Catching Up with Britt Eckerstrom
The last time we checked in with Britt Eckerstrom was June of 2016. A lot has changed for our Dynasty alum (who STILL holds many of the top fitness rankings) in the past few years, so it is time for an update! As a refresher, Britt attended Dynasty for the first time in 2009 and attended our Elite program as well as our Pro program over the course of several summers.
She then went on to excel as Penn State and win a NCAA National Championship as a senior in 2015. She was drafted to the NWSL Western New York Flash in 2016, played in several games as the reserve goalkeeper behind Sabrina D’Angelo as the Flash won the 2016 NWSL Championship. In early 2017 the WNY Flash organization was sold to become the Carolina Courage and Britt went from western NY to NC only to be traded shortly after to the Portland Thorns right before pre-season. Ironically the Thorns ended up beating the Courage in the NWSL Final to win the 2017 NWSL Championship, so Britt has now won 3 championships during her career! 2020 will be her 4th season with the Thorns and 5th year as a pro. She also played abroad in Australia in the 2017 and 2018 off-seasons with the Newcastle Jets.
This year has been challenging for everyone with the pandemic with everything related to sports on hold for so long. The NWSL was the first pro sports league to restart with the Challenge Cup back in July. Britt entered that tournament as a back-up to Bella Bixby with starting goalkeeper AD Franch on injured reserve, but found her way into the starting line-up in a must win quarterfinal match versus the Carolina Courage. Eckerstrom came up HUGE in that game multiple times leading her time to a 1-0 upset over the heavily favored Courage. For her heroics she was honored as the Budweiser Woman of the Match as well as earning the Save of the Game and being named to the NWSL Best XI of the Champions Cup!
Dynasty recently had a chance to reconnect with Eckerstrom and ask her about life in the bubble, her preparation during the pandemic, and how she mentally prepares for the BIG game. Here is what she shared with us.
- This has been a year like none other in history with the pandemic. Tell me what your spring training was like when team training got shut down for months. How did you stay fit and sharp as a goalkeeper?
Our original offseason (Nov-Feb) consisted of lots of gym time. I worked with a trainer in Denver to improve my explosiveness and overall strength – think, butt burning dumbbell lunges, heavy barbell hip thrusts, box jumps, sled pushes and banded trap bar ¼ squat jumps. Since I wasn’t playing overseas, it was important to take the opportunity to work on my strength given I didn’t have the pressure to be fresh for weekly games.
One week into preseason and I felt the strongest and most powerful I’ve ever been, then covid happened. The next few months consisted of at-home training. With limited equipment, and fields and gyms closed, this period was about improvisation of workouts, discipline, and balance.
These were stressful times and I believe the key was finding balance between pushing my body and listening to when I needed to change things up. Stress effects performance. Cross training activities like biking, hiking and trail running helped keep my mind positive so that when season finally did start back up, I was in a good mental place to attack trainings feeling fresh without burnt out from individual daily workouts.
- What is training like under German National Team legend Nadine Angerer? Is her approach to goalkeeping much different than what you have experienced prior here in the States?
Angerer’s approach, and in general, German goalkeeping, is very different than anything I had previously learned. In training, the focus is on rhythm, timing, and explosiveness. Growing up, I would go through drills as quickly as possible, showing off my fast footwork. In our environment, the focus is on how smoothly and efficiently you can get your feet organized to push. It’s a technique you’ll see when you watch Neuer, Leno, Baumann, or ter Stegen, move across the goal calmly with minimal extra movements. It may have higher consequences if timed incorrectly, but allows for an increased range because of its explosiveness.
- What is your gk union training environment like and how do you contribute to that dynamic?
Both Bella and AD are returning from injury, so currently in training it is me and two college keepers. When everyone’s healthy and training, the environment is extremely competitive and supportive. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and it’s exciting to watch each other succeed in previous drills that gave us trouble a couple weeks prior. We are vocal when we see things each other can do differently with the understanding that the more we push each other to be better, the better we can be when we’re with the team.
Also, after each game, we do film analysis as a gk union group. This highlights what makes our environment special. Although it can feel daunting sitting with your colleagues, breaking down mistakes from the previous game, it makes us all better being able to learn and be open to feedback, good and bad.
- You have been in the reserve role behind an established starter (AD Franch) for most of your career with the Thorns, many of our goalkeepers struggle with that role when they get to college. How do you stay motivated when you are in that role?
I’m motivated by my drive to be my best and to have my teammates’ backs when called upon. You never know what can happen, and it’s my responsibility to be my best every day. On some days when it’s easier said than done, I’m thankful to play a team sport. I lean on my teammates and feel gratitude to be able to play in an awesome environment surrounded by inspiring, strong women. On the hardest days, the easiest way to get out of my own head is to be vocal, and offer encouragement to my teammates. Shifting the focus from myself to the team always helps me reset.
- It is one thing to say you want to focus on what you can control, but another to do, so what “tricks” do you use to stay focused on your personal development?
Every season I do short-term and long-term goalsetting. These goals range from interpersonal relationships to improving specific technical skills. Checking-in on these throughout the season is a good way to make sure I’m on track, putting into practice the steps I laid out at the beginning of the season to get where I want to be.
- How do you stay patient and positive when there are no guarantees on earning playing time in the foreseeable future?
Trust. Trust that if you put in that extra 2% of work consistently, good things will happen. My college coach always emphasized loving the process. Patience and trust can be achieved through a shift in mindset to embrace and enjoy the detailed day-to-day work rather than solely focusing on the final outcome.
- How do you accept your role as a back-up on game day yet train as if you are the starter day in and day out when the season is so long?
I don’t label myself as a back-up. I train to be my best and try to be the best teammate. Whatever decision is made by the coach for playtime, so be it. But I’m training every week like I will play in the game that weekend.
- After not having played in a competitive game in likely several months you got the start in the Challenge Cup quarterfinals. You had a PHENOMENAL performance despite not having ideal preparation conditions, how?!?!? What was your mindset entering into that HUGE must win game for your team?
Definitely not ideal conditions. I relied on my overall experience as a keeper to give me confidence and spent the few days leading up to the game visualizing me performing at my best.
- What was it like living in the “bubble” in Utah for the Champion’s Cup? What was the most challenging part about? What was the most enjoyable?
Living in the “bubble” for a month was quite an experience. We spent all day every day in a hotel, leaving only for trainings, games, and COVID19 testing. The best part was the time with my teammates – we played cards and ping-pong, read books, watched movies, and even had a tie-dye party. The most challenging part was staying in a hotel room for a month and feeling isolated from friends and family and the world.
One of the many characteristics that I appreciate in Britt, and also believe gives her great balance to be able to adapt to the challenges she has faced in your career, is that she is so much more than just a soccer player. I believe the players who are able to survive and thrive in this league are the ones who invest time developing themselves outside of soccer. -Tracy
10. As a pro player do you just eat, breathe, and sleep soccer 24/7??? What is your typical day like?
Leading up to preseason, it definitely feels that way of eat, sleep, lift, soccer. In season I make sure to take time every day or at least every week to do things I enjoy outside of soccer. I don’t have a set typical day. We train in the morning with lift or video afterwards. My nutrition plays a big role in my performance, so part of the week is spent planning and prepping good clean meals to keep me training at my fullest capacity. In the evenings I like to get outside and soak in the beautiful areas of the PNW!
11. What else do you enjoy doing when you are not training?
I enjoy anything active and outdoors. Portland is like one giant playground, so when I’m not training, I’m hanging out with friends and trying to spend as much time as possible in the Cascades, at the coast, or in the gorge.
12. Lastly, if you could pick just ONE characteristic, what would you say has been your TOP key to your success and longevity?
Thank you for continuing to openly share your journey and story with Dynasty Goalkeeping. You are living a dream that many aspire to reach. Our young students are where you are when you first came to Dynasty in 2009. Hopefully they will be able to relate to your story and realize that hard work, dedication, and attention to the details pays off!