Photo: Kyle McCarthy
(Editor’s Note: Our series of posts from Reading United and Villanova defender Kyle McCarthy continues as he gives an inside look at what life is really like playing for one of the top Premier Development League teams in the country.)
For many of the players who have been here since the first few weeks of May, we have now reached the halfway point of our stay in Reading. The perfect way to mark the occasion was playing the Philadelphia Union last Saturday. With an amazing crowd and professional opponents, it was great experience to be a part of. Another way to note the midpoint is to reflect on what we have learned thus far. Here are the most important lessons we have picked up from the first half of our time in Reading.
Enjoy the little things
The infamous rule No. 32 in the hilarious, post-apocalyptic movie Zombieland. Although we are not overrun with flesh hungry zombies, this idea fits perfectly for those of us living in Reading. Away from friends, family, and the comforts of our own homes, adapting to life in our new surroundings has often been difficult. However, those of us who have learned to look for and value the small pleasures in our day-to-day lives have more easily coped with the draining challenges we face.
Sometimes it is appreciating a cloudy day that breaks up the summer heat. Other times it is enjoying a free meal organized by our PA announcer Kevin Devera. Personally, I have learned to take joy in finding cheap store-brand foods that actually taste somewhat like their brand name counterparts. When I recently discovered that our Giant’s store brand Vitaminwater was surprisingly similar to the real thing, yet significantly less expensive, I was legitimately thrilled. Same for when I discovered similar findings with store brand frozen pizza, chocolate-chip cookies, lemonade mix, and peanut butter. Sad? Maybe. But, does it help? Absolutely.
Change it up
With almost the same practice and game schedule week in, week out, our lives have become incredibly monotonous very quickly. Thus, every now and then it has been important for us to change things up. Be it going to the movies one day, eating out for dinner some nights, or even finding time to go to New York City like my housemates did recently, something must be done to break up the normal routine. Due to the time demands of the summer class I have been taking, I have found this to be particularly challenging as of late. However, when my housemate Tolani Ibikunle asked if I could take him to get his haircut, I thought this presented the perfect opportunity for me to change things up.
We went to get our haircuts at a barbershop just outside of Reading where I had taken Tolani before. Tolani went first and I knew I could be in trouble when the guy cutting his hair was named “V Dub”. However, I didn’t back out and was quickly seated by another barber. Going into the haircut, I was hoping to come out with my hair looking something like Leonardo DiCaprio’s from The Departed. Unfortunately, I came out looking more like Edward Norton as a neo-Nazi in American History X. Apparently I do not know clipper sizes very well, as I asked for a four on top and two on the sides, which to my surprise was MUCH shorter than I was anticipating. Oh well, I guess I will have to deal with a few weeks of “where’s the rally?” jokes.
Probably the most important lesson we have learned is how to take care of ourselves in an isolated environment. As college students, we obviously have experience with living on our own, but Reading has been a step-up in this challenge.
As I have mentioned before, feeding ourselves has been a big issue. Unlike college, we do not have a food court with a wide variety of options that we can walk to. Thus, we have to plan and make our own meals that are healthy and nutritious. As athletes, this is particularly important. With the high physical demand we place on our bodies every day, we must make meals that provide us with the fuel to make this possible. While we may only want to make frozen pizza and chicken nuggets all the time because it is easy, we have learned to incorporate various vegetables and other food groups into our meals.
Another issue has been responsibility. Unlike living in a dorm, living in an apartment requires a higher level of responsibility, a lesson we have learned the hard way more often than not. Don’t take out the trash? Enjoy a bug-infested kitchen. Don’t clean off your pots and pans immediately after each usage? Enjoy scraping off grease for half an hour when you are tired and hungry after practice. Don’t want to go grocery shopping? Enjoy eating oatmeal and pretzels as your meals for the day.
Fortunately, the more time we spend here the quicker we are adhering to all of these lessons. They will certainly be helpful as we continue onwards into the second half of the season and hopefully we come to learn many more.