This story appears in FCA Magazine’s July/August 2016 issue. Subscribe today!
Born: Feb. 26, 1993
Hometown: St. Simons Island, Georgia
• Gatorade High School National Player of the Year (2011)
• Two-time Hermann Trophy winner (2013, 2014)
• No. 1 overall selection in the 2015 NWSL College Draft by the Houston Dash
• FIFA Women’s World Cup champion (2015)
“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.” - Isaiah 41:10
Name a sport, and I played it as a kid. It was just our way of life during childhood in St. Simons Island, Georgia. My parents made sure my older sister and I stayed busy playing any and every sport possible.
I started playing soccer when I was four. I loved the game because it was challenging, but basketball was my “favorite” sport for awhile. I was better at soccer than all the other sports, so I stuck with it and slowly gave up the others as time went on.
Sports weren’t our only family activity. We went to church every Sunday and were part of the community there. Looking back now, in my mind it was more “family routine” than anything else, but it helped establish biblical principles and moral values in my life, and I met some great friends there.
I was baptized when I was younger, but when I was 16 I started to feel like the Lord was really doing something in my heart. I wanted to change my life, so I got baptized again. I began a relationship with Jesus then, but it took some more time to understand what that meant and how to live it out.
During those same years, I was progressing through the club soccer ranks and U.S. Youth Soccer’s Olympic Development Program, making the U-17 National Team while I was in high school. I committed to the University of Georgia just before the end of my prep career, but soon after the coach resigned. I really felt like Georgia wasn’t the place the Lord wanted me to go. After praying about it and seeking God’s direction, I chose to attend the University of Virginia.
Reflecting on that decision and my time as a Cavalier, I can see how I grew as a soccer player under the coaching staff. I wouldn’t be where I am in my career today without that experience. The individual and team accomplishments were great, but it was even better to learn more about myself as a person. I went through some challenges, but I grew in my faith thanks in large part to new friends who came alongside and invested in me to be a better person and follower of Christ.
During my final two years at Virginia, I was also invited to the U.S. Women’s National Team camp. The invitation gave me an opportunity to play with some of the greatest players in the game; it was a tremendous honor. But it was also difficult at times to balance all the unique relationships with teammates of differing ages.
As the youngest and newest player on the national team, it took some time for me to find my niche and make close friends. One of the players I sought out was Lauren (Cheney) Holiday. From things I’d heard and read, I knew she was a Christian, so I was a little more drawn to her. When I really got to know her, it was apparent how her walk with the Lord affected her joy and confidence. I learned so much from her and truly desired to model my life and faith after hers. She retired in 2015 and left a tremendous legacy in my life and the lives of many other girls on our team. Now it’s my desire to bring new players under my wing and leave a similar lasting legacy in their lives.
My time spent on the national team—including being able to contribute on the 2015 World Cup winning team—has been monumental in terms of putting my trust in God to sustain me through the highs and lows of the game. When I first joined the national team, I’d let bad practices affect my entire day. It was challenging to get through that. Instead of feeling like my worth was in my soccer ability and performance on the field, I had to realize my worth is found in the Lord. I remain steady and grounded in that truth rather than the ups and downs on the soccer field.
I feel like I’ve been given this platform as a professional athlete for a reason. It’s not just about fulfilling my childhood dreams. It’s bigger than that. I can see the purpose—to make a difference in people’s lives and point them to the One who saved me: Christ, my Lord.
Photos: Kim Klement-USA Today Sports