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Chris Wingert, a professional soccer player on Real Salt Lake, has a long history of playing the beautiful game. After growing up on Long Island and competing throughout childhood, he played a key role on the St. John’s University soccer team. Besides his current club, Real Salt Lake, Chris has played on other Major League Soccer teams such as the Columbus Crew, the Colorado Rapids, and the newly appointed New York City FC. In light of the recent excitement over Copa America and Euro Cup, we interviewed Wingert to get a sense of his love for the sport, his game day routine, and his sources of inspiration.
What are some of the first things you do on game day?
I’m not really superstitious, but I do have a routine I follow. If the game is at 7 or 8pm at night, I wake up around 9 or 9:30am and eat a pretty significant breakfast of eggs, toast, some fruit, a large juice and water, a little bit of coffee but not too much, and then I’ll hang out for a couple of hours. Sometimes I take a walk or run an errand if I’m at home on a game day.
What do you eat for lunch?
I eat again around 12:30pm, typically a sandwich and I drink a bunch of water and electrolytes. I go back to sleep from 1:30 to 3pm. I eat about four hours before the game. If I’m at home, I will eat oatmeal, but if I’m on the road, I usually have chicken with brown rice. Then I get ready to go to the stadium a few hours before the game in order to be there an hour and a half before it starts. After the game, I try to eat again within an hour.
Do you have any pre or post game rituals?
Maybe listen to some music but nothing too out of the ordinary. Sometimes I write reminders down on a pad, or I write it in my phone. It is sort of a mental exercise, and I list the things I want to go over before the game. I learned to do this in college. My college coach [at St. John’s University] was big into this.
How influential was your time at St. John’s University?
I learned a lot about preparing for a match. I had never really been exposed to that before. My college coach was big on writing, and everyone on the team had journals. We had to write how we did in practice, what we wanted to work on, and how to prepare for the next match. He wanted us to set a lot of goals. I also have every workout written down for every off season I’ve had in the pros, so 13 years now. That all stemmed from the encouragement from my college coach to keep things recorded in order to be able to look back and see where you are at. He was big on affirmation statements and thought it was important to go over what we as players wanted to accomplish based on what teams we were playing and how we were doing so far.
What do you love the most about being on Real Salt Lake?
The camaraderie with the team is what I love the most. It really does embody the full meaning of team. There are three guys on the team who have been there for ten years, and then a few, including myself, who have been there for nine. That is pretty much unheard of throughout MLS and that is credited to the staff. It all started with [previous owner] Dave Checketts, who set the tone for how the team was going to be run throughout the club and the organization. On other teams I was on before Real Salt Lake, I never even met the owner. However, when I went to Real Salt Lake, Mr. Checketts had the whole team over to his house and wanted to learn not just about everyone’s career, but about their families. That went a really long way with us, not only for guys like myself, but for all the new guys as well. It was great to see, and that is the type of person you want to work hard for. Now there is new ownership and different coaches, but because we have a lot of the same players and people in the organization, this motivation has continued on. Real Salt Lake was my number one choice when I left New York FC because I still have a lot of friends that are like family within the organization.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
I pull a lot of inspiration from a lot of different people, both athletes and non-athletes. My father has had a profound influence on me; he was a professional soccer player in Philadelphia in the early 1970s. I grew up with soccer in the house, and although I played a lot of sports, I was always a little more passionate about soccer. You tend to get a little more attention with the things you are good at. As a kid, I knew pretty early on I wanted to be a professional athlete if it was possible. I loved playing soccer then and I still do now. My dad pushed in me in that area but it was always a good balance, not over-doing it. It was his first experience as a teacher in that sense, and we are still incredibly close and he is still as into my career as I am.
You mentioned that you love writing, do you have a favorite inspirational quote?
I usually find most of my inspiration from passages from the bible. Phillipians 3 is one that I write a lot and read a lot, it is about not being satisfied with where you are at and continuing to strive toward the actual goal. It says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
You were previously a member of the NYC FC team, which plays its home games at Yankee Stadium. What was it like playing there as a member of the away team recently on June 2?
For me personally, it was a real honor to play there. It is always an exciting event. It was my first time playing there as the away team, because I used to play there on the home team. This year it was totally different, but still an exciting experience. I had 75-100 people come to watch, friends I’ve had over the years from growing up in New York. The dimensions of the actual playing field are pretty small. It does pose a challenge, but because of the way the field is set up, both teams tend to create more chances to score because you are closer to the goal at all times. As defender, my position, you have to be on your toes and be on top of it at all times. In the first half, they were really taking advantage of that but in the second half, we improved. Overall, it was a great night and something that was really exciting to be a part of.