Simone Charley was supposed to be starting her second official season with the Portland Thorns this month (and third total—she was on the team’s training roster in 2018). One of six Thorns who just wintered in Australia’s W-League—where she made her presence known quickly with Canberra United, scoring two goals in her first 10 minutes of play (see video, below) and eventually being named Canberra’s fan-favorite Supporters’ Player of the Year—she was ready to switch on that power again at Providence Park. But the 25-year-old, who grew up in Alabama and shone in soccer and track at Vanderbilt (she holds the school record in the triple jump), got back to Portland just in time for the National Women’s Soccer League to announce a training moratorium and a delayed start to the 2020 season. The league’s latest plan is to have the first games in late June, but that could change.
We checked in with Charley while she waits to reunite with the rest of her team. Until then, she’s thankful for books, her roommates, and their stationary bike.
“Normally we’d be playing in a preseason tournament [right now], having games and training. Normally we’d be waking up, having team meetings, having training, then doing recovery after, and just being with the team. Now, obviously, everyone’s doing social distancing, so it’s more of just staying in the house. We have some equipment that we can use for working out, so we’ve been sent workouts on our phones. So we’re waking up, and I do my workout on my own.
“I live with two other teammates, Po and Marissa [fellow Thorns Madison Pogarch and Marissa Everett], and so we’re all just hanging out here at the house. It’s kind of nice having a yard, so we can go outside, lay some cones down out there.... We have a stationary bike that we’ve been using, and sometimes running around the neighborhood, stuff like that.
“We had a phone call with our team nutritionist the other day, just making sure that we’re still incorporating the things that we need in our diet. I know a lot of our team has been using different grocery delivery services. Jersey Mike’s [one of the team sponsors] has been doing delivery for us, which is really great—love them.
“I had never been to Australia before, so it’s not like I had a different season to base it on or know what was a normal season. The fires definitely had a big impact on the season. I was in Canberra, and at one point the fires got pretty close to where we were, so we had to evacuate and go to Sydney for a couple of days. There were a couple of times where training had to be canceled. We had a game postponed because of the air quality. That was definitely not the best situation, and a challenge, I think, for everyone.
“I got back [to the US] February 28. When I was in Australia, it all started happening in China first, and one of my friends who lived in China had come to visit me like three or four days before the news had broken out about the coronavirus. They weren’t even able to go back to China; they had to go back to the US. There had only been a few cases in Australia at the time [when I left], and when I got back to the US it had kind of picked up a little bit. I got to go home [to Alabama, where my parents are now working from home] for a week, and then when I came back to Portland I was at the doctor’s office, just doing a checkup, and I had a call from [Thorns coach Mark Parsons], saying, ‘Yeah, we’re just being precautious, but don’t go to the training facility—you know, just following proper protocol.’ The next day is when the NWSL started the moratorium ... and then the following day they ended up postponing the season.
“I haven’t seen any of the team besides Po and Marissa, who I live with.... I’m here but I haven’t seen anyone, and I definitely miss my team. We still have team meetings and stuff through Zoom, so it’s kinda great seeing everyone through there, and then just texting and Facetiming, trying to make sure we’re staying connected.
“All my friends have been talking about Tiger King, which I haven’t seen. I’ve mostly been reading. I’ve started volunteering with this online teaching platform, where you can teach a class online to high school students who obviously aren’t able to finish school, and so I’ll be volunteer-teaching through Zoom for the next couple of weeks. I’m looking forward to that. I’ll be teaching sociology. That’s what did for undergrad and grad.
“I’m glad I live with Po and Marissa. It’s definitely helpful having other social interactions. I definitely miss everyone. I don’t know if [I miss] necessarily a certain thing as much as I just miss seeing everyone, since all this happened right when I came back, so all my friends both inside and outside of soccer, I just haven’t been able to see anyone. I can’t wait to just see people and hang out again.”