Julie Ertz can’t remember a time when she wasn’t completely enthralled by soccer. For the 27-year-old midfielder, it’s not just a game, it’s a way of life.
“Growing up, I just fell in love with the sport right away,” Ertz said. “I felt the most me when I was out there playing on the field.”
In 2017, she was named U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year, and going into this summer, Ertz is expected to be a key component of the 2019 national team. She’s known for her ferocious tackling skills and uncanny ability to find the back of the net on set pieces.
But Ertz wasn’t always an international superstar. In fact, only a couple of years ago she was playing a completely different position.
Nearly a year after she burst onto the scene as a 23-year-old center back for the 2015 national team, Ertz was benched, forcing her to make a decision — she could either sulk about her demotion or put in the hard work to mentally and physically overcome the obstacles in her way.
“As an athlete, you see adversity all the time and those are the challenges that either make you or break you,” Ertz said. “For me, that was through injuries, not playing, and being benched. What I learned from that experience was that adversity can be your best friend if you allow it to test your character and who you really want to be.”
Ertz didn’t just battle back to regain her spot on the team, she completely reinvented her game and became one of the best defensive midfielders in the sport today. That willingness to change her position and the grind she went through to achieve greatness is a testament to her reputation as a teammate and fan favorite.
“I always wanted to be a versatile player because I loved the sport so much and thought each position could teach me something different,” Ertz said. “I want to be the best teammate I can be and so, for me, versatility means being reliable for my teammates. Whatever they ask of me, I want to do.”
Ertz also knows that being a successful female athlete comes with extra challenges and obstacles. She credits the generation of female soccer stars who came before her and recognizes that they helped lay the foundation for players like her to become national icons.
“As I got older, it was huge to watch the women who paved the way for me,” Ertz said. “Seeing those women push boundaries allowed me to dream and that’s the biggest thing I want to thank them for.”
Now that Ertz and her teammates are the face of a new era of women’s soccer, she’s embracing the opportunity to continue the legacy of being a role model for the next generation.
“I just want to let every young, aspiring athlete or person know that whatever your dream is, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t or shouldn’t go for it,” Ertz said. “Any boundary can be a new boundary, and it’s important to know that we’re behind you and that you’re not alone.”