When becoming a professional, in any line of work, you want to be wanted and for your employer to be a good fit for you personally. For NWSL rookie defender Addisyn Merrick, there is no better landing spot than the North Carolina Courage.
Lessons Learned in Lawrence
A native of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, Merrick decided to stay close to home and attend the University of Kansas. Early on in her time as a Jayhawk, she played some in the attack before becoming a full-time defender. That early experience going forward has made her a better defensive player. “Me playing in attack helped me as a defender grow because I knew what forwards were looking for,” Merrick told BGN. “I knew what attackers were looking for when they’re running at the backline, so it helped me to be able read the game a little bit better and a little bit faster. It gave me kind of like a one up on a forward or an attacker for the most part.
“I mean, obviously, some are really creative, but it definitely also helps me with the back line to be able to tell other people, you have to move here a little bit earlier because it’s that one step difference, it could be that one moment that you’re not there in time that they’re reading, and then that’s the difference between a clean sheet and a goal. It’s helped me a lot as a defender.”
Addisyn didn’t just turn into a decent defender at Kansas; She went on to win the 2019 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. “It was really exciting for me to win Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year,” she recalled. “I didn’t know I was even a candidate for that or people were considering me, so whenever my coach called me I was just ear-to-ear smiling, like biggest grin on my face, and I literally couldn’t stop smiling for days after that. Truly an experience that I will never forget. It was amazing, and I am so thankful for it. It’s definitely something that I’m proud of.”
👏 Congrats, @Addisyn_Merrick! 👏
— Kansas Soccer (@KUWSoccer) November 5, 2019
The Third Pro in the Family
When Merrick was drafted by Washington in the fourth round, she became the third member of her family to become a professional athlete. Her father, Leland McAfee, and her brother, Brandon Dulin, were both drafted by Major League Baseball teams. Brandon has been helpful as his sister moves into the pro ranks. Discussing the advice from her brother, Addisyn said, “He always told me to just stay mentally focused, and you always have to train hard and work hard to get there because that’s like the top 1%, that’s what they do; they are always working hard and training hard.
“You can’t just sit there and slack off and expect to be just as good as somebody else because everyone else is going to be amazing. He gave me another big piece of advice: focus on staying okay mentally. Don’t sit there and drag on things because sports have a big impact mentally, so if I can’t play and can’t make a decision in soccer then that has to do with my mental side. I just have to stay confident. Even when I’m starting to second guess myself, I have to just remind myself why I’m here, I got this, just stay mentally strong. That is a huge part of being a professional athlete: being able to overcome obstacles, not physically but mentally.”
Despite not being too into baseball, Merrick did watch it growing up for her brother. A Kansas City Royals fan, her favorite player that she’s not related to stars for her hometown team: catcher Salvador Perez. “I really enjoy watching him play, and it was fun to watch him play through the World Series and stuff,” she said. “I just always remember my grandma talking about, ‘Oh, Salvador Pérez, he’s on’. He’s always smiling and he’s always doing something funny, so he’s just (a) really fun player to watch. He has a really fun personality, so I really like watching him.”
Not only will Addisyn have the advice from her brother, but she will also have the knowledge of veteran, star defenders like Abby Dahlkemper and Abby Erceg on the Courage backline. “To join this team is honestly incredible. The fact that they considered me and picked me is just amazing. I am so honored,” she said about joining the elite defending, two-time reigning NWSL champions. “From the first week in March, whenever we started preseason originally before everything happened, I had already learned so much from Abby Erceg in the first week. She has so much insight to the game, and it’s such a different level that you’re looking at things on and it’s the smallest things you might not think about.
“Being able to learn from her just from that first week is incredible. I’ve learned so much just from that short period of time, so I’m really excited to see what else I can learn from both of them. This is just…I’m pumped to be on this team. I literally could not have been put in a better position right now. I feel like I just need to take full advantage of it, so I’m looking forward to that.”
The Journey East
After growing up and playing collegiately in the Midwest, Addisyn will be learning those lessons and starting her professional journey on the East Coast. “Yes, I grew up in Missouri and played for Kansas. I am excited for my journey by myself because this is like my big move that I never took in college,” she explained. “This is definitely going to be fun for me. It’s going to be very different not having my family at most of my home games, so that will be an adjustment. Facetime is there, and I am prepared and excited. It will be really good for me. I think it will help a lot in my process of just growing up. I’m not too worried about being by myself because I’m pretty independent. I’m excited.”
She’s also excited to be neighbors with the Atlantic Ocean. Addisyn said, “I am a fan of the water. I love the beach. The sharks, not so much. Not a big fan of sharks. I am really excited to get new experiences out here with the ocean. We jet ski and water ski and all that stuff back at home, so it’s pretty fun.”
Merrick’s Pre-Match Music
With the NWSL 2020 Challenge Cup announced last week, Addisyn has a few songs ready for her rookie pre-match playlist. “Right now, I’m really into this country song by Gabby Barrett called “I Hope”. I love that song so much. It just gets me going; I want to get up and dance,” the Courage rookie said. She adds “Wait a Minute” by Willow and “Family Tree” by Ramz to the locker-room soundtrack.