U.S. soccer stars juggle teamwork and motherhood
Posted: Tuesday June 22, 1999 10:55 AM
By Jonathan Ganz, CNN/SI
ATLANTA -- At this point the equipment managers on the U.S. team know exactly what they'll have to unload when the team bus reaches the hotel on road trips: Players' bags, soccer gear, strollers and coloring books.
With Joy Fawcett and Carla Overbeck bringing their children along on the journey to the Women's World Cup this summer, the U.S. team is making its own statement about modern motherhood -- nothing is impossible.
Not only are Fawcett and Overbeck shouldering the burden of raising their children, they are doing so while at the top of their games.
Overbeck, whose son, Jackson, will turn 2 in August, might be the best defender in the world, and she wears the captain's armband for the U.S. team. Fawcett, who has two children, 5-year-old Katelyn Rose and 2-year-old Carli, has started all but two of the more than 100 national team matches in which she has appeared.
When the day is over for most of their teammates, it is merely beginning for these two ladies.
"It's a lot harder because you're tired from training and you have a responsibility as a parent," Overbeck said during a recent training camp in Orlando. "As soon as he sees you, he wants to play. ... You can't just think about yourself when you get home anymore."
For both women, though, the decision to have children was not a problem at all. Fawcett knew she wanted to have children, and when she asked then-U.S. women's coach Anson Dorrance if he thought it was advisable, he gave her the go-ahead with few questions asked.
That talk came after the first Women's World Cup in 1991, which the United States won thanks to stellar play from Fawcett and Overbeck. Fawcett timed things exactly to schedule, giving birth to Katelyn Rose on May 17, 1994, and playing every minute of the United States' six games in the '95 World Cup. In the aftermath of the U.S. team's gold medal in the '96 Summer Olympics, Fawcett decided she wanted another child and Overbeck decided the time was right to become a mother.
The two did more working out during their pregnancies than most people do in their entire lives. Determined to return at the same playing level, Overbeck embarked on an arduous workout program after consulting with Fawcett. She ran until she was 7 1/2 months pregnant, then switched to a Stairmaster. And she lifted weights until the day her water broke. The only thing she cut back on was sprinting.
"After the birth, I did nothing for two weeks, then I had a goal -- to get back on that field with the team [for a match a month later with Germany]," Overbeck said. "For a year, I watched them play without me and mentally, I was asking myself, can I still do this? I'm older, and I know I can't do the things I did when I was 24. The trip to Germany was very important for my psyche. I knew if I could play at that level seven weeks after the birth that I would be able to do it."
Not only did she and Fawcett complete the comeback from childbirth in short time, but they have taken their games to another level according to U.S. women's coach Tony DiCicco.
"Having a child puts a balance in your life," DiCicco. "Probably because soccer is so much easier than raising an infant. Just the physical demands can make soccer seem like a breeze. Motherhood is a tremendous responsibility, and they have both shouldered them both so well."
Nowadays, practice is the fun time for Overbeck and Fawcett, a chance to get away from the rigors of being a mother and release a lot of built-up energy. Just ask Fawcett's roommate and U.S. team member Shannon MacMillan, who witnesses first-hand how difficult the juggling act can be.
"She's working two full-time jobs," said MacMillan. "I can come home and relax, but she's got to be a mom.
"Joy's kids get up at all times during the night. She can be up with them all night, while I roll out of bed, get my cereal and roll. It's amazing how badly she wants this. It's awesome because she has such a great rapport with the kids."
Fawcett lives with MacMillan, her two children and a nanny hired by U.S. Soccer when the team is in residency camp in Orlando. When the team goes on the road, the nanny goes too, taking care of the three youngsters when their mothers are taking care of business with the national team. The nanny has been a huge help for Overbeck and Fawcett, who had previously had to search for day care every time they wanted to play or practice with the national team.
This summer for the World Cup, though, the children will spend time with their fathers and grandparents, giving Fawcett and Overbeck more time to focus on recapturing the Cup the U.S. lost to Norway in '95.
"You have flashes of not wanting to do it," Fawcett said. "But in the end, it's all worth it when you win that gold medal or when we get that cup back this summer with all the hard work that we put into it."
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