Racing Louisville's Emina Ekic talks improving fitness, vision ahead of training camp – Courier Journal

How does a professional soccer player spend their offseason? Well, if you’re Emina Ekic you split time between your hometown of Louisville and the warm, inviting climate of the west coast.
“After the season, I went and hung out in San Diego for a bit (and) enjoy the beach,” said Ekic. “Other than that, I came home. I hung out with my family, went to a couple U of L basketball games (and) met up with high school friends. Nothing too unusual.”
But it wasn’t just all fun and games, as the second-year forward had a list of things she was trying to work on ahead of Racing Louisville starting training camp ahead of their second season in the NWSL.
Ekic said last season had its fill of learning curves, particularly when it came to adjusting to the difference in speed of play from the collegiate to professional levels. So, in addition to improving her fitness for the coming season, Ekic spent a good bit of her off time improving her quickness and agility for Year 2.
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“The speed of play was very quick,” she said. “That’s something that I’m more so adjusted to now. I understand what the standard is with everything. It made my offseason easier, because I planned what I wanted to do.
“I worked some agility sessions with an ex-professional football player. We did speed, agility, shifting and that kind of stuff. I’d do these lifts two (or) three times a week in the mornings. I could look at myself and prepare my body for this next season in regard to being the fastest, fittest, strongest version of myself that I can be.”
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But beyond the additional physical training, Ekic also worked on improving her sight and being able to react to what she was seeing on the field at any given moment. She worked with the experts at the vision center on the grounds of Racing’s training center and learned valuable insights on how she perceived the world around her at game speed.
“They test your eyes through a program, and they can see our strengths and weaknesses,” said Ekic. “Some people have trouble looking left to right. Some people struggle up and down where their eyes block out certain parts when they look up and down, so it’s harder to read a ball in the air. It’s helped me with the speed of play in the game.”
Ekic learned that her vertical sight could use some improvement, so she worked with the vision center on a series of exercises where she had to coordinate her actions with a pattern of lights she was presented with. She called the exercises challenging but rewarding at the same time.
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“I’ll put on these strobe goggles, and they’ll blink on and off,” she said. “I’ll just follow these lights and try to hit them on a board. They’re the size of a nickel. You have to be very accurate but move as fast as  you can.”
Ekic said this year feels like everything is starting from scratch with new head coach Kim Björkegren and personnel changes resetting the table in a lot of ways for the team. That said, she anticipates a high press approach to the pitch that should give Racing more opportunities at offense, and she said the new signees are integrating well into the scheme, particularly Jaelin Howell and Savannah DeMelo, the second and fourth picks from this year’s draft. She’s excited as everyone gets ready for this year’s Challenge Cup, which is scheduled to start March 18.
“It’s nice to be back (and) to have everyone back,” said Ekic. “The energy is high, people are getting along (and) getting to know each other. It’s been fun and very energetic, it’s just a good vibe all around.”
Reach Jonathan Saxon at [email protected] or 502-715-1393 and follow him on Twitter at @TheSleepyScribe