Soccer legend Carli Lloyd shares how relationships elevated her career accomplishments

Lloyd was joined by her personal coach and trainer Danny Madaroski to open the Elon University Speaker Series at the annual Fall Convocation in Schar Center.

Carli Lloyd is one of the best to ever play the game of soccer.

The New Jersey native has brought home Olympic gold medals and World Cup championships as a leading member of the U.S. national team during a 16-year stretch. She scored a hat trick during the World Cup finals in 2015, and scored five goals in a recent U.S. National Women’s Team match against Paraguay. She accomplished the latter as she prepares to retire from the game atop the record books as one of its leading scorers and a consistent fan favorite.

But back when she was seeking a spot on the Under-21 U.S. national team, she was cut from the roster. It was an experience, she told those gathered in Elon University’s Schar Center on Friday, when she found herself faced with a major choice in the game she had started playing when she was five years old.

“I sort of came to this crossroads of, ‘Well I guess I’m going to quit or I’m going to figure it out,” Lloyd said Friday during the university’s Fall Convocation.

It was a crossroads where Lloyd chose the path of hard work, dedication and an “all-in” commitment to succeeding as a player. It’s a path that has been tough, but one that has led her to the top of the game.

“I changed my work ethic, I decided to be 100 percent in 100 percent of the time, play every training session as if it was a World Cup final, some of my teammates didn’t love that,” she said. “But I just started this journey to live my life with everything being a habit.”

Fall Convocation featured a conversation with Lloyd and her trainer, Danny Madaroski, and kicked off both Family Weekend and the Elon University Speaker Series, which this year is focused on the power of relationships, and how personal connections are key to success.

Lloyd has one of the most decorated careers in women’s soccer, having played in three Olympic Games, winning gold in both the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London games and bronze at 2020 Tokyo. She’s participated in four FIFA World Cups, taking home a medal on each occasion winning bronze in 2007, silver in 2011 and gold in 2015 and 2019. In the 2015 World Cup final, she captained the team and scored a 16-minute hat-trick.

She is the third-highest scorer in United States women’s national soccer team history, and is the fourth-highest goal scorer among all women in international games. Lloyd is also a two-time FIFA World Player of the Year, and only the fourth American to receive the honor.

During a discussion moderated by Assistant Professor of Exercise Science Lauren Walker, Lloyd and Madaroski talked about how they connected over the game, and how Madaroski began to work more closely with Lloyd even as she was at the pinnacle of her career.

Madaroski, who helped prepare Lloyd for her comeback from a knee injury in 2020 and taking home the bronze in the Tokyo Olympics, said he enjoyed the opportunity to work with Lloyd with her being so detail-orientated and coachable.

“She’s a coach’s dream,” he said. “She’s hardworking and receptive to feedback. She’s still looking to improve and as a coach, that’s just an amazing attribute to work with somebody like that.”

After cutting ties with her previous coach and working exclusively with Madaroski, she’s noticed how his guidance has been an improvement on her game at this point of her career, now coming to a close.

“Danny was almost like a gift,” Lloyd said. “Exactly the things that I needed to work on in this exact moment of my career in my life, it was like he brought all those things to me.”

A large focus of her career is maintaining her development with a personal coach while balancing team commitments with both her club and at the international level.

“I think that is the biggest piece to my career is, ‘How can I keep getting better as an individual,” Lloyd said. “There’s nothing better than having a one-on-one type of situation where Danny watches my games, I can watch my games and we can communicate with one another and figure out what it is that I need to continue to work on.”

In recent years, the USWNT has been in dispute with the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) regarding unequal pay and inadequate playing and practice conditions compared to the men’s national team.

For Lloyd, who recently announced her retirement from professional soccer and has only two games remaining for the national team, her main objective is to “leave the sport better than when you came into it.”

When she first joined the national team in 2005, she received a check after each game that she played it. And coming from being a college student and playing for no money, this was great to hear.

“But what I didn’t realize is that the former players were fighting for guaranteed contracts for salaries, for health benefits, for pregnancy leave, for all of these things that now when I look back were so vital and so important,” Lloyd said. “And we are so grateful for that.”

As the women’s national team has maintained continued success and grown in popularity, it is the job of players like Lloyd who have been around for a significant amount of time to improve conditions for the next wave of players coming through.

“It’s now become our job to be like those former players, to make it better for the next generation to come. And even though it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of fight and it has not always gone as smooth as we would like, it’s the work to put in for all the others,” she said.

As the conversation neared its end, Lloyd said that the piece of advice that she would give that is applicable to any professional is to be open-minded.

“Be open to people, respect everyone’s opinions, learn, listen. I have met people that have helped me … that have hurt me … that have challenged me, I have taken all of that as part of my journey and I have been able to learn from so many people,” Lloyd said.

Learning from others is something she says we as a society should return to, it’s the valuing of differing opinions that “makes the world so amazing.” With every person that she comes across, she thinks of what she can pull from them that to implement into her own life.

“Hopefully more of us can do that and it’ll be a happier life, I think,” Lloyd said.