Flashback to May 9, 2021. It’s WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina, and Texas Christian University is in the final eight of the NCAA women’s soccer tournament. For their best player, this will be her last game as a Horned Frog.
Five months earlier, Yazmeen Ryan was selected in the first round of the National Women’s Soccer League draft. From that day forward, she knew her professional path. When the clock struck 0:00 on her team’s 1-0 loss to Virginia, Ryan was a Portland Thorn.
This is what her transition was like, in Her Words, from Fort Worth, Texas, to Oregon.
Editor’s Note: Her Words will be a reoccurring Q-and-A series through the 2021 season documenting Yazmeen Ryan’s first season in Portland. This is Part I:
ThornsFC.com: I want to go back to Cary as a reference point for this: for how your transition went from college to pro. What stands out most about that shift? Do you feel like you had enough time to process everything?
Yazmeen Ryan: At that point, after losing the game, it all hit me at once: I was no longer a TCU Horned Frog.
A bunch of emotions rushed over me. The whole program has done so much for me as a player, and I felt like TCU was where I grew the most. I knew how much I was going to miss those players, and that I was going to leave pretty soon. I wouldn't get to have a good, long goodbye with a lot of my teammates.
It was definitely very emotional: happy and sad, because knowing my soccer career wasn't over, but being a Horned Frog was. That was a great part of my life.
But I had time to process it and get ready throughout the whole spring, still focusing on TCU as a team. I was definitely able to help prepare myself that, after this, it's going to be a whole `nother level. Just mentally getting myself ready for that.
I was ready to be here as soon as possible, ready to start. It wasn't too bad, too much of a quick turnaround and a wait so I felt like I was unprepared or super overwhelmed. I was so ready, so excited.
2021 NWSL Draft | 1v1 with Yazmeen Ryan
ThornsFC.com: Ready for your step up feels like one issue, but then comes the packing, and the actual relocation. How far away is Fort Worth? 1600 miles? I don’t even know. But in terms of that move, what was it like to actually get down to the boxing, the packing?
Ryan: The distance didn't bother me too much, but that was another reason I felt like I was so ready, and in a way it wasn't too overwhelming.
My whole life, I've wanted to get to this point. Even in high school, college wasn't even really a thought. I wasn't like, “I can't wait to go to college.” It was like, “this is a stepping stone to get to where I ultimately want to be.” I was just doing the best I can throughout those four years to then get here. I felt like I was my whole life thinking of this, when I was gonna get here. The fact that I am here, everything really worked out perfectly. I was just more excited than anything.
[But the move was] a lot more than I thought. I wasn't necessarily too prepared for that. That happened really fast.
As soon as the game [in Cary] was done, we flew back. The next day is when I had to pack my whole, entire room. I wasn't as prepared as I thought before we left. Finding people to buy my furniture – luckily, an old teammate needed most of the stuff that I had. But I had to end up giving a lot stuff away, throwing stuff away. I had a lot of little things, a lot of bathroom products, that I couldn't end up bringing or packing. Just stuff like that …
- FLASHBACK: Ryan first of four selected by Thorns
My Mom's car was packed. She just has a Honda Civic – so not a very big car, at all. I definitely could only bring what would fit. I'm very indecisive sometimes, especially about little things. I had to really sit down and ask, “do I need this? Do I want this? Is this something I'm going to be able to buy when I get there?”
But luckily Cassius, my boyfriend, he was helping me pack. He's very efficient with it, and he's very fast. He was like, “Do you want it or not? Let's go. Let's get it.' That really helped me a lot, because he really pushed me to make a decision. “Do you need this? No? Throw it away …”
It was a lot of things [that were like], “Oh wait, what am I going to do with this? How am I going to get this there?” A couple of my TCU jerseys are framed. I have a framed Portland jersey, as well, that TCU gave me. I haven't been able to get those here, yet. Just little things like that, I was like, “Oh, that's not going to fit in a suitcase.”
That part was a little more stressful than I thought, but once I ended up getting [home] to Oklahoma, it was easy to organize my stuff: what I was going to leave at my Mom's in the meantime, and what I was going to be able to bring. Just having clothes was the main thing. I got a big, one giant suitcase and then one little one for my toiletries … Things started settling down a little bit.
ThornsFC.com: I want to talk about your Thorns debut more the next time we sit down, but to get to that point, we have to talk about phasing into the team. What was that like, trying to get up to speed with the competitive part of this move?
Ryan: From the first week, I was like, “I just want to hurry up and be comfortable. I want to know everybody." But it really just comes with time and knowing that it will happen. After training and being here, being here around all the girls, just everyday is a little bit more comfortable in getting to know them, them getting to know me. It just takes time.
My mindset has changed a little bit faster because this is a whole new world, and at the end of the day, it's still soccer. But this is now my job. This is my occupation. I really need to focus but also remember why I'm here and why I want to be here … This is something that I have been waiting for for so long. I feel like I have been able to set my nervousness aside a little bit more faster than I normally have in the past.
- BREAKDOWN: Ryan stood out in her first 20 minutes
I want to stay patient and trust the process, but at the same time, this is where I've wanted to be for so long that now, in my mind, there's no time to focus on the negative. If you have a bad touch, who cares? There's no time to start thinking about the things I can't do. Just realize what got me here and just enhance those abilities, and just keep learning …
I have goals as a professional soccer player. Let's get it going …
Interviews with Yazmeen Ryan will appear monthly throughout the season on ThornsFC.com and the Thorns FC Instagram account. Next month, Ryan will discuss her professional debut.