It’s been quite a while since the last Beautiful Badass Profile, and I am beyond ecstatic to announce today’s profile – Lori Lindsey #16, a midfielder for the US Women’s National Team.
I’ve been a fan of women’s soccer since I was a kid, so I was very excited when Lori agreed to share her story.
Nia Shanks: Lori, thanks again for participating in the Beautiful Badass Profile series. Let’s go ahead and get the standard introduction out of the way. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Lori Lindsey: I’m originally from Indiana and I started playing soccer at the age of 4 because my older brother, Chris, played and at the time and I wanted to do everything he did – so I often found myself playing with all boys who were at least 2 years older than myself. From an early age soccer was something that I was good at and I loved the sense of accomplishment it gave me. (This is a good thing because other than wanting to be a professional soccer player – one of my childhood dreams was to become a famous Hollywood actress, and after a few acting classes in high school it became very apparent that I should stick with soccer.)
Indiana has never been considered a ‘soccer hotbed’ so I knew I was going to have to put in a lot of extra work to keep up with my competition around the country. I took my first weight lifting class in high school and I immediately fell in love with strength and conditioning – I knew it was the way for me to bridge the gap with the players who were naturally more athletic (Nia – I think this is awesome!). Since my teens I have taken my training very seriously – (it’s become a running joke because off the field I’m a jokester and light hearted but on the field I’m the complete opposite, very serious and intense – so much so that it actually spooks new teammates.) But I think my serious approach to training and my burning desire to be the best is what has carried me so far in my career.
I went to the University of Virginia on a full athletic scholarship and fulfilled my lifelong dream of playing professional soccer. I played in the 2011 Women’s World Cup (arguably the best women’s sporting event ever) and am an alternate for the 2012 Olympic team. I’ve been playing soccer for 28 years now and to this day can honestly say I still love it.
Nia: I had a lot of fun watching y’all compete in the World Cup. You’re currently preparing for the London Olympics. What have you done to prepare for this amazing challenge and what thoughts do you have about this opportunity?
Lori: We’ve been training as a team for the Olympics consistently for the past 8 months. Usually our schedule is 3 weeks on, 1 week off – so we train as a team for 3 weeks and then get 1 week off to recover and concentrate on areas of our game we want to improve be it fitness, technical work etc. My teammate Becky Sauerbrunn and I train together during the “off” weeks – so we really push each other in the weight room and on the field as well. But realistically I have been training for the Olympics my entire career. You don’t get to this level over night – it’s many years of training.
Nia: Awesome. Let’s discuss what you do off the field. When you’re not playing soccer, what do you do for fun?
Lori: There really isn’t much time when I’m not playing soccer but I currently live in Washington, DC so I love to go out to eat at my favorite neighborhood restaurants or walk around the city – but mostly I like to just relax and read at a local coffee shop.
Nia: I love lifting heavy and encourage women to do the same because I believe it allows them to build a body they’re proud of, as well as increase their self-confidence. Do you enjoy weightlifting and what are some of your favorite exercises?
Lori: I love weightlifting! I really got into strength training when I was in high school and I loved how it made me feel stronger and quicker on the field. I also liked the changes I was seeing in the mirror. I really believe the strength training alone has kept me injury free for most of my career. Deadlifts and lunges are two of my favorite exercises.
Nia: What is one of your most vivid, favorite moments from your soccer career?
Lori: My favorite soccer memory is participating in the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany. It was an amazing experience – unfortunately we lost to Japan in the final but the tournament really showed how far women’s soccer has grown and women’s sports in general. The fans, the atmosphere, the stadiums – it’s an experience I will never forget.
Nia: Do you feel pressured to look a certain way because of your status as an elite athlete? Or are you simply more concerned with how you perform?
Lori: I don’t necessarily feel pressure to look a certain way, but because soccer is such a demanding sport I think it’s just expected of me to be fit and ready to perform. I try to fuel my body to recover as quickly as possible and to perform at my best – since we train so much and are burning so many calories through running and lifting I try not to worry too much about my physical appearance.
Nia: What are some obstacles you have had to overcome to reach such an incredible level of success?
Lori: The biggest obstacle I’ve had to face is continually finding ways to improve my game when there wasn’t a pro league or the National team coaches weren’t calling. When I graduated college there was a league called Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) – I was able to play in that league for 2 years (2002-03) before it folded.
In 2004 I was called in to train with the National team to prepare for the Olympics but was cut right before the team left. So from 2005-2009 there was no pro league and I was only getting called into National team camps periodically – it was difficult to push myself everyday to stay fit, work on my ball skills and find semi pro teams to play for in the summer.
Most of my former teammates were retiring because they weren’t willing to put in the work with no guarantee of a pro league returning. I still had this desire to get better and prove to myself and others that I not only could play at the highest level but succeed there as well. There were definitely some days when I wasn’t sure I really wanted to continue on. (Nia – clearly her hard work and persistence has paid off!)
Nia: Okay, let’s move on to something fun – what’s your favorite meal and dessert?
Lori: Favorite meal – there is a Lebanese restaurant in DC called Lebanese Taverna and they have the best chicken shawarma. My favorite dessert is crème brulee.
Nia: Here’s a question from a fellow Beautiful Badass: Which soccer player most inspired you as a kid?
Lori: Two players that inspired me the most were Michelle Akers and Paul Scholes. Michelle Akers was the best center midfielder to play the game on the women’s side – she had everything. She could score goals, she was good in the air, athletic, she was the ultimate player and I always looked up to her. Pauls Scholes is a center midfielder for Manchester United – he still plays and, in my opinion, is the best passer of the ball in the game. He has a great mind for the game and I try to model my play after him.
Nia: Here’s another reader question: How do you balance everything in your life while maintaining your training schedule?
Lori: It can be difficult because we’re on the road so much, but it’s really like any other job – you have to be able to step away and give yourself a little down time. We usually get about a week off a month and this allows us to go home and recover and get things done that we can’t when we’re training on the road. I can be very obsessive about my training so I try to get all my sessions squared away first and then I can plan other daily activities around them.
Nia: One more reader question: I have two daughters that play soccer and I encourage them to feed their bodies with good fuel. Can you share part of your eating and training regimen to maintain strength and prevent injury?
Lori: We’re very lucky at the National team level because we travel with our full time strength and conditioning and nutrition coaches. She sets all of our meals and individualizes our strength programs. We usually lift twice per week, full body, which usually includes plyos, squats, lunges, pushups, med ball work and core work. Since we basically live in hotels all of our meals are planned ahead and include salad bar, various proteins, all sorts of veggies and some type of pasta. And when we’re well behaved we occasionally get dessert. All of the meals are geared to help us refuel and recover as quickly as possible.
Nia: Your sport is definitely physically demanding, but how do you increase your “mental edge” when it comes time to play a big game?
Lori: I have been doing visualization for a long time. I’ve found that it helps me prepare and stay calm before games. I usually start visualizing the night before a game as I’m lying in bed. I visualize making specific passes, scoring a goal, etc.
Nia: Do you have a sort of pre-game ritual you follow before every match?
Lori: I always shower before a game and I put everything on the right side of my body first – my socks and shoes.
Nia: Is there anything else you would like to share with women, and young women, that could provide encouragement?
Lori: Thank you for asking me to do this interview – I love everything about Beautiful Badass. I hope the readers enjoy my story – I’m not sure if it will be inspirational or provide encouragement but at very least reveal that if you work hard and continue to persevere – good things can happen and dreams do come true.
You can follow Lori on Twitter.
Stay up to date with the USA Women’s National Soccer Team on Facebook.