What's Her Secret: Jonelle Filigno

Pro soccer player Jonelle Filigno talks the power of small choices, soft music, and why the most important body part to keep in shape is actually the mind.

Source: Fadil Berisha, Art by Tanya Leigh Washington

Ever wonder what it's like to be a pro soccer player? Meet Jonelle Filigno, a member of the Canadian Olympic medal-winning women's team, as well as Sky Blue FC in the National Women's Soccer League. This face of adidas's new campaign told us all about the power of small choices, soft music, and why the most important body part to keep in top shape is the mind.

What does wellness mean to you? "Wellness is not just about working out and eating healthy every day, more importantly, it's about everything you do in your life. It's a lifestyle, I think. Everything from getting enough sleep, to eating right, and making the right choices in every aspect––what's best for you and best for your body, and your mind. Your mind has to be right in order to keep your body right. The whole mental aspect is a huge part of it."

As a pro athlete, would you say the mental aspect is something you invest in?  "I think the mental aspect is the biggest. I believe that's where it all starts. Your mind has to be in the right place for your body to do what you need it to do. Everyone goes through ups and downs, and when I've been down, I know my mind hasn't been right. Before everything, is making sure you're in the right mental state, and everything falls into place from there."

What's Her Secret: Jonelle Filigno
Source: Fadil Berisha

Specifically, what are some tools that work for you in terms of mindset?  "Everyone has different techniques and things that they do [before a game]; some people pray. Being professional athletes, a lot of us have access to a mental coach. Although everyone's different, I think it's a great tool to have. Coaches tell you what you need to do to get your mind right, but at the same time, it ultimately comes down to you making that decision to take the next step and change. So there's help out there for people to get themselves in the right state of mind, but it all comes down to you."

What are some strategies you use to get in the right frame of mind before a big game? "For me, before a game, the main thing I can think of is music. Music just calms me and puts me in the right state of mind. Once we get into the locker room there's typically loud, dance, pumped up music, but I'm different in the sense that my mind needs to calm itself before a game. I like to listen to relaxing music, something softer, on my way to the stadium. Once I get there, I'm with the team and listening to the rowdy music. But before then, the best way to calm my mind is to listen to calm music."

What's your training regimen like? "Physically, I compete at the highest level with the professional league here in the U.S. as well with my Canadian Women's National soccer team, so this past summer I've been training in New Jersey and we train every day. For the most part, this entire summer it's been six days a week, one or two games a week. It's tough, tough work... when you're training so hard every single day, sometimes you just need that mental break to kind of get away from it. That's an important aspect to being a professional athlete, having that mental break so your mind can refresh and get back to it. The coaches tend to sense that, and physically, a lot of the players on the team will sense the same thing at the same time. Everyone's on the same page when it comes to that! There's a lot of different aspects to what goes into the planning of what we should be doing every day, and also putting that extra work when needed, whether it's on and off the field. Doing some extra sprints, or more touches on the ball, or some extra lifting, whatever it might be."

What's your diet like? "I think because there are such high demands for us, being soccer players, we need to fuel our bodies the best that we can. For myself, personally, I'm not somebody who is so, so strict with things I can't touch. I love all food, and I think there's time when you can enjoy yourself, and there's times you can hold off. It's about moderation and balance. I just go with what works for myself."

Have you always felt being a pro athlete was your path? "Yes, that was my dream when I was growing up. And it really was just a dream, an idea. Never mind being a professional athlete, but just having the opportunity to go to the Olympics, or perform in the World Cup; that was something I almost didn't even dream of because it felt so far out of my reach. Sometimes I just sit back and I'm like, 'How did I get to this point?' It's funny, because I've been to two Olympics now, a World Cup, and we have a World Cup next summer in our home country Canada, and the Olympics in Rio after that. So I'm living my dream and enjoying every second of it. It's really awesome."

What's Her Secret: Jonelle Filigno
Source: Fadil Berisha

Even non-athletes can relate to that passionate pursuit of a dream and working hard for years to achieve it. It takes a lot of discipline! "Whatever it is, it does not have to be sports, my message would be just stick to it. No matter what you go through in life there's gonna be ups and downs, for me there were many downs, but I always got myself out of it. In the sports industry, people go through injuries all the time and the light at the end of the tunnel can seem so, so far away. You have to stick with it. The biggest thing out of that is belief and confidence in yourself to get through that. I think [getting] through a terrible experience, and knowing you can do that, will give you the confidence to keep on going, whatever it may be."

Did you ever want to give up? "Oh yeah. There were several times I wanted to give up and take the easy way out. But discipline, that's really what it takes to get to where you want to go, It's really the small things you don't think will make a difference… but they do. You just have to get up and do it. That's what it comes down to."