Inside the Mind of a Champion

Top Photo by David Baldwin Photography

Last month, soccer superstar Carli Lloyd and her trainer James Galanis shared personal stories and insights at a special SJ Magazine event. An audience of young soccer players and parents gathered at The Merion in Cinnaminson to hear the two-time Olympic gold medalist – and the man she credits with getting her there – share their stories of endless hard work and unwavering commitment.


The 2008 Olympics was my first big moment. I scored a goal in the final, and we won. It was an unbelievable moment. But the coach decided to potentially not renew my contract with U.S. Soccer. I was angry. But James said, “You can’t ever become complacent. You can’t worry about what you have done. You’ve got to focus on what lies ahead.” So we had to train extra hard. I had to prove her wrong. That taught me to not dwell on past achievements. You have to keep raising the bar. – Carli Lloyd



I’m not a naturally fit person. I need extra work. It seems crazy, but I do. I learned the hard way that when I’m away with the national team, I can’t just rely on the team training. During the 2012 Olympics, I had to sneak off and do extra running. It has nothing to do with the type of training the team is doing. I just need more. – Carli Lloyd


The five pillars are technical skills, technical awareness, physical power, mental toughness and character. I evaluated Carli, and she had the skills and the tactics, but she was poor physically, mentally and in her character. I explained to Carli that if she could improve those three – not only improve them but turn them into strengths – you can go on and become a superstar. – Coach James Galanis


I talk in the book about this swagger I have. It’s no ill will. It’s just me. I’m there to play soccer. I didn’t always follow the crowd, and I think some of the veteran players weren’t used to that. I was like, “Look, I don’t need to have friends. I just want to do my job and wake up every morning, compete and do well.” Slowly, everybody started to understand my personality and that I wasn’t trying to be a jerk. I was just focused. – Carli Lloyd


When some players were going out the night before a training session, I was staying in, drinking water and getting ready for the next day. I was laser-focused. – Carli Lloyd


Even though I have achieved so much, I work and train as if I have achieved nothing. – Carli Lloyd


I never doubted Carli. Not once. And I still don’t. She has the will. – Coach James Galanis



Sometimes you just have to let things roll off your shoulder, like the She Believes Cup we just had, because you can’t change the past but you can change the future and the present. You have to think of it that way – as hard as that is. – Carli Lloyd


There are 365 days in the year, and I’d be lying if I said every single day I wanted to train. But I know if I’m out there putting in the hours, it’s ultimately going to make me better. It’s how I’m wired – to go out every day, no matter if I’m sick, tired or just not feeling it. I go out every day. – Carli Lloyd


A lot of people build soccer players from the feet up – I go from the head down. First I fix the mind, then I worry about everything else. The mind is everything. – Coach James Galanis


One of the first things James told me when I got on the national team is, “Make sure you journal, because we’re going to write a book some day.” Good thing I listened. – Carli Lloyd



I was waking up three or four times the night before thinking about the game. I was so anxious. I remember getting up that morning and feeling good. I knew there was a lot riding on that game. That we could make history. There was a lot of pressure, but I like that pressure. Once the whistle blew, I was laser-focused and in the moment. – Carli Lloyd, Discussing the World Cup final, where she scored a hat trick in the first 16 minutes of the game


When you’re going into a tryout, the first thing you have to do is go in prepared. If you’re prepared, you’ll be confident. Next, don’t let things you can’t control take any of your mental space. Compete against yourself, against the player you were at your last game. And empty the tank. If you do those things, you’re going to walk off the field with your head held high. – Coach James Galanis



I’ve always been a player who has gone outside the box and tried different things. I’ve learned over time when to take more risks and when to play it safe. That’s the type of player I am. James and I have worked on many things that people would probably say, “Why are you working on that?” We worked on mid-field shots; I just didn’t know when I’d need to use it, but I chose that moment. – Carli Lloyd, Discussing scoring from mid-field in the 2015 World Cup final


The next phase of my life will probably be parenting, which will be a whole other job in itself. – Carli Lloyd


April 2017
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