Interview: Carli Lloyd

9 Aug

I’ve been slacking pretty terribly when it comes to posting Olympic blogs. Mainly because I’ve been watching the Olympics.

I’m a huge fan of any competitive sport and all things American, so obviously I go nuts for the Olympics. I’m also a magazine editor (assistant editor, but who’s counting), so I get to work on fun stories all the time.

Last spring, I started a big, long feature on South Jersey’s Olympic athletes. It was without a doubt the most amazing thing I’ve ever had the opportunity to write. One of my highlights was getting to interview US Women’s soccer star midfielder Carli Lloyd, a South Jersey girl that has become a legend on the team for her perfect goals at the last minute. As a huge soccer fan, it was great to get to speak with such a strong woman in one of my favorite sports. Plus, she’s from my turf!

Her interview ran with my other interviews in condensed form, which can be seen here (yes, I’m shamelessly promoting my work and I’m fine with it) but I’ve decided to share my full-length interview on Erica Takes Over. Mainly because it’s too good not to be seen! Carli and team kick off at 2:45 in the gold medal match against their number one rivals, Japan, so make sure you catch it for me since I have to work.

Check out my full interview with Carli Lloyd after the jump!

You played a humongous part in the 2008 team in China. What were some of your favorite memories from your first trip to the Olympics?
Standing on the podium, receiving a gold medal and listening to our national anthem was and will remain one of my fondest memories. And, of course, scoring the winning goal. It was a dream come true for my first Olympics.

How do you describe the feeling of scoring the winning goal in overtime against Brazil?
It was an amazing feeling, something I can’t describe. I had trained so hard prior to the Olympics and went in just wanting to contribute and help my team win gold. Having scored the game winning goal is something that will always remain a highlight of my personal career but I could not have done it without my teammates and coaches.

How is this year different, for you personally, from 2008?
When I look back at how I was in 2008 I laugh. I wasn’t nearly as fit as I am now. I didn’t have a strict diet and I wasn’t nearly as smart and efficient of a player as I am today. I am internally motivated to keep improving every single day and I’m definitely a better player going into this London Olympics compared to the Beijing Olympics. I am so confident going into this Olympics. My role has also changed on the team and I have the freedom to roam and get into goal scoring positions. When you factor in that I have definitely improved and my role has changed, I am expecting myself to be a big part of the team’s success.

Do you have anything that you want to do differently this time around?
I want to continue to focus on the things that I need to do to help the team win. With every game I play I self analyze and improve. I have transformed my game with the help of my coaches and I am expected to help the midfield dominate by dictating the tempo, threading through balls, keeping possession and scoring goals. I want to continue to work hard to achieve my personal and team goals.

How long have you been playing soccer?
I have been playing soccer since I was 5 and I turn 30 in July.

At what point did you realize that you wanted to start taking your game to a professional level?
When I started training at Universal Soccer Academy under the Director, James Galanis.  He made it very clear that soccer needed to be my priority if I was to reach and play at the top. He taught me how to think, act, and train like a professional. Before I started working with him I wasn’t confident, I wasn’t fit, and I wasn’t mentally tough enough. After I started training with him I saw immediate results and I said to myself “I believe I can do it!”   He saw things in me that I didn’t know existed. He brought the best out of me and has been the driving force behind my success. He is the reason I believe in myself and the reason I train day in and day out as if I haven’t accomplished anything. When my career is over I will stop and realize all that I have done. Until then I need to continue to put in the work to become even better.

What has kept you going through hardships in your career, when it seemed like the logical or easy choice to give up?
Unfortunately or fortunately obstacles make you better. We never like to run into those tough times but those tough times shape us. When you get to the top the hardest thing is to be able to stay there. There will be a bad game and immediately your confidence shifts. My outlet has been my “go to person” which is James. He has continued to help me “stay the course” and has told me over and over again that I just need to continue to work hard and learn from mistakes as good times follow bad times.

Injuries are always eminent in such a physically demanding sport. How do you stay safe while training?
Being fit, strong, and taking care of your body are the most important things. I am always hydrating, stretching, doing ice baths after sessions, and performing soccer specific fitness/strength exercises to keep me healthy. It’s impossible to avoid some sort of injury but at a minimum, I make sure I do all the above.

Describe your training regiment as the Olympics draw near.
My training never stops. It’s often extremely hard for me to take breaks. I started this Olympic phase in November of 2011 and I’ve continued to build my aerobic base with long runs a couple times a week. I also do 1200s, 800s, 400s, hill workouts, sprinting circuits and my usual strength exercises on a daily basis.
As I get close to the games I focus more on shorter sprinting and hill workouts.

How do you react to the pressure of something as big as the Olympics?
I remind myself that it’s the same game I’ve been playing for 25 years. It’s just a little more on the line and a lot of people in the stadium! I always go into games mentally and physically prepared and once the whistle blows I focus on outworking my opponent and helping my team. Of course I get nervous but once I get my first touch on the ball my nerves calm down and I just play.

Is there added stress knowing that your family, trainers and South Jersey will be watching you extra closely?
No matter what event or game I am playing in I know that my supporters are rooting for me. They know how hard I work and I always want to make them proud, and that’s what helps me play even harder. I play for my team, my coaches and for all the South Jersey youth players. I know I am a role model to them and I always play with them in mind. It’s exciting.

You’re also coming off of a very successful run in the 2011 Women’s World Cup. Do these high-pressure games make it easier to compete at such high levels or do you still get pre-game jitters?
Obviously you can’t replicate the magnitude of a World Cup or an Olympics, so being more experienced and playing in these events always helps you handle the pressure better. I think I will always get nervous for games. It’s only natural. The only thing that is important is how you channel the nerves.  I mentally prepare before all games so I know I will be ready. If I focus on working hard each and every game the rest will fall into place.

You have become a well-known name in sports (especially in this area), and your entire team has also earned national celebrity over the last few years. Did you ever see your South Jersey soccer roots taking you this far?
I always dreamed of playing for the national team but as I grew older I relied on my talent to get me to the top and I quickly realized that was not enough. When you play with the best of the best you need something more besides talent. James helped me believe in myself. I saw results from all the hard work I started to put in. It took a while for me to believe but through hard work anything is attainable no matter how small of a town you come from.

What would you tell any South Jersey girls that are beginning their own runs at competitive soccer, or sports in general?
Like anything you need to practice. You need to practice outside of your team practices. You need to do more. That is the only way to become successful and get to the top. I always had the passion but not the work ethic needed to play at the highest level. I played on a great team that won a lot and had talent thus allowing me to cruise through youth soccer. Over time I found out that you can’t cruise and you have to give 100 percent 100 percent of the time. That’s a true champion.

Do you have any special fans that will be joining you in London this summer?
My Aunt and Uncle will be coming over as well as a long time family friend and her husband and my boyfriend. They are all aware that its 100% focus for me. They can enjoy a vacation while I focus to win a gold medal.

Your team mate, Jillian Loyden, is also a South Jersey native. Do you two share a special bond coming from the same area?
Jill is an amazing person and GK. We do share a special bond. We get each other’s humor and personality. She has been very good to me and always encouraging me. She is a great teammate.

What are your plans after the Olympics have concluded, both professionally and with the US Women’s team?
A much needed break–a vacation! I have been training hard for the past 3 years and it’s very vital for me to take a break and get away from the game of soccer. It’s always hard but I will need it. And then it will be rebuilding time again.

What are your hobbies outside of the gym? Is there another side to you that people might not expect?
I really enjoy spending time with the people who mean so much to me. I love shopping and doing things to my house. I have been playing some golf and getting lessons from my boyfriend and I always enjoy catching all my shows on TV.

What do you listen to on your iPod to get ready before a big competition?
I usually have random songs on my ipod. I don’t necessarily listen to upbeat songs to get me ready. I like more emotional songs that really make me happy with the meaningful inspiring words.  It’s usually my favorite songs at the current moment.

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