The following is the long awaited second part in the series that captures the unique passions and hobbies (other than soccer) that the players of Women's Professional Soccer have.
The league is a smorgasbord of talent and personalities on the field: some are quiet, others boisterous. Some are speedy and attacking, others are consistent and technical. But what makes the WPS athletes unique are their off-the-field tendencies and lifestyles, hobbies, and passions.
Chicago Red Stars goalkeeper Kelsey Davis is intense on the field. Vocal and tenacious, her playing style is one to be envied, as it seems she has no fear in throwing her body into a dive for the ball.
Off the field, however, a completely different personality shows its face. Despite being in correspondence with Davis for only a couple of days to complete this feature, I could tell that she is someone who devotes her time to others.
Whether it be for a brief 40 minute conversation, or for the course of a semester, Davis is one of the rare people you can have a conversation with and know that all her attention is focused on you.
One of the privileged athletes to be nominated for the Lowes Senior CLASS Award, which recognizes collegiate student-athletes for outstanding achievement during competition and in their community while staying in school, Davis is known to be open, giving, and loving.
As is often the case of someone who is passionate about something, Davis was eager to share her experiences of her work with charity, particularly with the Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Lauren Salter: When did you start doing charity and community service work?
Kelsey Davis: I've always been involved with extracurricular and community. I was always involved with stuff my youth group was doing, and I went to Mexico to build houses. It was in college at Portland when I got more consistently involved in charities and working with community service
LS: You've worked with the Ronald McDonald House Charities before when you were a Portland Pilot. What was your reaction when you found out that Chicago would be partnering with them?
KD: I was so excited. I have a deep love and respect for the RMHC organization and everything they stand for and look for. It is really cool that I have the opportunity to continue my relationship with RM, but also to be part of a team that has a relationship with them. The RMH is trying to build the largest house in the world [in Chicago]. I think they will achieve that, so it's cool to be involved as a partner with that.
LS: What do you think the impact will be of having the RMHC logo on the front of the Red Star jersey?
KD: I think it’s twofold. I think for the House [Charities], it’ll bring awareness to the organization and support for the charity at the emotional level. It’ll bring awareness to the families who are going through it with kids in the hospital, and to kids with cancer.
And I think for us as well, for what the Ronald McDonald House is trying to do for Chicago and build the world's largest house here, it’ll bring awareness to our franchise and to the Chicago Red Stars.
We see it more as a family partnership, where we're both trying to work together to build something long lasting, being people who believe in hope and service, because that's what our organization is about and what Ronald McDonald House is about.
LS: What will this partnership bring to Chicago?
KD: Awareness and just a greater sense of family too. We, as an organization and franchise in its second year in the WPS, really want to be invested in our community, and we want our community to be invested in us. I thinking us believing in our community will help them believe in us. It's so mutual. That's what Ronald McDonald House brings to a community: both family and hope.
LS: What has been your favorite part of working with the RMHC (either in Portland or in Chicago)?
KD: I haven't gotten to start working with the Chicago group yet just because we're trying to get it organized. But in Portland, it was just the time spent cooking dinners at the house with my teammates. That was when we were able to talk with families and talk with the kids staying in the house, and building those relationships.
That was the most important thing; the caring, the respect, and love. That was the most favorite part: getting to know the families and spending time with them.
LS: You were the leader in raising money to turn a room in the Legacy Emanuel Ronald McDonald House in Northeast Portland into a Portland Pilots theme. What inspired you to start raising money for that room?
KD: It was a funny story. We were at the house cooking dinner one night, something that we would do once a month, especially in spring time. We'd try to get out during the fall, but schedules are hard with school and soccer. We were taking a tour of the house, and I was talking to some teammates. We went in to the University of Oregon room, and the OSU room, and I turned to them and asked, “Why the heck don't we have a Portland Pilot room?”
We'd been serving them for nine years or so at that point, so we had two generations of Pilots working with them. My team was like, “Yeah that makes sense, we should have one!”
I went to my coach and asked about it, and he said, “If you want to make it happen, go do it.” So I went to the head of the [RMHC] organization and asked how much it would be, talked to the marketing department [at UP], and got the support of our athletic department, and they helped make it happened. The money came from everyone who attended games. It was a huge communal effort.
That was so cool to see how it turned out, because there were so many hearts and hands involved in it. I never could have done it without the help of other people involved.
LS: Is there a Chicago Red Stars room in the books for the future?
KD: [Laughs] You know, someone mentioned it to me the other day, and I kind of laughed like I did with you. I would love to see that. It’s not something that I've brought up yet or talked to our general manager about yet, but it's something that's on my radar. I just have to see if it's on everyone else’s radar too.
LS: Tell me about the house in Chicago.
KD: It’s going to be the largest Ronald McDonald House. I’m not sure about the logistics of it. I saw the sketch of it and it's huge. I’m not sure how far along they are.
LS: How do you manage your time between playing professional soccer and giving back to the community? Is it different than it was with Portland?
KD: I think what's different now is that there's more time. There aren't as many time constraints on us because our primary focus is soccer. We train for a couple hours a day, and we have free afternoons and evenings unless we have appearances or something.
For me, it’s about trying to find opportunities and get connected. In Portland, it was right there and people had already started initiatives so I could take them. I did a bunch of different things in college beyond Ronald McDonald House. Being in a new city, it's up to me now to find service opportunities, and its' something I'm looking forward to.
It’s cool, and I'm excited to start working with Ronald McDonald House Charities. We have a couple dinners set up with the team, and a BBQ. I'm excited to be part of that.
LS: What was your reaction to being nominated for the Lowe's Senior CLASS award during your last year with Portland?
KD: It is a big deal, and I was honored. I was grateful. I thought that, of the awards that are given throughout the year for the senior class, and All-American awards too, this one was the most important to me, even though I ultimately didn’t end up winning it.
As far as what's hanging on my wall, that's the one I appreciate the most. I'm proud to represent the university because the people there shaped me into what I am today. I keep reiterating family and community, but that's what the awards stand for to me. I have gotten so much more back from the school and community.
LS: How is playing in Chicago different from playing in Portland?
KD: I think that it's not so much the difference between the cities as it is between college soccer and being a professional athlete.
The cool thing about the Portland program is that it prides itself on professionalism, so my transition into the professional world has been fairly smooth. I felt readily prepared to know how to act as a pro, to train as a pro, and to live as a professional, because my program trained me for that. I also knew how to make decisions and prepare myself.
The level is higher, the demands placed on you while performing are higher, and it’s a way longer season! Our preseason [in Chicago] is 6-7 weeks long, while our college preseason is two weeks. Our duration is longer and our quality is higher.
You have way more time on your hands, so it can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how you spend it. So, managing time is different now. It's a new balance to find how to take care of yourself physically, and emotionally, and spiritually for me. I have all this free time and it's like, what the heck do I do with it?
LS: Yep, I can’t wait for that! It’ll be nice not to have to stress over finishing schoolwork with practice, being a collegiate athlete myself.
KD: I do miss the rhythm of college, and I think that most people coming out of school would tell you that, because it's nice to have a schedule knocked out for you. It's comfortable.
But at the same time, I miss the relationships and friendships, and the things I had in Portland, because those things are really dear to my heart. But I am very grateful for the change of pace and the amount of time it's opened for me because I can do things less stressed and with more time. I feel like the quality of what I’m doing has grown.
LS: Had you ever been to Chicago before you moved there to play?
DK: I hadn't, and in the same way I hadn't been to Portland either when I went to school there. I was walking into a similar situation and I am absolutely in love with Chicago already! I've been exploring around and going downtown. I live in the suburbs, so I go see my teammates in the city. It’s great, and it's awesome…and everyone keeps telling me that the Chicago summers are great, so I'm looking forward to that!
LS: OK, well I have some “Quick Shots” for you now. They’re just couple word answers. Ready?
KD: Go for it!
LS: Who would you be most afraid to be running at you on a breakaway, Marta or Abby Wambach?
LS: If you could play any other position on the field, what would it be?
KD: Forward. Score goals!
LS: How would you describe yourself in three words?
KD: Passionate, patient, and humble.
LS: Water or Gatorade?
KD: Gleukos. They're my sports drink sponsor.
LS: Starbucks or Coffee Bean?
KD: Coffee Bean.
LS: Baskin Robins or Cold Stone?
KD: Baskin Robbins.
LS: Chocolate or Vanilla?
KD: Chocolate. Well, do you mean flavors or what? ‘Cause I LOVE chocolate.
LS: Ok, chocolate: milk or dark?
KD: Dark chocolate.
LS: Puma or Nike
KD: Nike...[laughs] I'm sponsored by Nike too!
The first installment of In Their Free Time (with "Bookworm" Christen Karniski).