Every soccer player has his or her doubters. Whether it’s a coach, family member, or rival, someone has told them that their dreams are too big or impossible. But those words don’t make the elite give up – they only make them work harder. Those haters are fuel to the fire. Don’t believe us? Here’s how some of the best soccer players in the world have Conquered Their Can’t. Shout out to our friends at STACK.com for the great videos.
Lucas Mendes, Gatorade National Boys’ Soccer Player of the Year
“I have a tweet from my freshmen year. Someone said, ‘Lucas is too small, and he’ll never make it as a professional athlete.’ I still have that up on my laptop. Every day I see it and I think, ‘I have to prove everybody wrong.’”
Ella Stevens, Gatorade National Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year
“I’ve been cut from teams, and that was hard to get through. But it was a learning experience, and I’ve learned how to fail, and I think that’s necessary at the next level.”
“I played for a junior league in Argentina, and I was there for about a month. They told me I could not play because there were other players better than me. So I took a bus from Buenos Aires to Córdoba to play for a club that had space for me, and I could play there. I got better there playing professionally, and I was transferred to the Portland Timbers and won a championship.”
“No one in my career has specifically said, ‘You can’t do this,’ but I do think throughout my career I have faced some challenges. I’m very short, and I always felt like I would get overlooked because I didn’t have the height and the stature that other girls had. At a very young age I was like, ‘Wow, am I even going to continue playing this sport because other girls are just going to get bigger and taller than me?’ So I think that was something I had to deal with when I was younger.”
So now that you’ve heard from some elite footballers, tell us in the comments about your own #SayICant story and how you have overcome or are planning on overcoming it. And as you prepare to Conquer Your Can’t, check out our Soccer Gear Guide to discover this season’s hottest soccer gear.
Soccer star Crystal Dunn is filled to the brim with talent and personality. We caught up with her to ask about her soccer career and how she’s training and preparing for the world’s largest stage.
What’s your pre-game ritual like?
“I love to dance around the locker room and get my teammates riled up for the game. When the locker room is jamming, my team tends to play better. My playlist is always changing. I love always keeping it fresh by not doing the same thing every time.”
You had a terrific 2015 season with the Washington. What did you do leading up to the season to make it successful?
“I got cut from the Women’s National Team and it fueled me. Throughout all of that disappointment, I didn’t wake up and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to score 15 goals this year,’ or ‘I want to be an MVP’. It was more like ‘Wow, I just want to get better.’ I want to be the player people feel deserves to make the roster next time around.”
What would be your #OneGoal heading into August?
“My #OneGoal would be to make the roster first and then just play with ease. I think I play at my best when I’m carefree, can express myself, and when I’m not overthinking anything. I’ve been playing this game for a long time and sometimes I feel like I forget how to play soccer. I’m thinking about too much and I just need to play.”
Does your preparation and training with the Washington differ in any way from what you do for the Women’s National Team?
“No, I like to bring my A game every single time I step on the field. I like to take my experiences with the National Team and bring them back to Washington. I love to raise the level here, and it’s part of my job to take my experiences and help players around me. I go out and train every single day the way I would prepare with any team.”
With the USWNT, you have played outside back, outside midfielder, and striker. How have you been able to adjust to so many positions?
“It’s not easy. All my life I’ve never really had a set position. My natural calling is to be an attacking player, but at first, when I was young, I was told to play a different position and I was upset, but I think being diverse is such a tradeoff. No one knows what you’re going to do. People see you playing center mid one day then playing forward and they’re writing you off, but then you ball out and shock them. It’s been incredible seeing all of the angles of the field and to be able to gain an alternate perspective.”
As a forward, you need to have incredible speed and strength. What do you do during your workouts to make sure you stay in tip-top shape?
“I’m pretty short, so even though I feel very strong, I do get shoved off the ball sometimes. So in the weight room I try to focus on lunges and my lower body areas. The most important part of my game is being strong on the ball along with being able to fight defenders off and get to the ball quickly before them. All that translates to my lower body and just developing that area so I feel strong.”
From handling pressure to reading your opponent, what do you do to stay sharp and locked in to every minute?
“I stay in the moment. You’re not going to have a great 90 minutes every game. I think what killed my career a couple of years ago was getting so down on myself for making a mistake. Looking back now, I wasted so much time complaining about why I made a bad pass or things like that. I could have saved those moments. I think now it’s about being mentally strong and honing in on those mistakes, then bouncing back from them.”
What advice would you give any young athletes who want to be in your position?
“KEEP ON DANCING! Haha, just kidding! I would tell them to remain positive at all times. It’s a long career. If you want to play this game for a long time, you’re going to have some mess-ups and days where you question whether you should continue playing this sport or not. You have to love doing what you do.”