Three days ago, FC Kansas City forward Shea Groom was voted NWSL Player of the Week for Week 19 of the 2017 season after a two goal and one assist game in the Blues’ win over Sky Blue FC last weekend. The 24-year old has been a strong offensive force for FC Kansas City who, despite a mid-season lull, has come out on top of four of their last five games as the race for the last few playoff spots continue. The Texas A&M alum has six goals and four assists on the season so far, and notably has scored or assisted on the game-winner in three of the last four FCKC wins. Groom, a Missouri native, talked with me this week about what it’s like to play for her home city, the Blues’ recent successes and playoff push, what she’d be doing it she wasn’t a professional soccer player, and more!
Hannah Kronick: To kick it off, huge win for you guys last weekend as you beat Sky Blue FC 4-1 and equally huge game for you as you tallied two goals and an assist. How was that game? How did you guys succeed the way that you did?
Shea Groom: Yeah! Well, obviously scoring four goals is going to help you win. We were really excited about that. We’ve had some trouble scoring this year as it’s kind of come through in spurts, but it’s always great when you put together a game like that where you have a lot of opportunities and you’re able to finish a good amount of them. We were really excited as it keeps us in the playoff run! We had a bit of a slump halfway through the season, so it’s been nice to get back on our feet and start winning some games again.
HK: With four wins in the last five games, can you talk about the team’s form right now? What have you guys been working on? What’s been going on mentally as well?
SG: It’s funny, I get a lot of questions about what we’ve changed, and we haven’t changed anything. It’s been a year of unlucky timing, one bad bounce, and we lose a game. I think we just stuck with it and trusted the process. We’ve continued to be faithful in our coaches, our staff, and our organization. Once we got a win, it sparked other wins. I think we’ve stayed at the same level no matter if we are winning or losing and that’s really hard to do as a team. I’ve been really proud of my teammates in that aspect. We know that our backs are up against the wall and it’s going to take a lot for us to get into the playoffs, but if we keep winning that’s all that we can control and the rest is up to fate and up to other teams. All we can do is win!
HK: How are you guys preparing to host Chicago on Satuday?
SG: Chicago is tough. Obviously we’ve faced them quite a few times this year. They’re a great side. They have some top players at each position and they’re always a tough opponent. We’re excited to play them at home. Again, I think that if we come out and continue to play the way that we do and continue to be dangerous, we will be very successful.
HK: What’s it been like to play in Kansas City and represent such a growing soccer market?
SG: Kansas City is my home! It’s been extremely special for me in particular and some of the other Kansas City girls. Having my family at the game, having girls that go to the same high schools I went to and are growing up in the same communities that I grew up in, is really special to have a platform in Kansas City where I have this network made for me. I’ve really enjoyed it. To be able to grow the women’s game here is such a unique and special opportunity that I wouldn’t want to be doing anywhere else.
HK: Obviously you were drafted to FCKC, but ahead of that, did you know this was the club you wanted to play for?
SG: I’ve known Vlatko and Hugh Williams since I was nine years old, so it was definitely a place I wanted to go. I can say I remember being at the draft and thinking that FCKC didn’t really have that many picks. I was worried that it wasn’t an attainable goal. But, they made it happen and I’ve been extremely happy!
HK: Who do you look up to most from a soccer perspective?
SG: On our team, it’s incredible to look up to some of the veterans. I had the chance to play with a lot of them my rookie year. When you’re a rookie and you come in and you’re playing with Amy Rodriguez, Lauren Holiday, Amy LePelbeit, Becky Sauerbrunn, it’s pretty incredible. It’s been great to learn from some of the international and national team players like Becky, Syd Leroux, Yael Averbuch – and to be able to watch their professionalism and the way that they handle themselves is really key for a young player like me. As far as watching soccer goes, last year, I really got into Jamie Vardy. He was an up and coming star and his story and the way that he plays – Vlatko and I had talked about him and how he has a nose for a goal. I watched him a lot and I just try to watch soccer as much as possible. I’m a player who likes to take what I see and try to apply it to my own game. I try to take little pieces from each person that I meet. Another player would be Heather O’Reilly or Amy – the way that they practice and the way that they train, is something I really try to emulate in my own game.
HK: Outside of soccer, are you a big sports fan?
SG: My dad was a high school football coach for 30 years. He actually just retired last year so I’ve spent many days on a football field. He was a division 1 basketball referee. Our household was very much sports-oriented, but I wouldn’t say soccer-oriented. I always tell people this story, but when I went on a bunch of my recruiting trips, my dad could not believe that women’s soccer was a funded sport and that I was going to get a scholarship to play. I was like, Dad don’t say that out loud! But, I grew up a Chiefs and a Royals fan even when they were horrible back in the day, but they’re getting better now! It’s something unique about me too, I never grew up a die-hard fan of anything really. I think my parents are just sports fans in general and they just value the game.
HK: If you weren’t a pro soccer player, what would you be doing?
SG: I studied event planning/event management in school and I really enjoy it. I’m not really sure where exactly, whether it would be weddings or corporate events, but I really enjoy it because I feel like it mimics the athletic realm. You’re preparing for something, have to execute it, somethings go wrong and you have to figure it out on the fly. I really enjoy the pressurized situations – and organizing things and people.
HK: Lastly, what are you up to in your free time?
SG: I have a dog. He’s four years old and we probably go to the dog park every single day. Sometimes I am a movie/Netflix junkie. But, I do really like to be outdoors and explore. I was joking with our coaches the other day because I am the person who’s always knowing on people’s doors and seeing if people are home. I like to mix it up!