I grew up in a small town in PA, the middle of three children. With an older brother to always tag alongside, I was a bit of a tomboy. From an early age, I found my competitive nature, and honed it and my toughness as I tried to keep up with my brother and all his friends in whatever they did. I started playing soccer when I was nearly seven years old. It didn’t take much to convince my parents to let me try out for the local team, and I like to think they had no idea what they were agreeing to. There was not a girl’s team, so I tried out for what I thought was just the local recreational team. Little did I know, that I would be chosen to the boy’s travel team, and that is where my journey began.
I had many aspirations growing up. I wanted to be a marine biologist, but I will not likely accomplish that one. At one point I wanted to be either a firefighter or a hockey player (mind you, I had never skated a day in my life). And, of course, I wanted to be a professional soccer player and represent my country in the Olympics and the World Cup. As children, we all dream up many things. Yet how often are we fortunate enough to see our dreams actually come true?
Growing up, I can remember not having too many female athletes to look up to. I grew up in a time and place that was dominated by male sports. In fact, I played on boys’ teams through high school, because girls’ soccer teams were not offered. There were very few professional female athletes to look up to until I got a bit older, and most of the ones I admired were women on the US Soccer Team. I wanted to grow up to be just like them: dressed in a red, white and blue uniform to represent the USA. I hoped and dreamed that one day I could play soccer for my country just as they had. But it never occurred to me that I would later be that same role model for so many others that they had been for me.
I have been very fortunate in my soccer career and the experience and adventure it has brought me. In 2007, I was a member of the World Cup Team that won bronze. In 2008, I belonged to the Olympic Soccer Team that won gold. In 2011, I was thrilled to be playing for the US Women’s Soccer Team that captured the heart of the country in our quest to win gold, even though our dream fell just short and we came home with silver. And in 2012, I accomplished the unthinkable and earned my second Olympic gold medal. In 2015, after ten plus great years of representing the US, I was cut from the WNT. Despite not having that platform to reach out and be a role model to the future generations, I still have the opportunity to continue playing at the professional level. Not everybody can say they love what they do, but I truly do, and am so thankful for every opportunity I continue to get.
Fortunately, my biggest dream was fulfilled beyond anything I ever could have imagined. I am sure many of you have dreams, too, whether in sports or some other area. I want to encourage you to strive to achieve those dreams and don’t ever let anyone tell you that it cannot be done. Don’t be discouraged along the way if you hit a bump in the road or even a roadblock, because overcoming obstacles is how one builds character. If you are fortunate enough to achieve your goals one day, you will realize that the bumps you encountered along the way played a very important part in who you became. I am the person I am today because of the many bumps I encountered in my journey so far. I truly believe that hard work takes you places, and that the most memorable things in life should never be easy.