Aubrey Kingsbury, goalkeeper for the National Women’s Soccer League’s Washington Spirit, has had quite the ride over the last few months.
Last fall, at the culmination of the 2021 season, Kingsbury and her Spirit teammates won the franchise’s first NWSL championship in its nine-year history. Just days before, Kingsbury was announced as the NWSL’s Goalkeeper of the Year for the second year in a row. In December, she married a Shenandoah alumnus. In January, she was named to the U.S. Women’s National Team’s training camp roster and competed with the USWNT in last month’s SheBelieves Cup.
She’s done all of that while working toward a Master of Business Administration degree at Shenandoah University, taking advantage of a partnership struck between SU and the Spirit in 2021 that allows Washington’s players to take free classes at Shenandoah.
Kingsbury said recently that she’s in her second year in Shenandoah’s MBA program and is taking two graduate-level courses – Financial Management (FIN 517) and Digital Marketing Strategy (MKT 531) – this semester. The balancing act between taking college courses and playing professional soccer is a challenging one, she noted, because of the struggle to squeeze classes into her loaded schedule.
Being a professional soccer player requires me to prioritize my sleep and recovery, so no all-nighters for me. I also have to make the most of my time while traveling. While most of my teammates may be napping or watching Netflix, I’m usually writing papers or reading textbooks. It’s definitely not for everyone, and this isn’t something I could’ve done earlier in my career, but I’ve learned to compartmentalize.”
Aubrey Kingsbury, Washington Spirit goalkeeper
Though it’s difficult to get the most out of her studies while being fully present for soccer training, workouts and film study, Kingsbury, 30, said the chance to utilize the Shenandoah-Spirit partnership was “too good of an opportunity to pass up.”
As she’s watched the NWSL grow during her seven years in the league, Kingsbury said she’s excited about how the “landscape of women’s sports” is changing and she wanted to be a part of its growth. She’s using the opportunity presented to her at Shenandoah to pursue that goal.
Building a strong business background has allowed Kingsbury to better understand the business side of professional sports, she said, and she’s using that knowledge to serve as a liaison between the Spirit front office and her teammates. Her goal is to one day own an NWSL club.
Kingsbury certainly knows what it takes to be successful on the field.
Though Kingsbury called the 2021 NWSL season a “tumultuous” one – the Spirit had no home training facility, the team parted ways with its head coach midseason, COVID forced Washington to forfeit two matches and tensions within team ownership were played out in the media, she said – the Spirit developed a “never say die” mentality as a result and rode that to the team’s first championship.
“It seemed like everything off the field was going against us, so we were more committed than ever to winning together,” said Kingsburg, who was named the NWSL Championship Most Valuable Player. “Soccer was our escape and we came together through the chaos.”
Days before the Spirit beat the Chicago Red Stars in the NWSL championship game last November, Kingsbury was announced as the league’s Goalkeeper of the Year for the second straight season. Kingsbury allowed only 22 goals in 25 games during the 2021 season and posted nine shutouts.
Kingsbury was “ecstatic” to be called up to the USWNT camp for the SheBelieves Cup earlier this year and called the feat another step to fulfilling her dream of playing for the women’s national team.
“It’s an intense environment; everyone there is the best of the best,” Kingsbury said, adding that “you can’t coast through anything” during the intense training sessions. “The speed of play is much faster than the NWSL. You have to be locked in and intentional with everything you do. I enjoy the challenge of having to be my absolute best at all times. I learn a lot from the competitive environment and being able to train alongside some of the world’s best goalkeepers and coaches.”
And if her professional exploits didn’t provide enough highlights, Kingsbury (née Bledsoe) celebrated her marriage to Matt Kingsbury, a Shenandoah alum, in December. Aubrey said she met her husband through a mutual friend in 2019, and it was then that she first heard of Shenandoah University. It was a happy coincidence that the Spirit and Shenandoah partnered up in 2021, opening the door for Kingsbury to pursue an MBA.
“Our wedding was the perfect ending to 2021!” Kingsbury said.
All photographs courtesy of the Washington Spirit.