Hammond during her days at Clemson. (Photo: Clemson University)
Over and over, Jenny Hammond kicks into gear and takes off on a sprint. She never gives herself extra rest. There is no authority barking orders at her--internal drive at its highest level.
It's a grueling sprint workout, the 60-part opening act of a six-hour day of training. The distances vary from 30 to 70 yards, but it matters little: Hammond pushes through them all, stopping as planned after 30 sprints to catch her breath and get a swig of water before tackling the final 30.
All for a dream that came true at long last.
Hammond was drafted in the fourth round of the Women's Professional Soccer league general draft, and soon after signed a contract to play for Sky Blue FC of New Jersey. She felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment upon hearing the news--her adversity suggests she should've given up long ago--but she immediately realized the work had only just begun.
It was on her to show up to preseason camp in shape and ready to compete, so she left her home in Illinois during the winter and spent several weeks in Southern California training in warm weather. On this day, she will grind through 60 wind sprints, work on ball skills by herself, then head to a trainer in Orange County who will set her up with more work that totals up to four hours. She will then find a pickup game to round out her day.
"Sunday is my only day off," Hammond said. "Sometimes I don't even take that day off. I end up playing pickup with some people."
Hammond's not taking her new job for granted. How could she? She finally made it to professional soccer at the age of 25, after five knee surgeries and years of waiting for a pro league to get back on its feet. The roadblocks never fazed her. If there was any sort of chance, she kept reaching for it.
Truth was, Hammond had no interest in leaving soccer behind. After an ACL tear knocked her down in high school, she vowed to never let it get the best of her. She went on to play four years at Clemson University, where she tore her other ACL. More injuries resulted in a total of five knee surgeries--more than enough to conquer most athletes.