The U.S. Women's National Team has dominated international soccer for the last 25 years. Thanks to young stars like Julie Johnston, they probably won't be slowing down any time soon.
Johnston, a 24-year-old defender from Mesa, Arizona, has made 41 appearances for the team since 2013. Her star rose during America's dominant victory at the 2015 Woman's World Cup, where she played every minute of every match and was named to the World Cup All-Star team.
Johnston is now starring for the USWNT as they go for the gold at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
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How did Johnston become one of the best players on the best team in the world?
Hard work and humility.
During her quest to make the USWNT, Johnston trained at STACK Velocity Sports Performance in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. What brought the Arizona native and Santa Clara University grad to the Garden State? Her fiancé, Zach Ertz, who plays tight end for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Aaron Bonaccorsy, a sports performance coach at the facility, recalled how humble Johnston was when she first came in. "She originally came to us in our adult V-Fit classes, and I could tell she was athletic so I asked what sports did she play for, and she said she played soccer at Santa Clara and was now trying to make a spot on the women's national team. She was very humble—she never talked about herself unless I asked her about it," Bonaccorsy says.
Adult V-fit classes are 60-minute movement-based sessions designed to actively challenge effort and coordination. They produce an increase in fitness, metabolism, body composition and exercise technique. According to Bonaccorsy, Johnston dominated the sessions like no athlete he's ever seen.
"We have some adults who are in really good shape and are usually the leaders of the class. They get things done first or do things faster or heavier than everyone else. I remember the first day one of those leaders got to work out alongside Julie. She beat him in everything, and after class he pulled me aside and said 'who is that girl?!,' Bonaccorsy said. "Her work ethic . . . she's a beast! She would eat those adult classes alive. There was nothing I could throw at her that would be grueling difficult for her. She was aerobically fit as well. She'd get done with those hour long V-Fit classes and then go run sprints."
During a 2015 ESPN interview, Johnston recalled her sprint routine, noting how she made it more difficult over time. "[Before], it was like, 'I'm gonna go do 10 sprints.' Now I switched my number to 25, which I was like, 'All right, I don't care if I have to rest for 30 minutes, I'm going to finish these 25," Johnston said.
In a recent interview with STACK, Johnston outlined her training philosophy. She said, "Individually, you're trying to get as fit as you can. You're trying to get as strong as you can to be able to prepare. But you're also trying to balance staying healthy."
We'll be keeping an eye on the seemingly inexhaustible Johnston as the USWNT vies for their fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal.
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