After the 2013 NWSL season ended, Christine Nairn was excited about the offseason and training to get ready for her follow-up season with the Reign. Her offseason trade to Washington was something she wasn’t expecting.
Nairn was coming off a productive rookie year scoring three goals and tallying five assists while shifting around in different positions on the field.
“I got a phone call from Laura and I could tell she was a bit upset and hesitant when she told me I had been traded,” Nairn said. “I have no hard feelings towards Laura she was very honest with me and explained the whole situation to me and that’s all I could ask for. She told me that she did everything she could to keep me in Seattle but DC wouldn’t make the trade for anyone else.”
In the end Nairn took it for what it was, a business decision.
Harvey is trying to build a winning program at Seattle and the midfielder was a part of getting that new group of players to do so. Nairn also viewed it as the best possible trade because it allowed her to move back home where she grew up. For the Maryland native, it will be her first time living at home in five years.
Nairn grew up playing at the SoccerPlex. As a child, the chance to play on the stadium’s field was something she always looked forward to. So for the stadium now to be the Spirit’s home field really comes full circle for her and symbolizes how she’s worked her way up.
“As a kid I went there every weekend or every other weekend and my two older brothers also played there,” Nairn said. “For me to be able to represent Maryland, my club team and family is a childhood dream come true.”
The experience of playing for the Reign helped the 23-year-old grow and develop not only as player, but as a person. Being born and raised on the east coast she felt out of her comfort zone in Seattle.
“It was a great experience to get out of my comfort zone on the east coast and to experience a soccer crazy city,” Nairn said. “I met a lot of awesome people and some connections it turned out to be a great experience and something I can look back on and say I went out my comfort zone.”
Nairn found the transition from the comfort of college to the unknown of being a professional athlete pretty tough. She was thousands of miles away from family and friends. But she soon figured out when you’re struggling whether off the field or on the field you get close and lean on your teammates, they become your second family.
“I think when you’re in that situation you learn the most about yourself and for me I was fortunate with the great friends I made on the team in Haley Kopmeyer and Kiersten Dallstream,” Nairn said.
During Seattle’s opening 11-game winless streak, Nairn credits those friends and relationships helped her out as a player.
“It wasn’t very easy competing against other teams when we didn’t have our national team players we kept coming up on the short end of the stick,” Nairn said. “They were the first to stay after practice or Hayley and I would go to practice early and train.”
It gave her the ability to face adversity and do her best to try to turn it around, never taking no for an answer. With the high expectations to get results, her mentality was to do what she knew how and let everything else take care of itself.
“I was surrounded by a lot of great players in Keelin Winters, Jess Fishlock and Lauren Barnes,” Nairn said. “All the pressure wasn’t on any single player it was divide amongst all of us, we were able to make a push towards the second half of the season.”
With those challenges behind her Nairn looks forward to creating chemistry with her Spirit teammates.
“Even though I’m new to this team I already know a bunch of the players,” Nairn said. “I’ve played alongside Ashlyn Harris, Ali Krieger and Crystal Dunn during my time in and out of the national team.”
Nairn also played alongside Spirit defender Tori Pressley, a few years before her college career at Penn State. Knowing each other will be an advantage for the Spirit and on the field those relationships that have been built can translate into success.
“Winning has a lot to do with the coaching staff, if everyone can possess the same goal everyone has to buy in and to be on the same page,” Nairn said. “When we get together for preseason we need to hit the ground running.”
The Spirit will look for 2014 NWSL College Draft first overall pick Crystal Dunn and U.S. International Yael Averbuch to help shoulder the load.
“Having Crystal Dunn and Yael Averbuch means a ton going forward,” Nairn said. “They’re the type of players that not only are amazing but they have a great experience with national team and Yael has played overseas in Sweden.”
Their experience playing soccer at all levels is beneficial to the club. Nairn sees this upcoming season as an opportunity to build a brand name in the Washington Spirit.
“Hopefully we can start to compete with the fans and have as many as Portland does,” Nairn said. “I know DC has the second largest fan group in the league and why not try to compete with the best and it starts with players like Yael, Dunn and Krieger as well as the Canadian National team players.”
Nairn doesn’t know exactly how she’ll be utilized in Washington but she wants to be in a situation that helps the team win. Even though her natural position is attacking midfielder in the No.10 spot, in Seattle she played all over the pitch spending time at outside back, center mid, and striker.
“My style is to play people through and really be the connecting piece going forward,” Nairn said. I’m always looking to get an assist. “At the end of the day if the team is performing and we’re winning that’s our goal so it’s whatever it takes.”
Besides a winning club, her goals for Washington scope outside the field of play.
“I want little girls in the stands to say I want to do this when I’m their age and this is my goal,” Nairn said. “I want to help broaden the women’s game to make everyone know this league is here to stay, we’ll do whatever it takes to help it stay afloat and thrive.”