Wide Awake: Lovin’ Carli
Watching the rise of a superstar athlete

I first heard about Carli Lloyd in 2011. A writer was pitching a story about this young soccer player who had scored the game-winning goal at the 2008 Olympics. Not a lot of people had heard about her, but the buzz was she could be a star. Would I want her for a cover?

My staff and I made a really good call: we featured Carli on our August 2011 cover. Little did we know she’d be on the cover of  “Sports Illustrated” only four years later.

Once we made the decision, we set out to get a cover-worthy picture. Problem was Carli was practicing with the Atlanta Beat – in Atlanta. She could help, she told us, and she arranged for the team’s photographer to shoot our cover, texting pictures to us during the shoot. She was easy to work with, especially when we were asking her via text to re-arrange her hair, smile a little more, then a little less.

We ran the perfect picture with her holding a soccer ball. The headline read: She’s got the whole world in her hands.

We were so right.

I immediately became one of Carli’s fans. Later that year, she accepted our Personal Best of SJ award at our annual Best of SJ Party. For the next two years, she attended the party as a guest. Each time, I introduced her and told the crowd about Carli’s second Olympic appearance. In 2012, when the U.S. won gold against Japan, the final score was 2-0, and Carli had scored both goals. I couldn’t say it loud enough, because I was so impressed with this young woman who carried herself with such poise even though she was a killer on the soccer field.

Over the years, I’ve asked Carli a few times to give us a comment for a story or sign a ball for us to give as a prize. She always says yes. But then something really, really big happened, and she became an American sports star overnight. Certainly we’d want to feature her again, but how do I get in line with CNN, “Good Morning America,” “USA Today” and countless other national media outlets to request an interview? How do we get a New York PR firm to consider a request from SJ Magazine in the middle of all the media powerhouses?

The answer to that question is simple: Carli made sure it happened.

In addition to going through the proper PR channels, I emailed Carli and asked for an interview – at any time. A week went by, and I figured she was inundated with requests, not to mention she had a New York firm handling media. Then one Sunday afternoon she emailed me back, “Yes, we can do that.”

It took about two weeks to finalize an interview, and each time she emailed she would apologize for taking so long to get back to me. I would laugh, because I had been reading online about all the incredible places she had been appearing. I was grateful she was finding time to fit me in.

I interviewed Carli and her trainer James Galanis – a man I could listen to for hours just to hear his thoughts on developing mental toughness – and I mentioned to James that it was so nice Carli was fitting me into a crazy schedule. He told me they had talked after the World Cup and agreed they would remain loyal to everyone who had helped them before this happened. And they have.

Galanis also told me about a text he received from Carli while she was at the ESPYs, where she walked the red carpet wearing a designer gown. “I miss Ark Rd. and the Blue Barn,” she wrote, referring to the two places she trains in South Jersey. “This is her home,” Galanis said. “She loves it here.”

Good thing, ’cause we love having her.

August 2015
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