You Go, Carli 
The soccer champ becomes a special forces warrior
By Marianne Aleardi

In what seems like an exceptionally long time ago, a writer once pitched a story about this soccer player from South Jersey who had just made the women’s national team. It seems everyone was saying she was really, really good. REALLY good. Would I want a profile on her?

It was the summer of 2011, and it just so happened that I needed a cover for the August issue. So I trusted our writer, assigned the profile, and made this soccer player – who I hoped was as good as everyone said – our cover. That turned out to be a very smart move. Because the soccer player was Delran’s Carli Lloyd, who went on to win 2 Olympic Gold medals, 2 World Cups and was named FIFA’s Women’s Soccer Player of the Year twice. She also scored a hat trick – 3 goals – in the first 16 minutes of one of those World Cup finals. I remember watching that game and being so happy for her. I just kept thinking, “You go, Carli. You go.”

Since then, I’ve interviewed Carli several times, including twice in front of a live audience, which was often filled with young girls (which I loved). At our last live interview, we were taking questions from the audience and quickly approaching the end of the night. I said, “OK, last question,” and 4 girls shot their arms into the air. I hesitated, and picked one. But before she could ask her question, Carli said, “That’s ok. I’ll answer all your questions.”

At these events, Carli is open and inspiring and incredibly honest. Her career has been filled with people – including national team coaches – who have worked against her and shown very little faith in her abilities, so she’s had to fight for every success she’s had. She shares every brutal hardship she’s experienced, along with those great triumphs.

Her story is remarkable, and it now includes a reality TV show on FOX. But don’t let that fool you into thinking she’s dancing with the stars. This show is probably the most intense physical and mental challenge of any reality TV show. She’s being trained by U.S. Special Forces, undergoing physical tests that only elite military teams are given. In one episode, Carli put on protective gear and had her back set on fire. In another, she was seat-belted into a Jeep that was then submerged into a body of water. She had to remain in the driver’s seat, holding her breath, and then unlock her seatbelt and swim out the back window. It was harrowing for me, and I was sitting on my couch.

So once again, Carli and I will sit down in front of an audience and talk. I am curious to know how on earth she survived these tests. I kind of understand her being able to complete the physical part of the challenges – she’s a professional athlete who has trained her entire life. But the mental part…that’s where I’m most amazed/impressed/baffled. I would like to know how you ignore a fear that you must feel in the core of your soul while someone lights up your back or lowers you into water. I’m not sure how you take that first step to begin a task you know is extremely dangerous, will cause great pain, and simply goes against everything you ever believed about keeping yourself safe.

Carli has spoken before about her mental toughness, but this is a whole new level. She has said that nothing she did on the soccer field compared to what she did on the show. And I’m not even talking about the nonstop intense heat (they filmed in the Jordan desert) and the lack of plumbing (toilets were buckets). When we speak, I’m hoping to get some idea of how you develop a mindset that can overcome anything. I won’t be jumping from any helicopters, but imagine what you can accomplish in your everyday life if you can conquer fear. Imagine.

Carli has told me more than once that she will answer my texts and ok my interview requests, because I took that chance with her so many years ago. That is a statement to who she is. Aside from the soccer champion and the special forces warrior, Carli is a kind, generous woman.

I never would have guessed that the really good soccer player we once featured on our cover would become an iconic hero. But she has. And it’s been wonderful to witness. I have so many questions, and we have so much to learn. Our talk is May 16 at the Collingswood Ballroom. I hope you’ll join me for the conversation.

Read more “Wide Awake” by Marianne Aleardi

March 2023
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