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Chasing The Dream with USWNT Athlete Kat Sharkey

May 18, 2016, 9:32 a.m. (ET)

As part of our weekly Wednesday Chasing the Dream posts, we’ll be featuring a USWNT athlete up until the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

There’s no running out of breath to describe Kat Sharkey’s coffee order. Baristas alike can hold the extra pumps of syrups, tower of whip or dash of cinnamon dust for the next in line.

Similar to her style of play, she takes her caffeine simple and strong. One cup of hot black coffee and not only is she ready to shake sleepiness away like the average individual, but she is set to ignite a whirlwind of wicked strikes on cage during an intense 60-minute battle. A mug of caffeine given to the right person has the potential to change the world, or in this case, the scoreboard. “Caff-Dration” is a pre-game ritual that originated at Princeton University that evolves and encourages the intake of coffee and water. Sharkey keeps the tradition alive and well on Team USA, no matter where in the world the squad travels to.

“I’ve always been a coffee lover,” said Sharkey. “In college, I made it a point to get a caffeine fix before every game. Obviously hydration is an important part to staying healthy and active. So Caff-Dration kind of explains the process of wanting and needing both. It caught on and kind of spread a little bit.”

Long before she was hooked on coffee, Sharkey was hooked on hockey. She watched her older sister, Laura, play field hockey in high school and was instantly inspired to play. But as easily as her passion was developed, Sharkey’s sharp shooting skills didn’t happen overnight. In junior high school, she played midfield and didn’t score a single goal the entire season.

“I hadn’t master the skill yet of sliding my hands together and taking a drive,” said Sharkey. “I couldn’t score. After the season, I really focused on that one skill. For some reason, it’s all I wanted to do; get better at shooting.”

Sharkey’s goal soon became a family investment. Her parents recognized Sharkey’s wish and purchased a goal cage frame and Sharkey’s dad mowed the lawn as short a possible to give it a turf-like feel. I wasn’t the biggest girl on the team but I wanted a powerful shot.

“My dad didn’t have a background in field hockey at all so he would use what he knew from golf and baseball, finding where players found the power in their swings,” said Sharkey. “I wasn’t the tallest or strongest on my junior high team at that point, and I remember him telling me, ‘it’s not always the biggest guy on the diamond or on the course that can hit the hardest.’ He used what he knew about other sports to coach me and better my hit. I’ve come a long way since then.”

Having obtained the hard hit she desired, Sharkey was ready to make a name for herself. She achieved applaudable accomplishments on the field even in her high school years as the second-highest scorer in the nation as a senior in high school with 50 goals and 23 assists. Continuing on in hockey, Sharkey, the most prolific scorer in Princeton history, concluded her final season as a Tiger by setting school records in goals for a career with 107, goals for a season with 38, and goals for one game with six. Perhaps her nickname of “Shark Attack” surfaced from this aggressive, sharp shooting.

Right after receiving an invitation to join the national team, in 2011 Sharkey decided to take the school year off to train with the team; showing her dedication to the sport at the elite level. Sharkey's sheer speed and athleticism have made her a force to be reckoned with as part of Team USA's attack and she has made her presence known on the pitch. Her experience in hockey is chock-full with impressive titles and achievements, lacking any form of injuries. That was true up until the summer of 2015 where Sharkey suffered from her very first sport-related medical setback. After securing her name to the 2015 Pan American Games roster, Sharkey hoped to help her team quality for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the qualifying event but was benched due to a bad landing during a corner practice. A broken bone in her leg and torn ligaments in her ankle resulted in surgery where screws, a plate and a wire wrapped around two bones to stabilize the ankle while the ligaments healed. Sharkey didn’t sit around at home waiting and wishing things were different. After giving herself off few days to allow the dust of disappointment to settle, she charged forward.

“It was really hard to stay behind,” said Sharkey. “It happened less than a week before we were supposed to leave for Canada. I took it as a challenge and tried to be as positive as possible.”

Unable to bear weight on her leg for 6 weeks Sharkey quite literally crawled around on the gym floor focusing on upper body and core gym sessions.

“Even if I saved one percent of my fitness through those workouts, it was worth it,” said Sharkey. “It’s one percent I didn’t have to get back when I returned.”

It’s that never-say-die, all-American attitude that Sharkey persistently displays to outshine the opposition's defense. With a mug of caffeine in one hand and a stick in the other, there’s no limit to what Sharkey is capable of.

Check next Wednesday for another USWNT Chasing the Dream post.

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