State player of the year. United States youth national teams. NCAA finalist. World Cup qualifying. These are just a few of the accolades and experiences that our most recent blog guest has to her name. We recently got the opportunity to speak with UNC women's soccer goalkeeper Claudia Dickey! Hear all about her journey as a multi-sport athlete and the experiences that have helped her develop into one of the most promising young goalkeepers in the women's game.
1. Growing up, were you always a multi-sport athlete? Do you think the lack of specialization lead to greater success for you as an athlete?
Yes, I was always a multi-sport athlete. I could never only play one sport at a time. I’ve always believed that because my parents allowed me to invest time in multiple sports it helped me excel and contributed to my success in my current sport.
2. You had great success as a youth player with both soccer and basketball, how did you balance playing both sports with the demands in the classroom as well?
I think at times it was extremely difficult to balance both sports with school and with friends. I think the thing that helped me the most was the willingness of both my parents to allow me to train and travel whenever I needed. They always gave me access to great resources and people to help me throughout everything. It was always difficult on me because sometimes it felt like I was missing out on hanging out with my friends or going on vacations but at the end of the day I always knew what I wanted and what was more important to me.
3. Not only were you State Player of the Year and an All-American, you also were heavily involved with the youth national teams. How did that experience help your development? How did it provide you motivation for the future?
I think the youth national teams really helped me develop as a player and a person because being around those who had similar passions as me made me realize how important soccer was to me and that I wanted to be the best. Being at camp you are surrounded by the best from all over the country and that really motivated me to want to push myself in every way. Also, representing my country was always the biggest honor in itself. I look back now and realize how lucky I am to be able to be a part of such an amazing experience.
4. What was the recruitment process like for you? Were you dead set on playing both sports at the collegiate level?
I was always dead set on playing both basketball and soccer in college. I grew up in love with both sports and never in a million years wanted to have to give up either of them. Many college coaches told me it would be impossible but when I met with Anson (the soccer coach at UNC) he promised me he would give the opportunity to play basketball too. To be fair, my recruitment was quite easy compared to some of my friends because I committed so early. I never really had the time to be stressed about where I was going to go so that was always a plus.
5. What were the biggest adjustments you had to make, both on and off the field, once you got to college?
I think one of the biggest adjustments I had to make was to become more mature and independent. The level of soccer in college is a completely different atmosphere than in high school and club. Everyone wants to play and represent their school and I think realizing that made me want to be a part of it. Being away from your parents and adjusting to school and life on your own is definitely difficult but I think it teaches us responsibility and maturity.
6. Describe your college cup experience. Not many people get to play on national television, what was that feeling like?
The college cup is a dream. My freshman year I didn’t play in it so I never really understood how amazing it was until last year when I was actually a part of it all. To me, it was never about being on television or anything like that. It was more about fighting for my team and for everything we had worked so hard for. Losing the game was probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to go through but I think I came out a better person and player. So many little girls dream of being on that stage and I think that is what made it so surreal. The season ending that way will forever be in the back of our minds but I think it gives us so much fire and fuel to get back to it again. My team always talks about how every little thing will determine whether or not we get back there and I think that is what separates UNC soccer from most.
7. You play for one of the most successful college soccer coaches in history, Anson Dorrance. What is it like training in an environment with such high expectations? What is the competition level like every day in training?
Anson is unbelievable. His knowledge about the game is never ending but the thing that is so special with our team is yes, it’s always about competing for everything, but Anson is adamant about us building character everyday. We have 12 core values and have to recite them to him at every given moment. He always harps on us that there are three things he cares about: 1. Character development 2. Schoolwork 3. Soccer. To me that’s why I love the program so much. Like I said, we want to win as bad as the next person but surrounding ourselves with good caring people who want the best for us is what we care more about. The level of competition in practice is always top notch. We are ranked on almost every drill, every workout, every test, you name it. He calls it the “competitive cauldron”. He ingrains this into our minds from the first day we step onto campus. We are always competing and everyone knows if you are or not because we see the numbers that are tracked daily after practice.
8. Who are some of your goalkeeping idols that you look to for inspiration?
I honestly never focused on watching specific goalkeepers which I know sounds bad but growing up I never really got into watching soccer. Now that I am older I pay more attention but it’s hard to really say that I have idols. I love watching Ederson, De Gea, even Alyssa Naeher. Getting to train with Alyssa has 100% made me a better player. She has so much knowledge and experience and I love getting to talk to her about all of it.
9. Do you see professional athletics in your future, whether its on the field or on the court?
At this point in my life, I would love to play professional soccer. Unfortunately, this past December I had to quit college basketball because I was invited to go to the U20 World Cup Qualifying event in the Dominican Republic. I would miss too much of the basketball season and I think I had finally realized that I wanted to take soccer more seriously. Quitting basketball was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. I miss it all the time but I do not regret my decision. My dream is to play professional soccer and I hope someday I will be able to.
10. Our final and probably most important question: Which is harder? Saving a pk or hitting the game winning 3 pointer?
Well in my experience I am not the best at saving pk’s haha but honestly I would still say saving pk’s. Basketball was always natural to me for some reason so I was always more confident with the ball in my hand. PK’s suck and are completely mental and I think that is why they are so difficult.