How Carli Lloyd Became A Soccer Star 'When Nobody Was Watching' Lloyd's journey to success was long and hard-fought. In her new memoir, she describes how she nearly quit playing soccer and reveals painful details about her strained relationship with her parents.
NPR logo

How Carli Lloyd Became A Soccer Star 'When Nobody Was Watching'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/495497578/495882777" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
How Carli Lloyd Became A Soccer Star 'When Nobody Was Watching'

How Carli Lloyd Became A Soccer Star 'When Nobody Was Watching'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/495497578/495882777" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF RJD2 SONG, "GHOSTWRITER")

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Carli Lloyd knows the highs and lows of being one of the world's best soccer players. In last year's World Cup finals, she scored three goals and led the United States to victory.

(SOUNDBITE OF 2015 WOMEN'S WORLD CUP)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #1: Off the post and in - hat trick for Lloyd.

INSKEEP: That was a high. This summer's loss in Rio was a low.

(SOUNDBITE OF 2016 OLYMPICS)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #2: And the United States are out of the Olympic games.

INSKEEP: Those moments happened in public. Behind them are the highs and lows of her private life. Carli Lloyd told David Greene of a journey that began her working-class hometown, Delran, N.J.

CARLI LLOYD: I used to kick the ball up against the curb for hours upon hours. I used to...

DAVID GREENE, BYLINE: It's such a small-town image. I love that.

LLOYD: Yeah, used to gather up many balls, some that I may have found in the woods. And I would go to the field, and I would just shoot and shoot and shoot. And I think at those moments as a youngster - 10, 12 years old - that's when you know that someone is passionate about something. You don't have to force them to go out and train.

GREENE: She is a proud self-described Jersey girl. And she's also defined by a phrase she thinks is so important, it's how she begins her new memoir. She writes, I don't do fake.

LLOYD: I'm loyal. I'm real. I'm not afraid to say what I'm thinking. And I think those opening words just really speak about who I am as a person.

GREENE: Who she is as a person has been at times open to intense media scrutiny. The day after her sensational performance at the 2015 World Cup, The Washington Post featured an article with the headline Beast, Weirdo, Choker, Winner - World Cup Star Carli Lloyd is a Bundle of Contradictions.

LLOYD: For so long, I've been a little misunderstood as a person. You know, I do have this strut about me. I don't know if it's the Jersey girl in me. I like to think of myself as an egg, you know? Hard on the outside but soft on the inside.

GREENE: Is there more pressure on a female athlete to show that hardness and not show the emotions?

LLOYD: I think so. I think - you know, I want to intimidate people when I'm on the field. I want people to be scared of me. That's just kind of the nature of who I am as a person and player. But I also know that you have to be emotional. You have to be in touch with your feelings. I think that's important. But I think being a competitive person by nature as a female is something empowering, and that's kind of how I've been my entire life.

GREENE: You nearly quit soccer for all the love you have for this game pretty early on. You were a junior in college. You were trying to make the U.S. women's team for under 21. What exactly happened?

LLOYD: Well, I think for so many years I relied on my talent. I didn't have someone who really spoke the truth, told me that I wasn't fit, told me that I'm not a good teammate, I don't have good character, all of those things that are necessary at the top. And...

GREENE: And you feel like you weren't fit and you weren't a good teammate before someone telling you that.

LLOYD: No. Yeah, I made a lot of excuses. It was everybody else's fault. I didn't know how to deal with criticism. So getting cut from the under-21 team was the first moment where I had to really deal with some sort of criticism. And I figured I'd just quit. And, you know, that's what happened. I didn't know how to face adversity and be able to get through it.

GREENE: Now, another hardship Carli Lloyd writes about in her book is far more personal and painful. She has fallen almost completely out of touch with her parents, who she credits with much of her success. She describes them as loving and supportive. Her dad always had this place right near the field where he'd watch her games. And he even kept meticulous scrapbooks of all of her accomplishments.

LLOYD: My family meant everything to me. I was super close with them, super engaged. We made, you know, decisions together. And as I started to get older, I wanted to make my own decisions. You know, I was just dying to kind of just grow up and become an adult, and we started to butt heads. And I think it's very hard for parents to let their kids fail, to let them grow up. So how do we make all these decisions of an agent, signing endorsements? You know, it was just really hard for them.

GREENE: When you wrote that they were too devoted, you're saying maybe there were times when they shouldn't have always said, hey, Carli, you're right. They could have said, you know, maybe you're wrong here. Maybe you're being too stubborn, you need to do something differently here.

LLOYD: Exactly. Yeah, I think - I thought of myself as this princess who could do no wrong. And that wasn't the case. You know, I never looked in the mirror and said to myself I need to be better. And, yes, I mean, I think that you always want to side with your kid. But at the same time, you don't want to do that if it's going to derail them to becoming better.

GREENE: You haven't seen them since 2014.

LLOYD: No, I haven't.

GREENE: Do you think they've had a chance to read your book. Are you going to send them your book, or have you sent them the book?

LLOYD: Yeah, I've actually - I emailed my parents just let them know that, obviously, my book is coming out. And I really do hope they read it because I think they will see that, you know, how saddened I am by all of this. And it was hard to come to terms with whether to put this in my book or not, but it's part of my journey. And I think that I'd be lying to readers if this wasn't in there.

GREENE: Do you feel pressure to be a role model for young girls who are playing soccer now who look up to you?

LLOYD: I don't. I think it's who I am in nature...

GREENE: To not feel that pressure.

LLOYD: Yeah. Well, I mean, I'm - I am who I am. I'm not having to go outside and switch the role model hat on. It's me, and it's important for me to leave that legacy to help inspire younger players because I didn't have a role model growing up.

GREENE: You say you had to make soccer the number one thing in your life to get to where you are. I'm just doing the math, you're 34 now?

LLOYD: Yes.

GREENE: So we're looking at, like, 37, 38 for the next World Cup and Olympics. Are you all-in for those as of now?

LLOYD: I am, yes. That is the ultimate plan.

GREENE: When does the point come where soccer doesn't come first?

LLOYD: Probably after that point (laughter).

GREENE: So we're looking at one more - one more round of those two events.

LLOYD: Yeah. I'm still in soccer mode right now and, you know, just looking forward to really enjoying the next three years.

GREENE: Well, Carli Lloyd, it's been a real pleasure. And best of luck with the book.

LLOYD: Thank you so much.

GREENE: Carli Lloyd, her new memoir is called "When Nobody Was Watching."

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.