It’s been a wild, wonderful, amazing, transformational and historic 14 years on the U.S. Women’s National Team.
I’ve been asked a lot recently what the favorite moment of my career has been. Of course, that’s an impossible question to answer. To name one would diminish the others and I’ve been so fortunate to have had hundreds of wonderful experiences throughout my soccer career, many on the field and most off them off the field with my teammates.
Yes, I’ll miss the soccer, the intense competition and the journey we all go through to be the best in the world, but I know I’ve pulled everything I can out of my body and it’s time to say goodbye to this sport I love.
That said, one of my proudest accomplishments – along with the life-long friendships I’ve formed with my teammates -- is being able to go out on my own terms with a sense of completion, which is a rare thing in professional sports
Knowing when to walk away is one of the most important things an athlete can do. Being a self-critic is a major part of being successful in professional sports and it’s important to hold yourself to a very high standard. I’ve never let my coaches or teammates hold me to a higher standard than I hold for myself, and that helped me play as long as I have and have the career that I’ve enjoyed.
I know I seem like a confident person, and I certainly am, but the truth is I struggled with confidence as I hit my mid-30s and my game fell off. I know I wasn’t myself, but I also knew I could still muster the mental and physical fortitude necessary to make a contribution to this team one final time to try to win the World Cup. To be able to stand on that podium in Vancouver with my teammates and lift the trophy with Christie Rampone is something that I’ll cherish forever.
I’ve been playing for 30 years and so identified myself with the game that the thought of not being a soccer player anymore was truly scary. But once I announced my retirement, that all fell away. In a sense, I shed my soccer skin and knew I could have a career after soccer. I was ready.
You have to have laser-focus to excel at whatever you do and for 30 years, my focus was soccer. But now, the blinders are off and all of the ideas about what my future will hold are running through my head and heart. Whatever path I take, I know I will take it with the same kind of effort and relentlessness that I showed during my career on the field.
As I look back, I certainly want to thank my friends and my family who shaped me as a child.
My mom, my dad, and my brothers and sisters put me in really good environments. They challenged me. They showed me by their successes and their failures what I wanted to do with my life. Having my character shaped so early as a young kid was really important. I have stuck to those value systems and that’s something that I'm really proud of because it's easy in the world we live in to get lost in the fame and the fortune and the popularity. For me, my family has really been the grounding element in my world and I couldn't be more thankful to them for that.
I've made friends all over the world. I have my soccer friends and I have my non-soccer friends. My non-soccer friends have been really instrumental because they've allowed me to be myself when I'm not with the team. They've allowed me to express who and what I wanted to be and be the dreamer that I've always been. They've also motivated me and challenged me to be a better person off the field and I think that's something that I value the most. Also, all the games we play kept my competitive nature alive while not in camp!
For a long time I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to play a part in leaving the game better than I found it. I think I and all of my teammates have done that, and for that I am so proud.
I can talk all day about the teammates I've had throughout my career. I could not do justice to how important they have all been, starting from when I was young, going through my high school and college years to getting on the National Team and playing with so many legendary players that I looked up to, women who changed the face of our sport. I was able to benefit from their paving the way in many ways.
The environment I’ve been in with the National Team is special. You can’t really understand it unless you're in it. The competitive nature, the Type A personalities, the craziness that goes on with this team, and all the while there's this game and this ball and we all just want to win.