Reggae Girlz invitee Matthews talks about balancing motherhood, pro career

....US-based forward quietly confident of breaking into World Cup squad despite mommy duties

Observer staff reporter

Sunday, February 03, 2019

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Cheyna Matthews brought a fresh wind to the Reggae Girlz team during their recently concluded World Cup preparation camp, where she won the admiration of her peers. But not solely because of her on-field attributes.

It was the manner in which Matthews juggled her time on the field with mommy duties — almost simultaneously —– that impressed her teammates, who would have observed that the two tasks are never easy to juggle.

Matthews acknowledged the challenge of balancing a professional career and motherhood, but at the same time, she is enjoying the new experience.

The New Jersey-based player, who earns her Jamaican stripes through mother, Corinia Williams, was actually gracing the field for the first time since October 2017 — and only a few months after giving birth to son, Josiah — during the Reggae Girlz five-day camp in St Ann.

“It definitely posed challenges, but so far its been the most rewarding thing I've ever experienced. The scheduling of the camp and the fact that I am still breastfeeding my (five-month-old) son made it a bit more difficult, but I can see that once he isn't as dependent on me, it will be easier,” Matthews told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview.

“However, I have a ton of support from my husband [Jordan Matthews] to my mom and mother-in-law. They tag teamed last camp, with my mother-in-law coming to Jamaica for a few days to help us out and my mom came for the last few days.

“When I am at home for training, I have someone to come with me and watch my son as I train, so he is always close,” she added.

While she had no plans to sit out the 2018 season of United States National Women's Soccer League (NWSL), Matthews believes her unplanned, yet exciting pregnancy was a blessing in disguise.

It allowed her, she claimed, to spend quality time with her husband, who plied his trade for Philadelphia Eagles and the Buffalo Bills in the National Football League (NFL).

“We weren't actually planning for a child, but I think the Lord put our son in our lives for a reason. My husband, who is a professional American football player, was going through a trying time in his career, and by my pregnancy I was able to be there for him physically.

“Normally during certain parts of the year, our careers have us apart, so I know that it was a good reset as far as priorities are concerned and it took a lot of teamwork between us,” Matthews shared.

Even though the time away from football was longer than expected, Matthews, was by no means ready to bid the game farewell, and with constant encouragement from her husband, was resolute about pursuing her dream.

During her pregnancy, Matthews stuck to her daily routine of working out and training with her club, Washington Spirit, where she has plied her trade for the last four years. She believes those activities resulted in her quick return to the game she loves after giving birth.

“I think staying active throughout my pregnancy helped me in delivery actually, and in five weeks post-delivery I was able to run again, but lightly. Jordan kept encouraging me that I could continue to play and that he would do whatever it took to help me keep my dreams alive.

“My son has helped prove to me that with hard work and faith in God, ultimately, anything is possible and I'm so happy to have this opportunity of a lifetime with the hard-working Reggae Girlz,” Matthews noted.

The 25-year-old is the lone wolf of five siblings to pursue a career in football, a game she was introduced to at the tender age of four. She was one of 12 new players called into the senior Reggae Girlz camp following their historic qualification to the Fifa Women's World Cup in France.

As Matthews basked in the opportunity to possibly don the black, green and gold at the global showpiece event in women's football this summer, her grandfather Deryck Panton crossed her mind.

She pointed out that Panton, a Portland native, was her biggest cheerleader before he passed in 2011.

“I was extremely excited when I got the call and immediately I thought how proud my grandfather would be and I was also elated to be able to spend time with my grandmother [Gwendolyn Panton], who is in Kingston.

“My grandfather loved the fact that I played football...he was extremely supportive and loved bragging about how talented I was in his eyes. I know he would be so proud now that I have this opportunity to represent our country,” the Vanderbilt University and Florida State University alumna reasoned.

Once in camp, the Atlanta, Georgia native had difficultly fitting in with the other players both on and off the field, especially given the fact that she had an adorable son, who they gravitated towards.

The forward, who displayed some slick touches and good ball-handling skills, when marshalling the left channel, relished the competitive nature of the camp.

“I feel like I meshed very well with the Girlz, I played with a few of them in the past and that actually kept me comfortable. Lauren Silver and I played youth soccer at some points together, a few are my former club teammates and college soccer competition, and so that has made me familiar with a lot of the other Girlz,” the former US Under-23 representative noted.

“It is such a blessing to be a part of the team which is another big step in my soccer career, which has been awesome so far. I am so happy that I am able to potentially play on a big stage…Lord willing and it is such an honour, especially after a few people doubted I would be able to come back into form after pregnancy,” she added.

Looking ahead, Matthews is quietly confident about breaking into the final 23-member squad for the June 7 to July 7 World Cup in France.

“I won't rate my chances because I feel like I can only control my play, being prepared, fit and professional. I truly believe that whatever the Lord has for me, it has already been written. So my expectations are to continue to prove the world wrong,” Matthews declared.

“The team is built around strong, determined women that have loads of potential and my goal is to bring my best every time I step out there and help create more history. I believe we have such a huge platform and can make such a difference in the community just by inspiring others,” she ended.

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