Thursday, June 27, 2019

Carli Lloyd: What You See and What You Get

In September 2016, I read the excerpt from "When Nobody Was Watching: My Hard Fought Journey to the Top of the Soccer World" a memoir by Carli Lloyd. I'm surprised I read it; soccer is not a sport I follow. Though I am a fan of female athletics, and soccer is a premiere sport for women in sport, I confess, my interest is anemic. But every once in a while I take my own advice: a good way to enjoy a sport is to learn more about its history, strategy and of course the greats in the game. Mission accomplished as what I learned about the 36 year old midfielder prompted me to write three reflections (for now) on the Women's World Cup and tune in to the tourney. Thank you, Carli! 
Amazon writes, "In 2015, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team won its first FIFA championship in sixteen years, culminating in an epic final game that electrified soccer fans around the world. It featured a gutsy, brilliant performance by team captain and midfielder Carli Lloyd, who made history that day, scoring a hat trick during the first sixteen minutes." In short, awesome.

The title of her memoir speaks to the virtue of integrity—a word that has evolved from the Latin adjective integer, meaning whole or complete. The New York Times best-selling book suggests that who we are on the pitch is no different than the person off of it. I have no doubt that Carli Lloyd would reject bracketed morality. So do I. 

Learning more about the fierce competitor, demanding teammate, and reliable leader  in this tell-all wasn't always easy. There is much to celebrate and just as much to hold in concern. All the more reason for young athletes, coaches and parents to read, reflect and discuss. The purpose of this posting to share a few themes and quotes from her book for you to debate and share—before or after the games. There's too much action during the game to give it a fair shot. Enjoy. 

Her brand
"You hear a lot these days about brand building and image-crafting. I have a brand. You know what it is? Soccer player. It's the only brand I have any interest in. Of course I want to be recognized for being a world-class player, but when I wake up every day it's not my goal to figure out how to become a bigger celebrity or have more Twitter followers. If that happens because of what I am doing on the field, great. Otherwise, I have zero interest."
  • Do you know other athletes like Carli?
  • Do you admire her singular focus?
  • What do fans miss out on when an athlete focuses his or her brand on their sport. What do they gain?

Being a role model.

"I want to be a role model, not a runway model. I want to be known for the body of work of my career. If that makes me old-fashioned or out of step with the times we live in, so be it."
  • Carli said this because she was approached by ESPN The Magazine to pose in the body issue. Dancing with the Stars reached out to her as well as Maxim magazine. Respond
The underdog mentality
"When I scored both goals in the final to carry the U.S. to another Olympic gold, it wasn't just the sweetest possible vindication for me: it was fresh proof that I am one of those athletes who thrives on slights, whether real or imagined. I am at my best when I am playing with an edge, with some Jersey girl attitude, getting after it like a kid who has had her lunch money stolen and is hell-bent on getting it back."
  • Does Carli's mentality resonate with you? Your teammates?
  • What are the strengths of this mindset? Liabilities?

Three words

I room with Hope (Solo) for the first two games in Winnepeg, and when we check in there are action posters of ourselves on our beds, placed there by Dawn Scott, our fitness trainer, and the other team staffers and personalized with three words. Mine are: Committed, Relentless. Confident.

  • What three words might your coach/trainer/teammate say about you?
  • What would you like them to write?

The Thrill of sport

One of the greatest thrills of my whole childhood is when my parents buy me my first pair of Copa soccer shoes. I am nine years old, and when I put them on for the first time I don't feel like a kid imposter anymore. I feel legit. They are black leather, and they are my pride and joy. I clean them after  every game and practice, meticulously applying leather condition. I want them to stay new-looking. I want them to last forever.
  • What are your early memories of sport? 
  • What was a great thrill of your childhood, related to sports?
  • Do you still have that childlike joy and excitement when it comes to your sport?

Development as an athlete/in your sport
Lloyd grows up in the town of Delran, NJ. She writes "there are always boys and men from the neighborhood playing at the field. Many of them are Turkish. I hop in and play with them all the time. I love playing free soccer. I learn to solve problems on the field, figure things out, get comfortable with the ball on my foot against good competition. I don't know it at the time, but this is the best thing I ever could've done for my development as a soccer player.
  • What is the best thing you have done to improve in your sport?
  • If you are a coach, do you allow for time to freely play your sport?

A case for free play
Corollary to Lloyd's development as a soccer player, she writes "Soccer has come a long way in the United States, but I believe our young players are over-coached, from too young an age. There is too much organization and not enough intuition and creativity. The more we encourage kids to just go out and play pickup games, the more they will love it and the faster they will improve."
  • What is the role of coach, parent(s) and athletes in allowing for and promoting free play?
  • Is play part of your own athletic experience.
It is no surprise that Lloyd is very honest in her memoir. Her "what you see is what you get" approach is refreshing and her story is compelling. I think it is important for the reader to remember we hear one side of the story...and that's ok, it's her story—one I found to be complex, unique and utterly fascinating for a non-soccer fan!

Photo Credits
When Nobody Was Watching
2019 World Cup

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