A true student of the game...an informative interview w/ USWNT goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart!
We felt very honored to have the opportunity to speak with former Olympic gold medalist & US Women's National team veteran Nicole Barnhart! She gave us her thoughts on the growing women's game in the United States and how it has evolved from it's infancy during her college years. Check out the whole interview below!
You grew up in the youth soccer scene in Pennsylvania and played soccer on the boys side when you were younger. Was this a decision you or was there a lack of opportunity on the women's side of the game at the time? How do you think that prepared you for your step up to college?
When I asked my parents to try out for soccer, I’m honestly not sure any of us really knew what we were getting into. I initially went to tryouts with the intention of just playing on our local rec team. Instead, I ended up being asked to play on the local boy’s travel team. As far as I’m aware, there was not a girl’s program at the time, and the club did not get one for several more years. However, I truly believe that playing on the boy’s team was perfect for me in many ways. I have an older brother, which made me very tough and competitive. I was also pretty tall for my age when growing up. Therefore, I believe that this was the best environment to challenge me at the time, but to also prepare me for my future soccer career. At the younger ages, I wouldn’t say there was much of a different between me and the guys; however, as we got older and they got faster and stronger, it made me adapt my game to be able to keep up. I still love any opportunities I get to train with guys, because the speed of the game forces you to really be sharp and on your toes.
Heading into your time at Stanford, was professional soccer an aspiration of yours? During your time in college, you saw the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) formed as well as fold. Did this deter your dreams of professional soccer at all?
After watching the ’99 WWC, I think I pretty much had decided that I was going to play professional soccer and be on the WNT. That was my dream from that point forward. I was fortunate enough to play in the ODP system as well as the YNTs, so I knew that going into college was going to be a big opportunity to continue to grow and develop as a player in order to hopefully make that dream come true. I loved watching the women play in WUSA, so I was very disappointed when my opportunity to watch my role models abruptly came to an end. It was also sad to know that when I graduated that following year there was not going to be a pro league for me to jump into. Luckily for me, I was in a position where I was involved with the WNT, so I still had opportunities to follow the game and continue playing in hopes of a new league forming, unlike many other players whose dreams were crushed and careers abruptly ended when they finished college and there was no league.
Let's talk a bit about your time post-college. You made your national team debut in 2004 but with the WUSA folding, how did you manage to stay sharp and fit in between National Team call-ups? Without a viable professional league, was the Women