May 18, 2010
By Charles Cuttone
THE TOUGHEST COMEBACK
Markgraf on playing after pregnancy
Chicago Red Stars defender Kate Markgraf is surprised to be in Cleveland this week. Markgraf and three of her WPS teammates are in camp with the U.S. Women’s National Team ahead of a friendly with rival Germany at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Saturday (6 p.m. ET).
|Kate Markgraf is back in camp with the U.S. Women’s National Team after taking 2009 off to give birth to twin sons.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Markgraf, who only has a handful of games under her belt since returning from giving birth, was surprised by the callup from coach Pia Sundhage.
“I was surprised,” said Markgraf, who has played 198 games for the National Team. “I kinda thought that career was done for me. It’s definitely nice and a bonus.”
Markgraf last played for the Red, White and Blue in 2008, then took the year off to give birth to twin sons, Carson and Xavier.
“The national team is the highest level, and I only started truly running again in January. I am so honored and I’ll work my tail off, but there are no expectations.”
Markgraf already has played in three World Cups. She was part of the championship winning team in 1999 that lit the spark under women’s soccer in this country. She also played three seasons for the Boston Breakers in the Women’s United Soccer Association.
After missing the inaugural Women’s Professional Soccer season, she is happy to be back in the field with the Red Stars.
“It’s really, really fun,” she said. “I think I m having a blast out there. When you are away from the game you miss it. You take away all the stuff that might have been hindering your performance because you realize a lot of the game is mental. You strip that all away and you remember why you play, so that passion has definitely come back.”
While Markgraf has been able to get the passion back in her game, getting game fit has been more of a challenge.
“Pregnancy is probably the biggest injury you can do to your body, because it affects every part of your whole entire skeleton,” she explained of getting back on the field after such a long layoff.
“You have to learn how to adapt. Not only that, when you are coming back after a baby, it doesn’t matter how in tune your body is, Your body is different, you have to re-learn. You may think you are ok, but you’re going to pull something because you don’t know your body anymore. It changes after each pregnancy.”
This is the second time she has taken off from playing to have a child. She missed most of 2006 when giving birth to her first son, Keegan.
“I think the worst injury to come back from is pregnancy. It’s a sad way to phrase it, but it is the truth.”
What Margraf, a Michigan native and former star (under her maiden name, Sobrero) at Notre Dame, has come back to a league that so far has been unkind to the Red Stars. After missing the playoffs last year, the team is off to a 1-4-1 start, seventh in the eight- team league.
“The quality is very high actually,” she said of the WPS. “If you make a mistake, for the most part people will penalize you for it. You can’t get away with just having pure athletes on your team, you can’t get away with having only technical players on your team. The ones that are successful in the end are the ones that fight the extra ten percent. All across the board teams are very technical and very athletic.”
For one week at least, she won’t have to think about the opposition in the WPS. Just the reigning world champions, Germany. Markgraf says, despite the layoff, she’s ready.
“Physically I am better than I ever have been since I started having kids on ‘o6.”