Soccer star Carli Lloyd on mental health and her 17-year career: 'I didn't always feel happy during the pursuit of greatness but I kept grinding away'

·5 min read
Soccer star Carli Lloyd talks mental health, retirement and her trusted advice. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Soccer star Carli Lloyd talks mental health, retirement and her trusted advice. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

U.S. Women’s Soccer legend Carli Lloyd may have recently retired, but the two-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time FIFA Player of the Year isn’t exactly disappearing. With over a million Instagram followers and plenty of people awaiting her next move, she’s currently hovering between enjoying the moment and working hard at her next act.

Fresh from playing her final game for the U.S. Women’s National Team on Oct. 26, Lloyd recently announced a partnership with Agile Therapeutics, a healthcare company solely dedicated to women’s health. (“They're big on empowering women, she says, “And I’m all for bringing more options for women's health to the market. It’s a natural fit for this next chapter of my life.”)

Yahoo Life caught up with the New Jersey native to talk about the transition from soccer star to retiree, what’s in her podcast rotation and how she plans to stay in the game.

You're on the road to retirement. Being so young, what does retirement mean to you?

It’s kind of funny because I’m retiring around the same time as both my parents are [laughs] but it gives us more time to spend together, which is good.

As an athlete I'm grateful I got to play for 17 years professionally. Not many people can say they’ve done that — nor can they say they’ve gone out on their own terms. It wasn’t an injury, it was simply me wanting to live life: spend more time with my husband and friends, and simply do a lot of things I’ve had to put on hold my whole life.

I think of it as a new beginning; obviously, I'm retiring from the sport I played for 34 years, but that doesn't mean that I won't be involved. I can still impact and grow this game. I’m looking at this as a new beginning and I’m excited about the next chapter.

What’s your day-to-day approach to mental health?

For me, the mental aspect of the game has been so important and throughout my journey, I’ve had to be comfortable with who I am as a person. The leader I've become was because I was able to lead myself first. Whether that’s from talking to people, reading self-help books, I’m always trying to evolve and grow as a person. I had the best of both worlds: For the first part of my career, it was a bit easier because there weren't people judging and chiming in on [social media] offering their opinions. The second part of my career [involved] navigating through a world where people have a lot to say. At the end of the day, words do hurt; the letter I wrote touched on that. I wish we lived in a world where people were nicer, but unfortunately that’s not always the case. I’ve just tried to live an authentic life and block out the negativity.

Do you have any self-care rituals to help you reset?

Running. Running is my therapy; I used to hate it. I was so unfit growing up, but I tackled my weakness head on and became one of the fittest players in the game. That’s largely why I was able to play until the age of 39. Running gets my endorphins going and allows me to get in another world — and just get lost, which I think is really cool. I’ll probably run for the rest of my life. It helps me disconnect from everything. Another thing is reading books, whether it’s self-help books or stories of other people who’ve faced challenges. It puts things in perspective for me and it’s refreshing to know so many people are fighting a battle... even the greatest athletes.

What kind of books do you read? Memoirs?

I do; I read a lot of biographies and self-help books. Some of the podcasts and books help me stay in a positive mindframe.

Where do you turn for wellness inspiration?

I listen to some of Jay Shetty’s podcasts, and also podcasts by Aubrey Marcus and Peter Crone. It’s interesting to hear from different people.

What things stress you out?

My career was stressful. When I look back now — and I haven't fully processed my career — I reflect on the really hard times and also the amazing ending. The 17-year journey I had to go through all these challenges. I was stressed, upset, depressed at times, I felt not worthy at times, I felt like a failure at times. [But] to get to this end point, it was all worth it. It brought me to an unbelievable ending where I can leave the sport knowing I have no regrets, giving it all I had. I didn't always feel happy during the pursuit of greatness but I kept grinding away. I almost feel like a weight’s been lifted off my shoulders... I’m sure the next chapter will present new challenges — but I’ll be ready.

What brings you joy?

My circle of people, just being with them and spending time with them. I live a pretty simplistic life. It’s the people and time we have with one another that I really cherish.

What’s some advice that you carry with you?

Trust the process, trust the journey. Be in the present moment. I'm a big believer that people come into your life for a reason and challenges come at you at certain moments to teach you lessons. If you try not to focus so much on the future and just focus on being in the present moment, we’d all live a less stressful life. The beauty of life is the unknown.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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