Carli you are considered the number one student of Universal Soccer Academy? How does that make you feel?
I feel honored and blessed because I have such an amazing academy to train at. I want to be a role model for all the other students there and Universal Soccer Academy will always be home to me forever.
You started training at Universal Soccer Academy in 2002. Did you ever imagine you would go on to become a full time Professional Soccer Player?
To be honest, I didn’t fully believe in myself until a year before the Olympics. When I first started training in 2002, I realized that I had a lot of work to do. I wasn’t thinking the right way, I wasn’t physically fit and I didn’t know what it took to be a professional athlete day in and day out. Universal Soccer Academy knew I had the potential and believed in me, but then after training there year after year and seeing results it was easier for me to finally believe in myself.
You have a specific program designed for you. Please explain a little about your program. Are there phases you are going through? Is it hard? How often do you train?
My program consists of 3 phases. The 1st phase was geared toward building a solid fitness base. I visited the track often where I had to do 800s and 400s. I went on a lot of long runs, started doing push ups and sit ups. I worked with the ball a lot during this phase. Universal fine tuned all my skills and technique. I was also taught the importance of hydration, stretching and mental focus. I took it one step at a time, one training at a time. Universal Soccer Academy had an excellent plan right off the bat to indirectly get into my head and help me become mentally stronger without me knowing it. I put in a lot of hours in this phase, as I usually trained or did something everyday.
Phase 2 has been real hard. I have realized that it is so important for me to be even fitter therefore I have had to take my fitness to another level. After the WPS season, I came back to Universal and trained twice a day for 7 weeks to prepare for the WNT camp. I didn’t see a ball at all during this time. It was not easy and I finally have gotten used to it. My body is much fitter now. I have continued to train twice a day on my breaks when I have returned from the WNT. This phase continues and it’s real hard physically but I enjoy it. I enjoy being able to run box to box.
Phase 3, well I haven’t gotten to this phase yet and I am not sure what this is going to entail. This will be toward the end of my career.
Looking back explain what was lacking out of your game prior to Universal?
-Universal is based on the 5 pillars. (Technical, Tactical, Physical, Psychological and Character) I was weaker in the physical and psychological areas of the game. I was never taught the importance of being physically fit. As a central midfielder I need a good aerobic base and if you don’t have that, it will be hard to accomplish anything. It took me a good 4 years to build that base and I still maintain it. I also needed work on my mental game. I wasn’t mentally tough enough. I was never taught to only worry about the things I can control. I used to worry about everything including the things I can’t control. I only focus on myself now and how I can get keep getting better.
When you joined Universal you were not even in contention for the Women’s National Team. Did you believe that you would go on to become a key member of the USA midfield? When did you know that your dream of playing for the WNT was real?
If I didn’t join Universal, I wouldn’t be sitting here doing this interview. I am so lucky that Universal saw my potential and was able to take me to the next level. I thought about quitting. I would be in tears because I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t do well when I was with the under 21 national team. I hit a plateau and Universal got me past it. I didn’t believe I would become a key member of the USA team right away. It took me a while to believe it, but with instant results camp after camp I slowly started to believe it more and more. Universal helped me find my dream again and believe in myself.
You scored the game winner to clinch the Olympic Gold in 2008 and 2012. You impacted all Universal Students by showing them that you can find your dreams. How does that make you feel being such a role model to these aspiring players?
It didn’t make me feel any different, but to Universal and the students I was viewed differently. I was viewed as a champion and the more I thought about it the more I realized I impacted a lot more people than I thought. My dream started when I was a kid. I had ups and downs, almost quit; started training with Universal and suddenly my dream camp became a reality. It took a lot of hours, dedication, and sacrifices to make it happen. I wish I grew up with a live role model in my area. Everybody needs a role model and that is why it is important that I can be a role model to Universal students and other aspiring players.
You are respected by all Universal coaches, students and parents for simply joining in at any Universal session even with 12 year olds. What is the students’ reaction when you are participating in the same drills as they are?
It’s funny when I train at Universal with the other students because it’s as if I am just a normal student. I jump in, I am quiet, I train and the kids train. It’s really cool to see how focused the students are at training.
You’ve spent the most time training at Universal than any other student. Is the training still stimulating you? Are you still improving?
Every time I train at Universal it is something different. I am stimulated every time I train. As I keep improving, the drills keep getting harder. I still have many years to train with Universal and there is no doubt that the training sessions will continue to stimulate me and help me become the best player in the world.
What advice can you give to any youngster looking to play center mid for the USA WNT?
-One of the most important things that I have learned from Universal and being with the WNT is that as a central midfielder you need to be able to play offense and defense. In order to that you need to be physically fit. You need to be able to run box to box during a game. There are so many talented players out there, but it’s the ones that have the extra edge, the ones who sacrifice everything, and the ones who dedicate their whole lives to soccer that will make it. It isn’t easy and I certainly didn’t have a smooth run, but I stayed the course and continued to focus on my goal. Never Give up and give it your all 100%, day in and day out.