time working on their technique and specific areas before the rest of the team arrives.
“Alyssa and I have very good communication and no one has a better view or can critique one another better than each other. If we see something we tell each other and help each other out.”
After training, the players all cool down, chat with each other, hydrate and reflect on the session they just completed.
“We tend to immediately grab our protein shakes. We talk about the day, what we saw on the field, what we can fix, what wasn’t good, what was good and we just overall critique the game in every way we can to become better.”
“Once we’re back in the hotel, it’s all about treatment. Like true professionals, we must take care of our bodies and be responsible to get the treatment we need. Our bodies take a beating from all the impact at training so we take care of it to do it all over again the day after.”