Pack mentality: How the USWNT geared up for a month in France
It all happened within a matter of minutes. Shortly after the U.S. women's national team qualified in October for the 2019 Women's World Cup, head equipment manager Ryan Dell hopped on a call with assistant equipment manager Jake Schoch to talk logistics.
How would they prepare and pack for 60 people for one month in France? How would they make sure that the team is completely self-sufficient thousands of miles from its home base?
As they mulled over those questions, though, a revelation hit them both: They could use the team flights to slowly chip away at transporting more than 10,000 pounds worth of jerseys, soccer balls and gum (the players chew a lot of gum, it turns out). "We had this brilliant moment where we decided to ship everything in four shipments and to utilize the team flights," Dell said. "After that we put together some spreadsheets and started working through it."
Dell joined the team in January 2015 and worked as an assistant equipment manager through the 2015 World Cup. But this is the first World Cup where he would be in charge of everything. And, once the team qualified for the World Cup, it was just a matter of nailing down what to pack, how much to pack and how to get it to Europe in time before the first game.
"This is always an evolving process. It's something that we look at on a day-by-day basis," Dell said. "We strive to meet every player's needs, no matter what they could possibly need or want. We've been planning for a long time. So when the team gets to Europe, they have everything that they could possibly need to be successful and do their jobs."
In late April, Dell shipped the first trunk of items to France. By the end of May, all four shipments were in Europe -- everything from basic gear to protein powders, massage tables, parka jackets and more. After five tons of shipments and zero problems with customs (that never happens, according to Dell), Dell now has the USWNT ready for a big World Cup push.
Curious about the USWNT's packing list? Here's how Dell got the job done:
"The most important thing that we bring are jerseys," Dell says. "We brought over about 400 of them to Europe, to make sure we have that short sleeve, long sleeve, goalkeeper, everything."
120 pairs of cleats
That's about five per player, but Dell says an active player like Julie Ertz could go through eight pairs in France.
60 soccer balls
"It may sound ridiculous, but we need 60 balls to get through a training session," Dell says. "Sometimes it feels like we need more. And we pump all 60 every two days."
2 heat presses
"We print jerseys on site," Dell says. "We had one break on a trip to Spain, so now we take two."
1 vinyl cutter
"If you give me your last name, we could have it produced on my computer and on a jersey in five minutes," Dell says. "We can produce jerseys for any name in the world."
12 large bottles of shampoo, 12 large bottles of conditioner, 20 large bottles of body wash
"We kind of know how much shampoo and conditioner the team is going to use on a day-to-day basis and on a match basis," Dell says. "So, we kind of estimate that and then we bring more."
12 five-pound boxes of flavored gum
The USWNT goes through five packs a game. "I figured that would be enough," Dell says. "You'd rather have too much then too little, to be honest."
7 massage tables
Four will be used for athletic training and three for full-body massages. "Massage tables take up an incredible amount of space. They are just an awkward shape," Dell says. "It's like a big thing of Tetris."
48 women's parka jackets, 24 men's parka jackets
"We have a massive staff. So, [the parkas are] for everyone. Whatever we need so that every player and staff member is accounted for," Dell says. "Parka jackets are a weird choice, but we literally had a request for them right when we got to Europe."
1 American flag
One thing the USWNT never leaves home without: its American flag, which is hung up in the locker room before every game.
"The flag was presented to us by four WWII veterans from the cemetery in Normandy in France back in January. We wanted something special to carry with us on this journey and we were fortunate to meet these four incredible veterans," Dell says. "And we walked through the cemetery with them as they were telling us their stories. the flag came down at 4 p.m. and the veterans presented it to the team. So, it's very dear to our heart. and I think it's a really cool culmination is starting in France, flying over American piece of land in France, us traveling with it on our journey and leading us to this tournament and then to a degree the flag coming home to carry us through this World Cup. It's very near to our hearts and means a lot to us."