Continue to learn and grow...a look inside the mind of World Cup veteran Alyssa Naeher!
Being able to learn from those who perform at the highest levels of the game is a great opportunity. There is no higher level than the World Cup and we were humbled to get the chance to speak with World Cup veteran and U.S. Women's National Team goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher! She spoke to us about her development through the U.S. youth national team system and the patience she had to reach the number one spot with the national team. Read everything she had to say below!
You were a star athlete in high school in both soccer and basketball; what made you choose to follow the soccer path?
I always loved both. My twin sister and I got involved with organized soccer at a very early age. I was fortunate enough to start getting involved with youth national team camps when I was 14 and from there I just stayed on that path. I started seeing that soccer was my best chance at having the opportunity to get a great college education.
You're from Connecticut but you ended up at Penn State University for college (amassing 88 appearances over 4 years); what were some of the major factors that lead you to PSU?
A few different things led me there. The head coach at the time, Paula Wilkins, had been one of my regional team coaches and I knew that I enjoyed playing for her. I knew that I wanted the chance to compete for the starting spot right away. With the starting goalkeeper at the time graduating, I was going to have that opportunity to win the job. I fell in love with the school the second I got to campus. The most important question my dad asked me during the whole process was, “If something happened day 1 that you couldn’t keep playing, would you still want to be here at the school” and when I could answer yes to that it just felt like the right fit.
You were in the US Youth National Team set up from a pretty early age and progressed through the system all the way to the full national team. You often see players fall out of the system after a few years; how did you manage to be a constant presence with the national team throughout the years?
I have always been surrounded by great coaches and teammates who continued to push me and help me develop. My goalkeeper coach, Paul Dellostritto, has trained me since I was 13 and all the way through college. He believed in me from day one and was a huge piece of my journey. I just tried to take everything one year at a time, stayed focused in the moment and focused on what I could control. What I could control was how I trained, my commitment to my team every training and game, being a good teammate and always giving 100% effort. I had parents who lovingly supported me and taught me to make my own decisions, without pushing me any particular direction.
You were drafted into the now defunct Women's Professional Soccer league (WPS). How has women's professional soccer developed over the years to what it is now with the NWSL?
We have grown from 6 teams in WPS to 9 teams in NWSL and will hopefully continue to grow. I think that the depth of talent on each roster continues to get better and better. I think that the league has learned from some of the failures of the WPS and has tried to avoid some of those same pitfalls.