The world-class athletes who won bronze medals at the 2012 Olympics for Canada were to live at a retirement community in Rockville.
Average age of the players: 28.
Average age of their neighbors: 82.
It was no practical joke, and after seeing their new home for the first time last month and receiving a warm welcome from the residents, Gayle and Matheson are embracing inter-generational living.
“You’re going to win Saturday, right?” a male resident said while offering a hallway high-five to Gayle last week.
“You know it, Alan,” she responded while slapping his hand.
One of eight clubs in the inaugural National Women’s Soccer League, the Spirit has played to two draws this season. And in a league that is trying keep costs down, Spirit management sought families to host several of the 18 players — akin to what minor league baseball teams around the country arrange for their prospects each spring.
Some Spirit players were placed at guest homes near the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, where the team also practices. One lives with a family in McLean. Through a chain of local connections, the Spirit reached an agreement with Ingleside that allows Gayle and Matheson to live free of charge for the five-month season.
Early last month, they were on Canadian national team duty in Cyprus when they received e-mails from the Spirit about the living situation.
“I was in disbelief, thinking they were stuck with something at the last minute,” said Matheson, one of the most accomplished players in Canadian history. “Then we went onto [Ingleside’s] Web site and started looking at the photos and floor plans and said, ‘Oh, wow, this could be okay.’ It grew on us quickly. We got here and it surpassed our expectations.”
‘I would do it again’
The 350-plus residents at the high-end facility have embraced their young guests. One made them throw pillows. Others have dropped off biscotti and bagels.
The players are on the meal plan and recently had dinner with the woman who parks her car next to theirs. Each on-site dining experience creates new friendships.
Gayle and Matheson are not confined, though. Commercial restaurants and shopping sit a few blocks away and the SoccerPlex is a 20-minute drive.
Matheson builds an extra 10 minutes into her morning coffee routine in the lobby, knowing someone will strike up a conversation with her. She learned that one resident is a confirmed descendant of Chinese philosopher Confucius, 76 generations removed.