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LAG Confidential chat with San Diego Wave’s Tegan McGrady

Title-winning defender talks life in San Diego, mental health and more.

Courtesy of San Diego Wave FC

The San Diego Wave will play their inaugural game Saturday. They’ll take on their cross-freeway rivals, Angel City FC, at Cal State Fullerton. Kickoff time will be at 6 PM PST / 9 PM EST.

Before the game, LAG Confidential sat down with one of the players who will feature in it. We recently had the privilege of speaking to Wave defender, Tegan McGrady. The 24-year-old came to San Diego via a trade with the Washington Spirit. McGrady won the NWSL Championship nearly a month before the trade happened. The defender had played for the Spirit for two years, right after being selected as the seventh overall draft pick in the NWSL College Draft in 2019. Prior to that, McGrady spent her collegiate career at Stanford and won a national championship with the Cardinal back in 2017.

A native of San Jose, CA, McGrady has now returned to her home state to play for a team 460miles away from home.

Lest you think that she might find this daunting, McGrady is enjoying life in San Diego. The fullback discussed life under coach Casey Stoney’s tutelage, preparing for the Wave’s first-ever game, her favorite food, and how much she’s enjoying life in San Diego.

LAGC: First off, it’s a huge honor on our behalf to speak to you. Since the schedule dropped earlier [Wednesday], are there any particular games that you’re looking forward to?

TM: I think just getting the schedule in itself was really exciting. I mean, there are always games that you look forward to like, I can’t wait to get back to D.C. and play in Washington [against the Spirit] again just to see everyone and be back in the city where I started my career, as is always, one that you look forward to no matter what the rival maybe now, but always nice to get back where you started.

LAGC: The Spirit fans still have a lot of affection for you. So I think you might‘ve made quite an impact on them there.

TM: Yeah, definitely. There are still people that I talk to a lot. They made a huge impact on my life while I was there. So I like to make it a point to make sure that those are bonds that we keep open in both directions.

North Carolina Courage v Washington Spirit: Quarterfinals - 2021 NWSL Championship Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images

LAGC: This is kind of a heavy subject, but while you were at the Washington Spirit, you went through a lot under former coach Richie Burke. You’ve also said that you feel like a whole new person under Casey Stoney. Stoney has also said that she doesn’t like the way that people coach in America because she notices that the players are afraid to make mistakes and she tries to avoid things like that. Do you find yourself thriving under this style of coaching?

TM: Yeah, I definitely do. I think the system has allowed me to grow more as a player to reach another potential that maybe I wasn’t getting to over the last few years. I think the change was really what I needed and she has brought exactly that to me. Like I said, I don’t see myself looking over my shoulder when I make mistakes or anything along those lines, and I’ve really tried to add things into my game and I feel comfortable doing that with her as my head coach.

LAGC: Do you think that the Wave are creating the kind of environment where the players will feel safe and welcomed? Alex Morgan has mentioned this before.

TM: Oh, absolutely. I think everything from daily activities to just listening to the players when we have areas of concern or areas that we think need further justification on it, we are getting to that point where they listen to us and I think they’re definitely in a players-first environment and they want us to be comfortable in every aspect and every situation with where we’re at. And I think they’re doing such a great job so far of that.

LAGC: Speaking of which, how are you guys preparing for your first game against Angel City?

TM: I think there’s a lot to take on as a new team in the league and it takes time for sure. So I think what we’re doing right now is just using our games and using our practices to continue to build every time that we step on the field. And we know that we’re not going to get things perfect right away this weekend. We know that even down the line that we might not get things right. But it’s the idea of growing together and understanding one another.

And as that chemistry comes, we’ll start to click more and more on the field. So I think we’re just looking for those relationships on and off the field to continue to grow. And we think that as those [relationships] grow, that we’ll be able to adapt to the game more.

LAGC: You moved from Northern California [San Jose] to San Diego. How are you finding the city (and more importantly, how are you finding my hometown?)

TM: I absolutely love it down here! I love that whenever I tell someone where I live or what I do, they’re just like, you get to live in one of the best places in the world. Like you are in such a great spot. And it always puts a smile on my face when I hear that because it truly is an amazing place. I mean, growing up, coming down here to soccer tournaments and whatnot was amazing. So to just kind of have it come full circle and be able to continue to do it, but this time as a career and get to live my life down here, is something that I probably would have never imagined just a few years ago. So I love it down here. It’s beautiful. The food’s amazing. The beaches are amazing. The views are amazing. And I just I can’t get over how much I love it out here.

LAGC: What’s your favorite food to eat down there in San Diego? Is it Mexican food or something else?

TM: Mexican food for sure. I think just growing up in northern California, in San Jose, you really get to see that Mexican food side of everywhere and like pretty authentic. It’s as close as you can really get to Mexico. So I really think that like we get to see the cultural aspect of like the Hispanic right here in California. So, through their food, I think is just such a beautiful way to understand them in their culture and to like they just make amazing food, too. So, I love it.

LAGC: We move onto another heavy subject here in regards to the recent death of Katie Meyer, I know that some of the Wave teammates were close to her, most notably Naomi Girma. In light of that, how important do you think mental health is and what do you think can be done to lessen the burden on student-athletes and to remind them that they’re not alone, especially when there’s so much pressure on them?

TM: Yeah, I think mental health is so important and in one way or another everyone probably experiences that at some point in their lives, and I think it’s just making the stigma around it kind of go away. Like knowing that it is okay to not be okay is one of the biggest things to ask for help is not a problem. And when you are feeling sad, depressed, anxious, any of those things that there are resources that you can reach out to, there are people who want to help you. And I think that comes with having just like more real, like real conversations about it and being vulnerable with one another. And it’s hard because some people don’t want to be [vulnerable] but I feel that if we continue to have these hard conversations, maybe we will make it okay for people to come out and say, “I’m struggling”.

I’m struggling day in and day out with everything going on, especially student-athletes. I remember numerous times when I struggled at Stanford. You could probably ask anyone, probably any student-athlete has struggled at some point in their career. And I think it’s just we just need more resources. I think we are talking about it as a team in San Diego and how we feel that having the resources, but not only having the resources but having them close to maybe like where we deal with our other injuries, like to understand that, you know, mental health is sometimes just surgery in your head and that’s okay. It’s how we deal with every other injury. We talk about it, rehab it, we do everything that we can to make sure that it gets better. And I think that’s something that we really need to look into more often.

It’s also worth noting that McGrady’s teammate, Abby Dahlkemper, has also spoken of this, as she emphasized the importance of mental health as well as remembering that while soccer means a lot, it’s not everything. She also emphasized the importance of checking in on your loved ones and just being there for each other.

LAGC: The final question is, you won a title with the Spirit. Do you think that you can bring some of that winning mentality to the Wave, especially because the team is just starting? And do you think that you can also draw on that winning experience to help the Wave adjust to the league?

TTM: Yeah, I mean, I would hope so and hope that I can be able to bring some sort of experience and whatnot to winning that championship. I think you can look at that in multiple ways and so many different people. I mean, you have World Cup champs on our team. You have Olympic champions, you have NWSL champions, you have NCAA champions. So I think being able to bring all those experiences together and working off one another and taking our experiences from being like, this is what it took for us to win these championships. This is what it’s going to take, if not more, is something that’s like a unique situation to put together all at one time. So if you can do that then you can do it correctly, I do believe that all of our experiences in one can really help us, especially in those hard games where you just have to push through at the end.

We thank Tegan McGrady for taking the time out to talk us and wish her the best of luck against Angel City this Saturday.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.