Coping With the Loss of Freedom
Lindsay Stoecker, another ex-Freedom player, works on homeland security issues for a downtown Washington consulting firm, G&H International Services. "Critical Infrastructure Protection R&D," she says, and her ex-teammates are "just kind of like, what are you doing?"
Kristy Whelchel (New York Power) is a real estate agent in Manhattan. Nel Fettig (Carolina Courage) is a law clerk in Atlanta. Kim Pickup (San Diego Spirit) is student teaching in Southern California.
And Jacqui Little drives five minutes from her home in Alexandria to the Reico office in Springfield, where she gives quotes to contractors, orders supplies and designs floor plans for kitchens and bathrooms.
She got the job last October through the parent of a player she coaches with Rimando, and soon Little did some recruiting of her own. By January, ex-Freedom teammate Meredith Beard was in training at the Springfield location, while Casey Zimny, another ex-teammate, spent several months as a Reico receptionist.
Co-workers joked that Reico should start its own soccer team, and a Jacqui Little bobblehead appeared atop an office file cabinet, although the doll's head eventually bobbled off its body.
"If you shake it really hard, it just kind of pops off," explained an office mate, Amy Pack.
Rimando's photograph and the D.C. United schedule that hangs from Little's color-coordinated corkboard draw attention from soccer-crazed contractors, but the start of United's season was actually a low point for Little.
"Not that I don't like my job -- I love the people I work with, the company is great," she said. "But the fact that I was sitting at a desk instead of doing what I love to do, it just hit me like a ton of bricks. Oh God, he's training and I'm sitting here."
"That was pretty much when she opened her eyes to what she was really doing," Rimando said. "You can see that she wants to have her old lifestyle back, but she knows it's the real world and this is a real job."
Still, Little easily lapses into kitchen-speak, rattling off details about quarter-inch scribe molding and EF196 refrigerator panels, and complaining about a troublesome kitchen sink that is fouling up a floor plan.
Like the other office-bound players, she misses being on her feet and earning a living from her passion. The office workers have also seen their schedules change; weekdays start earlier and nights out are cut short by thoughts of early-morning commutes.
On the other hand, weekends are suddenly free, and "now, it's like, 'Yeah, I can go to a party and drink beer,' " Skylar Little said.
WUSA front-office personnel also have faced a transition, although many remained in professional sports. Eddie Rockwell, the general manager of the Atlanta Beat, took the same job with the Georgia Force of the Arena Football League. Freedom employees have found work with the Washington Capitals, Washington Wizards and Miami Dolphins.
Others left the sports world entirely. Former Freedom GM Katy Button -- who worked for six years in the Clinton White House -- became a production coordinator for this summer's Democratic National Convention, helping plan programming and reaching out to media.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company