Editor’s note: This profile of Amy Rodriguez was originally published on SUCCESS.com on June 8, 2015. The U.S. defeated Japan 5-2 in the World Cup finals on July 5, 2015.
When the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team steps onto the field today for the 2015 World Cup, starting forward Amy Rodriguez will bring three special characteristics that have been responsible for her success.
The 28-year-old wife and mother says they are “without a doubt the most important components in my preparation and training.
“At the international level, everyone is a great athlete, but these three things are the difference-makers when it comes to winning championships.” Rodriguez says. “At the end of the day, this is my goal and why I play for my country.”
Rodriguez’s love for the sport grew organically as a kid. “I loved playing with my friends,” the Southern Californian says. “After a short time, coaches began to tell my parents that I was special. The feeling I got when I scored my first game-winning goal immediately sparked an excitement for competition.”
That competitive spirit served Rodriguez well through high school: In 2005 after scoring 17 goals in 15 games for Santa Margarita High during her senior year, she was named National Player of the Year by Parade magazine, EA Sports and the NSCAA.
She went on to play for the University of Southern California from 2005 to 2008, winning the College National Championship with her team for the first time in its history. In 2008 Rodriguez participated in the Summer Olympics in Beijing as part of the women’s national team and took home a gold medal; she would go on to win a second gold at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
“I love the adrenaline the sport gives me,” she says. “My desire to compete has grown with each level of competition and is what still excites me today. I am blessed to have gone from the playground to winning a college national championship to representing my country and winning two Olympic gold medals.”
Known for her speed on the field, Rodriguez has led a successful professional career since her official debut in 2009, playing for the Boston Breakers.
She says that being part of a team for so long has given her a different perspective when it comes to priorities.
“I’ve learned to put the common goal before my own,” Rodriguez says. “I’ve learned to play my role and support the people around me so that the team’s performance is elevated. Regardless of how challenging it can be, a successful outcome puts everything in perspective.”
That attitude served her well when Rodriguez gave birth to her first child, son Ryan, in 2013. Regaining her position amid a competitive field was one of the biggest challenges of Rodriguez’s career to date.
“I was away from the game for almost a year, and time didn’t stand still for me,” she says. “Two new head coaches followed, along with an influx of great new talent on the team. When I finally got back into camp, I had to work harder than ever to get every second of playing time.”
She recalls that “nothing came easy at all” and “things really looked dismal,” but she ignored the factors that she had no control over and relied on her family to keep her focused and grounded, she says.
“They were a constant reminder that if I just did what I knew best, things would eventually fall back into a rhythm,” Rodriguez says. “‘Keep chopping’ and ‘slow and steady wins the race’ became my doctrine. Eventually the sun shined again, and I was ready to take advantage when the opportunity knocked.”
Now, Rodriguez is back and better than ever, with an even stronger passion for the game.
“I am much more motivated and focused,” she says. “I want to do well for my son. I want to be a positive role model and show him that he can do anything if he puts his mind to it.”
Without a doubt, she’s ready for the FIFA World Cup. “I always try to visualize the task at hand and the outcome through positive thought,” she says of the World Cup. “When I close my eyes, I see champions on a podium.”
But whatever the outcome, Rodriguez says her love of the sport will remain—and her son and husband will be there every step of the way, cheering her on.
“In the end, when you love what you do, it never feels like work,” she says. “My husband and son are a constant reminder of what life is really all about. Understanding that they are my No. 1 priority is the secret to my success.”