Either way, Carli Lloyd and her autobiography is what I want to talk about. I’ve just finished her When Nobody was Watching: My Hard-Fought Journey to the Top of the Soccer World. In it she tells her life story by recounting her soccer playing history from the time she was a young girl to right after the US’s World Cup victory in Canada in July 2015. This book, written with the help of sportswriter Wayne Coffey, is not the most beautifully written book I’ve ever read, or even read in the last week (I’m also reading Steinbeck so in defense of almost every other author, this probably isn’t a fair comparison to make). But what the book lacks in poetry and nuance, it more than makes up for because it, and Carli Lloyd’s story, is inspirational as hell. Her drive and determination and growth under her equally inspirational trainer, James Galanis, are incredible. As a former youth soccer coach, I found myself wanting to take notes. Not on the training drills and sets that Carli went through in the snow in the dead of winter, though those would make any team tougher for sure, but on the mental game that she and Galanis developed. On his pep-talks and encouraging emails and tough love “get it together Carlis”. There are so many quotable moments, most of which center around how important being a team player is and how much of the game is a mental activity as well as a physical one. When I coach again in the future, I kind of want to create a suggested reading list for the kids now with this at the top of it.
She touches on her complicated relationship with her family but spends more time on the complicated dynamics of the USWNT. She discusses private talks with coach after coach, many of whom get outsed by unhappy players and the clique-ish nature of the team. But she doesn’t slip into the gossip and mud-slinging herself, both in the book and on the team. She mentions major incidents that are relevant to the team’s journey or her own, but insists on staying above the fray. I respect her for that. It also makes the book completely accessible to younger readers. Which is a boon, considering that the vast majority of readers at the signing I attended were 10 year old girls, gushing about how she’s their favorite player. Which was inspiring to see in and of itself.
It’s important to note that the book went to print before this past summer’s devastating Olympics for the team. So while that’s the most recent setback for the team and for Carli mentally, if this book is an indication, there is no mention of it. Barely mentioned as well is the suit by Carli and a few of the other players of US Soccer for equal pay. I was disappointed that there wasn’t more than a line in the epilogue about her involvement in the suit, as I think it’s such an important moment for the team and women in sports, but it’s likely that the book had gone to press before the suit was resolved.
I’ll leave you with my general take: functional not flowery writing, inspirational story. If you’re a fan of soccer and especially the USWNT definitely worth the read.
When Nobody was Watching: My Hard-Fought Journey to the Top of the Soccer World by Carli Lloyd with Wayne Coffey is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review by Annie Bigelow. Copyright for photographs belong to their original holders.