Many parents have work/life challenges: Squeezing in hours on the job, spending quality time with our children, scrambling to the grocery store and keeping the house clean (enough). But imagine being a professional athlete, navigating days and weeks on the road, putting in hours-long workouts and practices to stay physically fit, and serving as a role model not only to your own 2-year-old daughter but to tens of thousands of soccer-playing girls across the U.S.
Meet Seattle Reign FC defender Stephanie Cox, the only mom on Seattle's professional women's team and one of only five players in the league who are moms. How does she do it?
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced being a professional soccer player and a mother?
My daughter is so active right now that when I come home and just want to let my body recover, she keeps me running around and going, going, going.
[On the upside], when we travel with the team, they want us to go into the gym and get our legs going. I don't need to do that as much because I know I will be on my feet with her.
So your daughter travels with the team for games?
She does. It's great to have her. Everyone really helps out. in the airport she gets to run from player to player. We came back from Boston recently and she flew over the different rows of seats on the plane, getting passed from one payer to the next.
How do you build quality mom time into the team game schedule?
We share our room when we travel. But once in D.C. she told me she didn't want to go back to our room because the other players weren't there!
Awww, that's really cute. How do you keep your energy level up?
You could ask that of any mom! But I do think when I get back on the field my teammates energize me. And that's kind of my free time to let myself go into soccer player mode.
Do you get asked about parenting by fans?
They call me Mama Cox. There are only five moms in the league. The league is fairly new, the pay isn't great, and the travel and commitment is a big sacrifice to a family. I'm pretty fortunate with the Seattle team now because I get to live at home. I have the support of my family and extra family to help out. But sadly, where women's professional soccer is right now, the rookies will stay around for a year or two or three and then realize they need a better-paying job. They can't find a job for the other six months [outside of the season]. It's really hard work. Some of the girls coach to subsidize their pay.
What can we do to make that better? I could rephrase this maybe as, how do we bring more fans to your games?
With more security and stability in the league, if we continue to get fans out, if the owners aren't losing money, then they want to invest more. It would be awesome to have a similar schedule to the MLS where it's a nine- or ten-month season so people can really plant their roots down in the city. Any pro-sport athlete has to worry about trading, but a longer season would help.
When there's diversity — older players, mid players and rookies, that helps us be successful. The rookies learn a lot. The exposure is great. It's a great family environment, but to get 1,000 more fans at a game would be great.
What do you, your husband and your daughter do for fun?
We live in Gig Harbor. My daughter comes with me to practice, and on the way up she's constantly asking for library books. Sometimes I bring my babysitter with me. My daughter loves Frozen songs.
Lauren [Barnes] had her on her lap on the way to Portland in a bus recently, and Kaylee had her sing Frozen into the mic!
As a family we love to hang out in the yard. We just went to the Point Defiance Zoo. Sometimes we get out on a boat. Our daughter loves to find a stage and get up and sing into the microphone.
What's your biggest parenting challenge?
Getting her to listen, getting her to know I am in charge. Having her follow through. She's independent, and she's not timid. The great thing about being around all of these strong women is that she gets to see them as an example, she gets to be assertive. Maybe she's a little spoiled — I have to tell her, "no more chocolate." She's a lot of fun and pretty social.
What's next for you?
For me as a mom, with a shorter season it's been tough. In the off season a lot of the girls go play overseas. I had to train on my own here, and it was hard to stay motivated to go to the gym and run and stay fit when I really wanted to be with my daughter. When I didn't have that team around me to support me, it was hard to stay on track.
This is probably my last season, in part due to those reasons. I'm very excited because I'm going to be coaching soccer at Gig Harbor High School this fall. I'm 29, the time feels right.
Waaah! This is a big change!
It's going to be hard to leave, but I know I can impact these girls, too. The Reign coaching staff has had a huge impact on me, and so I am really looking forward to doing the same thing for my high-school players.