Following a stellar career at Wake Forest University, Peyton Perea had the chance to train with the North Carolina Courage during the 2019 NWSL season as they won their second consecutive championship. Now, with lessons learned on and off the pitch in 2020, Perea is back with the club and ready to make an impact during the Fall Series.
“Yeah, I am extremely excited to be back with this team,” Peyton told BGN. “This is such an incredible group of players and people and just amazing coaches and you know it’s just such an awesome environment to grow and learn every single day.”
After the 2019 season with North Carolina, she was able to continue her growth on the pitch in Spain with Civitas Santa Teresa Badajoz. She explained, “I think the biggest thing that I learned from being in Spain is just being able to adapt to new culture, language, style of play, and new teammates.”
“Obviously, moving to a whole new country isn’t easy, but I think just learning how important it is to adapt and how important it is to just take a deep breath and relax and just take things day by day and not put so much pressure on yourself to have your footing right away.”
Perea was happy with her performance in the limited matches that she got to play in before COVID-19 hit, picking up some assists and making an impact with the Spanish side. But, she was also proud of herself for simply making the move away from the United States by herself. “I think at the end of the day I’m really proud of what I’ve done and being brave enough to go overseas, that was something that was on my bucket list,” Perea said. “I’ve always wanted to go to Spain and to be able to play professionally there was really awesome and I am really happy I was able to do that and have the opportunity.”
She added that she was able to pick up Spanish a lot there and “that definitely helped because my mom’s side of the family is Colombian and my grandma speaks Spanish so I’m now able to communicate with her, which is really cool.” Peyton also appreciated the culture and being in a country surrounded by people that live and breathe football.
With COVID-19 complicating everything, Perea had to decide if she wanted to try and move back overseas. But, she explained that in the back of her mind, she always knew North Carolina was where she needed to be to grow as a player. “When Paul, I contacted him, and he said he was happy to have me back like I just immediately packed my bags and I got ready to go,” she said. “Yeah, I am excited to ya know just continue this last phase of the season with the team and just continue to grow and learn as much as I can.”
A star on the pitch, you may also recognize Peyton off the pitch from her YouTube channel, which she launched back when her professional journey was getting started in March 2019. “It was really daunting to start and honestly I am still kind of nervous when I put a video out, but I think the biggest lesson is to not be afraid to embrace that creative side and share it with everyone,” she said. “I think that it can be really scary to put yourself out there, but I think the biggest lesson is just if you’re proud of something and you’re creative, why not share it with people?”
“It could impact someone’s life in some way and that’s why I wanted to start it because I wanted to show the behind the scenes of the professional journey and be really honest and open and candid about it because I feel like a lot of people just see what we’re posting on Instagram, everything on Twitter, just all the happy highs and I think for the majority of players there’s a lot of stuff behind the scenes that people don’t see that players deal with on a day to day basis and so I really wanted to just capture that.”
Talking about the biggest lessons she’s learned and what’s the most difficult thing about vlogging, Peyton said, “Honestly, I feel like I definitely could do a better job but that’s basically the whole premise of why I started the vlog. What has been more difficult about it is just being consistent. I honestly feel like I run out of ideas all the time or I don’t come up with ideas, and so I don’t post or make videos as often as I’d like and that’s something I am still working on.” She added that she’s enjoyed the editing process and it’s fun, especially when people reach out about appreciating the content, as I did.
Will we get to see some behind-the-scenes footage of the Courage as they participate in the Fall Series? “Hopefully I can definitely get some footage while we go through this Fall Series. I think that’d be really cool to show people and share online,” she said. “But, the vlog is a work in progress for sure, but it’s definitely been a nice creative outlet for me and something that I really enjoy doing. Hopefully, I can definitely be more consistent and put out more videos for everyone.”
On some of her videos, Peyton appeared alongside her boyfriend, former Wake Forest wide receiver Scotty Washington. After impressing in training camp as an undrafted rookie, Washington was signed to the practice squad for the Cincinnati Bengals. “Having another professional athlete be my partner in life is really awesome and really cool because we get to chase after our dream together,” she explained. “There’s a deeper understanding of what we’re going through, so to have someone who I know will always support me but also relate, like they can really relate, because they’re going through the same thing.”
Peyton added that it’s comforting to know that she has Washington as an outlet as she knows he’s chasing a similar dream and understands the sacrifices it takes. She is definitely proud of her boyfriend as he begins his journey this season with the Bengals. “I am super proud of him just to see the growth as a player and a man from college to now is really amazing to watch and so I am really excited that he has this opportunity with the Bengals,” she said. “I know he is so deserving and I know he’s going to take full advantage of it and so I am really excited to just watch his journey and be his number one fan the whole way and I can’t wait to see where our careers take us.”
There was another professional athlete who had a major impact on Perea this year was Kobe Bryant, who tragically passed away along with his daughter Gigi and seven others in a January helicopter accident. Perea, a Riverside, California native, explained what Kobe meant to her. ” Kobe was just, his mentality and what he embodied is so special to me. Obviously, there’s a huge list of why he means so much to me, but his ability to tap into that killer mentality and he wanted to be the best version of himself every day, no excuses,” she said. “I think that’s something we can all learn from. We have so much untapped potential in us and so we just have to work to find that and dig deep to bring it out of ourselves and he was able to do it because he practiced it every single day and he didn’t make excuses and he brought people to that level with him.”
“Being an incredible athlete and basketball player, but also someone who wanted to win at life off the court every single day is extremely inspiring and he was just a worldwide icon and I think we can thank Kobe for fostering that Mamba Mentality in a lot of us and something that I am striving for every single day.”
Not only was Kobe a five-time NBA champion, an Oscar winner, and an ultimate competitor, but he also was one of the most outspoken male athletes praising women’s sports. “Just to see his support for women’s sports, especially before he passed, was huge. He had respect for us as athletes, not female athletes, just athletes because he could see the ability and he could see the talent,” Perea reflected. “To have someone as big as him speaking up for us and supporting us, I think is really awesome.”
“I know that he would have been pumped to have an LA team come and I know that he probably would’ve been on the board or part-owner of that LA team coming in 2022. So, I hope that we can all make him proud and continue to foster that Mamba Mentality even though he’s gone.”
With that Mamba Mentality, Peyton isn’t just back on the team to train and be along for the ride. She’s ready to break into the rotation for the Courage in the Fall Series while understanding how much talent she is competing with for minutes. “Yeah, there’s definitely no denying that this team is one of the best in the world. Just going through the names on the roster I am literally surrounded by the best in the world every single day,” she said. “But I am definitely extremely motivated to break into the rotation and get some time in this Fall series and I really would like to gain some more experience, more game experience and I think that this is a really great time to do so.”
“So obviously I am just going to try and control what I can with working hard and training and making sure that I am making an impact, day in and day out whatever that may look like.”
What does Peyton Perea bring to this club? She said she prides herself on her soccer IQ, vision, and passing. “So, with the style of this team and wanting to keep the ball and continue to break lines, I feel like I can make an impact in that way,” she explained. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to see some game time during the fall series, but like I said, whatever my role looks like I am just going to do it to the best of my ability and help the team in any way I can.”
Friday night will be Peyton’s first chance to make an impact with the Courage during the Fall Series as they are set to host the NWSL Challenge Cup winners, Houston Dash. The match is set to kick off at 7 PM ET, available live on Twitch.