SEATTLE - Megan Young says she is just one of two women in all of Major League Soccer coaching athletes in the weight room. She is a survivor, and with September marking Blood Cancer Awareness Month, she is sharing her story.
"She can probably lift more than anybody on the team," said Sounders FC veteran forward Will Bruin of her. "So, she's probably one of the strongest in the weight room when we're in there."
Young is a team performance coach on Seattle’s staff.
The success you see on the pitch—and on banners hanging in the rafters of Lumen Field—starts long before match time.
"We need to build good athletes, we need to build better athletes, we need to fine tune the already good athletes, and she does a great job of working with them in the weight room." said head coach Brian Schmetzer. "But what I love about her is that she connects with people."
'She' is Megan Young.
And the team says who she is—not just what she does—is the difference that leads to success.
"What I bring to the table here is probably my ability to connect with the players very quickly, regardless of how long they've been a Sounder, or where they come from in the world, because we have players from all over the world," said Young. "And then meeting them where they're at, in terms of their physical needs in the gym."
"She holds everybody to a high standard, she always wants you to put the work in, because she wants what's best for everybody," said Will Bruin.
There is no secret recipe for Young’s ability to connect with others.
"It's not a framework or, like, a strategy; it's part of just who I am," explained Young. "And I think the experiences I've had throughout life have allowed me to meet so many different types of people and work with so many different types of athletes and players, but also just create space for people to understand what their needs are, and what their motivations are, and then work from that."
It's a perspective framed, in part, by Young’s biggest challenge of all: surviving acute myeloid leukemia—a cancer that starts in the bone marrow, but most often quickly moves into the blood.
"I had gone from a place of thinking where everything in my profession was leading me a certain way, to flipping it on its head, no longer able to say ‘I’m the perfect coach, I’m up at 6, I train at 7, I have a team at 8, I have a team at 9, I eat meal three at 10, I come around I go to sleep by 9, I practice what I preach every day,’" explained Young. "Now, I’m like, 'Oh, I’m going to lay in a hospital bed; the goal today is to walk."
Young says she speaks about her journey with cancer for those who can’t.
"So many people have similar scars, and if you actually ask them, they’ll tell their story and guess what, you’ve empowered them to share their story with someone else," said Young.
As Young continues moving the conversation, she’s moving the Sounders, too, finding ways to help athletes achieve goals they may not have even realized were in their grasp.
"I am not a fan of pull-ups," said Bruin. "And one thing that Meg has always told me is like, 'You know, if it's something that you don't like, and you know, it's hard, it's probably the best thing for you.'"
"She takes some of the young kids, Josh Atencio, Ethan, you know, Danny out into Lake Washington in the middle of January to make them tougher kids, and I love it," said Schmetzer. "I think it's great."
She says she seeks struggle, because she knows struggle and is able to help others through struggles of their own.
"Meg is the prime example of somebody who shows that nothing is too hard," said Bruin. "You can always persevere through anything if you have the right mindset."