The U.S. Women's Soccer star shares why she thought her dream of playing for the National team might never come true and what she's looking forward to in Rio.
Posted in , Jul 18, 2016
When the US Women’s Soccer Team won the Women’s World Cup last year, Christen Press was one of the players hoisting a trophy in front of millions of people watching around the world.
For the 27 year-old athlete from Los Angeles, California, it wasn’t only a dream come true, it was a dream she thought was impossible just a few years earlier.
In the beginning of 2012, Press was playing professional soccer for the magicJacks in Florida, part of the Women’s Professional Soccer League in the US.
One day she woke up to an email informing her she was suddenly unemployed—the entire league had folded. In order to continue to play the sport she loved, she had to move halfway across the world.
She found herself in a foreign country, playing for a top division Swedish league. Press thought her hopes of ever representing the red, white and blue on the pitch were over. What scout stateside would ever see her in play all the way in Sweden?
“I thought I was giving up on my dream to ever play for the National team,” Press tells Guideposts.org
What she didn’t know was that the move would change who she was as a person and a player, for the better.
Press was an athletic child. She recalls playing everything from soccer and tennis to softball and running track, always with her two sisters in tow. After breaking records and establishing a legacy at the high school level, Press went on to play at Stanford where she became the university’s all-time leading scorer.
She was the fourth overall pick in the 2011 Women’s Professional League Draft and, during her time playing professionally in Florida, she earned the honor of the US Soccer Federation's Rookie of the Year award for the first-ever hat trick scored by a rookie. Despite all the success, Press was never satisfied with how she performed on the field.
A self-described perfectionist, she recalls the overwhelming stress and pressure she felt playing in college. She would end games in tears because she felt she had somehow let her teammates down.
In Sweden, no one knew her name. There were no friends or family members in the stands, no scouts she needed to impress. She was free to be whatever she wanted to be, on the field and off.
“I found so much joy and passion for the game there,” Press explains. “I stopped focusing on outcomes and learned to enjoy the journey.”
She also learned the value of finding balance in life and dedicated more time to things other than just her sport – hiking, meditating, journaling and yoga all make that list.
When she was called up to the National team for the 2015 Women’s World Cup, those fears and pressures that plagued her were gone. She had found confidence in herself and a comradery in her fellow teammates.
“I think there is a great strength in self-love and supporting and loving others,” Press says. “I think for our team it comes naturally because we have to have each other's back on the field and we spend so much time together.”
The US Women’s Soccer team’s World Cup win gave them a new platform, one they’re using to not only encourage other young girls to pick up the sport, but to call for equal rights and equal pay in the world of sports.
Press hopes the team can continue to build their legacy by taking home a gold medal in Rio, and she hopes she can use her voice to continue to push for change and make a difference in the sport she loves.
“I just hope to see a steady growth in support of women's soccer. That includes everything from fans in the stands to paychecks to resources afforded us,” Press says. “The sport has so much to offer everyone. Every lesson I leaned in soccer applies to my daily life. Soccer has empowered me, showed me the world, and given me a platform to talk about social change.”