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Armour: Nothing Easy in US Captain Carli Lloyd’s Road to Top of Her Game

Carli Lloyd celebrates at the 2012 Summer Olympics after scoring a goal. Photo By Christopher Johnson - Flickr: Women's soccer gains millions of new fans at London Olympics, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20673939

It would have been so easy to hide.

Carli Lloyd’s career would have given her all the material she needed for her autobiography. She’d nearly quit soccer after being cut from the Under-21 team, only to transform herself through a relentless training regimen and single-minded focus. Now she was one of the greatest in the game, only the third U.S. woman to win FIFA World Player of the Year honors and one of only two players, male or female, to score a hat trick in a World Cup final.

The rest, particularly the relationship with her family that for the past eight years has been tense at best and non-existent for the most part, the world didn’t need to know about that. And no one would have been the wiser had she left it out.

“When I first started meeting with publishers, my family situation actually wasn’t on the table. Nobody knew about it then,” Lloyd told USA TODAY Sports in an interview Monday, the day When Nobody Was Watching: My Hard-Fought Journey to the Top of the Soccer World was released.

But as Lloyd says in the very first line of her book, “I don’t do fake.”

So everything is laid bare, from the resentment and disappointment as the tiny fractures in her family grew into gaping cracks to an unflinching assessment of the person and player she was 15 years ago.

It is an unexpected level of honesty from a player who has always been as privately guarded as she is publicly forthright. So much so that even close friend and former teammate Hope Solo was taken by surprise.

“She couldn’t believe how much I opened up,” Lloyd said.

“This book is all about sharing everything and being honest,” she added. “It’s part of my journey and part of who I am.”

We are reminded time and again that our role models, the people we think we know because they play for our favorite team or portray our favorite characters, are not at all who we thought. Most times, that revelation comes as a bitter disappointment.

Sometimes, however, that glimpse of humanity makes them even more appealing. Otherworldly skills and talents aside, they face the same challenges and heartbreaks and doubts as we do.

That’s the message that comes through in Lloyd’s book, written with veteran sports writer Wayne Coffey.

“It just goes to show people that it’s real life. It’s honest,” Lloyd said. “ … I’m humble enough to say I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t a good enough person, I wasn’t a supportive teammate, I wasn’t coachable. But I also didn’t have anybody teaching me all the right things.

“Had I known that 15, 20 years ago, I would have done things way differently. But I think you can always do that, wish you could go back in time.”

There is the tension with her family, of course. After so many years of guiding and supporting her in soccer, Lloyd’s parents were unable to let go when it came time for her to make decisions by and for herself.

Carli Lloyd of the United States Women's National Soccer team warming up prior to a friendly match against Canada on September 17, 2011. Photo By Ampatent - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17080835
Carli Lloyd of the United States Women’s National Soccer team warming up prior to a friendly match against Canada on September 17, 2011. Photo By Ampatent – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17080835

But there is also her development as a player. Devastated when she was cut from the U-21 team, it was not until she started working with trainer James Galanis that she acknowledged her own shortcomings in her consistency, her work ethic and, yes, her character.

Lloyd owns all of this, and then some. Even as a World Cup champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, she is still plagued by self-doubt, forever the underdog trying to make good.

Baring her soul doesn’t come without risk. Though Lloyd is quick to say she played a part in the breakdown with her parents and hopes they can eventually repair it, publicizing their estrangement could cause further damage.

Asked if her parents will be at her wedding in November, Lloyd quietly says no.

“There’s always that piece of me that wishes things were different and wishes things were how they used to be,” she said. “No one is really to blame. It’s kind of one of those things where I was young and immature and probably did a lot of wrong things, and they were doing the best they could in trying to control the situation.

“Family dynamics can be tricky,” she added. “But I’ll be sad. Walking down the aisle I’m sure will definitely be emotional. Hopefully things can work out. I’m definitely wishing that will happen.”

That said, she has no regrets about opening up. She has become a lot of things through her hard work and determination.

Fake will never be one of them.

By Nancy Armour

This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

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