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Thursday Q&A: Washington Spirit forward Arielle Ship

Arielle Ship scored her first goal of the season and added two assists in last weekend’s 4-1 win over Sky Blue FC. Her performance landed her NWSL Player of the Week honors. (Credit: ISI Photos)

Eight months ago, Arielle Ship attended the 2017 NWSL College Draft in person, for two reasons only: because it was in California, her home state, and because her mom convinced her to go. The nervous University of California, Berkeley alum and soccer star feared that there was a high chance she would not hear her name read attached to a professional club in the NWSL. Fast forward to the second week of August in that same year, Washington Spirit forward Arielle Ship landed her first NWSL Player of the Week award after her performance in a thrilling 4-1 victory over Sky Blue FC. I chatted with the 22-year-old rookie forward about her time so far in DC, her draft day to preseason camp journey, and much more!

Hannah Kronick: The last few days must have been a whirlwind for you guys–beating Sky Blue FC handily on Friday night in New Jersey and then traveling to Orlando to compete again only three days later against the Pride that yielded a more disappointing result. How was that?

Arielle Ship: Obviously any time when you have a midweek game, it’s stressful and tiring and one of your top focuses is recovery. Playing Friday night and then again Tuesday night after having to travel a lot is tough. I think that played a role in the result from Tuesday night, but it’s been a whirlwind as you said. It’s been a lot of soccer in one week, and we play again on Saturday. We are just trying to rest up and get our bodies right for that.

HK: Going back to Friday night, not only did your team have a great performance, but so did you personally, scoring your first professional goal and adding two assists in the win. What was that like? How did it feel to be named NWSL Player of the Week?

AS: The Sky Blue game was amazing. It was unreal for me–it was more than anything I could have imagined. I had some extended family there, so it was really nice to have them there. When something good happened, they were screaming their heads off! It was really nice to have some people there at the game for me. It was amazing to score and have such a great game. Obviously when you play at this high of a level, to have a successful game, moment, or goal, it’s awesome. [Being named Player of the Week] was such an honor. I honestly can’t even believe that they picked me for it. You have Megan Rapinoe and all those big-time full national team player names out there, so for them to name me, it was just amazing. I am really honored and humbled!

HK: What do you like most about playing for the Spirit?

AS: It’s been great. I really love this team, and the women on the team are amazing. I really wasn’t sure what to expect going from college to professional, but everyone’s been so welcoming and make me feel like I can play my game and do my thing. It’s just a really nice environment to be in with my teammates. I love DC. I think the area is so cool–there’s so much history and there’s always something to do on an off-day, whether it’s a museum, seeing the monuments, or just hanging out with my teammates. It’s all really nice, and I really like it here!

HK: Jumping back to how you arrived at the Spirit, can you talk about your journey from draft day to Day 1 of preseason camp in DC? After being drafted as the No. 26 overall pick last January to Seattle and being traded 11 days later to the Washington Spirit, the journey wasn’t necessarily typical. How was that for you?

AS: I actually went on draft day, since it was in LA and I am from here and my mom told me that we had to go. At that point, I was really thinking “Oh my gosh, no. What if I don’t get drafted?” So we were waiting and the draft takes a while, I think the first round alone was about an hour. More and more I kept thinking that no one was going to pick me and I was so embarrassed about coming in the first place. So then to hear my name called, it was a shock! It was really exciting and obviously I was excited to be on the West Coast when I heard it was Seattle. The draft was a whirlwind–so exciting and so many emotions all at once. You feel like you aren’t going to get picked, you don’t know who’s going to pick you, and then to be picked and realize that this is amazing and your dreams of playing professional soccer have come true is a lot at once! The draft was unreal and amazing. I was getting ready to go to Seattle and then I got a phone call to find out that’s not where I would be going. But I was still just as excited to come play for the Spirit as I would have been in Seattle. It was definitely an experience and I obviously wasn’t expecting to be traded so early on, but I think it was for the best, and I think I’ve been able to really flourish here as a player and continue developing, so I am really happy about that.

Ship, who scored 29 goals with 10 assists with UC Berkely, was first drafted to the Seattle Reign before being traded to the Washington Spirit 11 days later.

HK: Going back to college and your transition to the pros, what have you found were the biggest adjustments you had to make from a soccer perspective, but also transitioning to this new lifestyle of having a career playing professional soccer?

AS: I think the biggest difference between the pro game and the college game is that professional soccer is so much faster and a lot more cut throat. You have to show up day in and day out and give 110% and always put your best foot forward in practice and in games. Your spot isn’t always going to be there for you and you can’t just go through the motions. You really have to bring it. In college, you can coast and get through some days when maybe you don’t feel your best. That’s not really allowed here. The game is so much faster and more physical. Every touch, every pass, every shot has to be what you want it to be. In terms of my lifestyle, I’ve become a lot more serious about my nutrition and the other aspects of my life that will help me be the best that I can on the field. I make sure I can get a full nine hours of sleep, or that I am hydrated and eating well throughout the day. In college, you have class, you have your friends and other things to do and sometimes then those other things can detract from being your best on the field all the time. Being a professional, I really know that when I show up to training or to a game that this is my job. Those other elements in my life like eating, sleep and being healthy overall have had to be better to help me be the best that I can be.

HK: Knowing this is your rookie season and that you are just starting your professional career, pretend you weren’t pursuing soccer, what would you be doing?

AS: My major in college was legal studies/pre-law. I think the law is so interesting, which is another reason I am happy to be in DC with all the politics going on. I think my dream job or something I would like to continue to pursue would be to become a sports agent or potentially a lawyer. Being able to represent athletes or a professional team, would be so cool as it would mix both of the things I love: law and sports.

HK: So maybe law school is in your future at some point?

AS: Yeah, I think sometime down the line. I obviously want to see where soccer takes me and pursue that right now because I am in it now and this is the only time I can do this. But I definitely think law school could be down the road for me. I’ve also looked into maybe getting my masters. I think I really want to continue my education–that’s something really important to me.

HK: What are you super into during your free time?

AS: I really like being outside, whether that’s being at the pool and swimming or doing a yoga class or riding my bike. I really like to be outside, especially in the warmer weather. I also really love surfing. We had a little break with the FIFA play dates and I got to surf and I was just in heaven!

HK: What’s the coolest or most fun thing that you’ve been able to do in DC?

AS: I’ve actually been able to do a lot. We did really cool tour of all the monuments in a blacked out Escalade–the driver drove us to every single monument and knew all of these cool facts about everything. It was so cool to hear all of the history, and it was really interesting and something I really enjoyed! Even though DC is my city now, I still have so many more things to explore which I am excited about.

Arielle Ship and the Washington Spirit are back in action on Saturday when they welcome the Boston Breakers to the Plex with kick off slated for 3:30pm ET.


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