SAN DIEGO – The nerves for athletes playing in the College Cup are expected, but for Aly Gleason, it is nothing compared to jumping out of an airplane or engaging in hand to hand combat with men who outweigh her by more than 50 pounds.
Gleason, the senior back up goalkeeper for Stanford, has been a member of the Air Force’s ROTC Program for the past three years and has had to perform an exhausting juggling act between sports, school and what she wants as an eventual career.
“I think I am the epitome of what a military person would be,” Gleason said. “I am regimented, disciplined and very into physical and mental strength, those are all big things in ROTC. Leadership has always been my thing coming into college. “
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It is something that didn’t surprise coach Paul Ratcliffe when Gleason approached him with her intentions.
“Couple of years ago she came to me and asked if I would be understanding if she left practice a little bit early sometimes because she had different things she had to go to,” Ratcliffe said. “I was understanding because I want people to live out their dreams and I knew this was important to her. She was very serious about it. So I said, ‘Let’s do this.’”
Informing her coach was easy, telling her parents, was another matter.
“I was too afraid to tell my parents so they didn’t find out for a few months,” Gleason said. “I knew it was what I wanted to do but you don’t really know until they slide the papers in front of you. I had to sign something saying I would commit to serving for four years in exchange for them paying for some of my tuition.”
Gleason knew it was going to be challenging. Stanford is tough enough academically. Add athletics to it and the difficulty factor goes up exponentially. Gleason decided to ramp it up even further with the ROTC.
A typical day for Gleason during the season begins much like someone on a military base. She is awake early, and in bed late. During the offseason it is even more stringent and because Gleason wasn’t busy enough, she threw in playing on the rugby team.
“Saturdays were my only day off so I would sleep from 9 p.m. Friday to about noon on Saturday,” Gleason said. “Not much of a social life.”
But definitely a fulfilling life and Gleason wouldn’t trade it for anything. Even when she was roasting in Alabama’s summer heat and humidity at Maxwell Air Force Base doing basic training.
“They say if you make it through the first three to four days of basic without saying man this is the worst decision of my life then you are fine,” Gleason said. “Everyone has that what in the world am I doing here. I am in long sleeves, long pants, fire alarm goes off at 3 in the morning, but it really shaped me into the person I am today.”
Gleason has performed so well in her training she has been offered the chance to serve as an instructor, something that Ratcliffe would expect from her.
“There are so many intangibles with her,” Ratcliffe said. “I think the first thing is she is a wonderful human being. She cares about her teammates and is a really giving person. Also her work ethic is incredible. After practice you will see her do additional conditioning on a daily basis. She is so disciplined and a fantastic kid.”