- Amy Rodriguez has won two Olympic golds and a FIFA Women's World Cup
- The 32-year-old is also mother to two boys, Ryan (5) and Luke (2)
- She shared her experiences of combining motherhood and pregnancy with an elite football career
Amy Rodriguez has enjoyed a career that would be the envy of footballers the world over. A FIFA Women's World Cup winner's medal, two Olympic golds and over 130 caps for USA offer a flavour of the lofty heights she has scaled.
But in assessing her proudest achievements, Rodriguez looks beyond these on-field successes. The USA star, who plays for Utah Royals in the National Women's Soccer League, is just as proud of her role as mother to to young boys - five-year-old Ryan and two-year-old Luke - and how she has juggled pregnancy and motherhood with a top-level career.
Rodriguez discovered she was pregnant with Ryan shortly after winning her second Olympic gold medal at London 2012, and Luke was born the year after she lifted the Women's World Cup.
To mark today’s International Women’s Day, we asked her about the mental and physical challenges she has faced, and the advice she would offer to others considering following her lead.
FIFA: How far into both pregnancies did you keep training and playing?
Amy Rodriguez: At about the three-month mark for both, I stopped playing soccer. I still remained active, though: I hired a personal trainer and took care of my body, knowing I wanted to return to my sport.
For each pregnancy, for how long were you out of action and when did you restart training?
After delivering my babies, I started intense training at around the four-month mark. I was able to start back up with light exercise at the six-week mark.
What type of support did you have from your coach, club, team and family?
Fortunately, my contract was covered and I was given financial support by my team during my pregnancies. My coaches checked in here and there, but mostly I was on my own. My team-mates and friends reached out, as you would expect.
How was your health and fitness when you started training again both times? What hurdles have you had to overcome? Do you feel that you have reached the same level of fitness as before each pregnancy?
I had relatively easy pregnancies and deliveries, but by no means was the post-partum easy. I had to completely retrain and get in shape from the ground up. I had never taken that much time off from my sport. My muscles were essentially gone (compared to what I had before) and I had to lose 35 pounds of baby weight.
Mentally, how did you find returning to football after both pregnancies?
I felt really good after coming back. My focus and priority shifted to my child, and soccer became my outlet and my release from being a mother. I enjoyed playing soccer as a mother because I knew I could come back to my babies at the end of the day, and they would be proud of me regardless of how I played.
How do you feel your body has changed since both pregnancies?
I feel fitter than I did before, mainly because I committed so hard to my training. I’ve had to care for my body better and eat healthier, so overall my body has become better.
How have you managed training and matches given the sleep deprivation and the energy demands that come with raising two boys?
That is the hardest part. I am a full-time mother and it’s difficult to do it all; sometimes I have to work out in the wee hours of the morning or the late hours at night, while the kids are asleep, but I always make the sacrifice and it is so worth it.
Did your nutrition change during and/or after each pregnancy?
Yes, with both of my pregnancies I developed gestational diabetes, so I had to adjust my diet to low-sugar foods and I am still following that diet now.
Have you experienced any back problems or any other injuries since either pregnancy?
Yes, the aches and pains of bearing children took a toll on my back. I have to make sure I get adjusted by my trainers and doctors so that I stay in alignment and I always make sure to keep my core strong and engaged.
What recommendations do you have for other player-mums or players considering pregnancy?
Be prepared for the craziest, hardest roller-coaster of your life, but it will also be one of the proudest accomplishments you will have. I was fortunate to play for a great organisation and to have wonderful support around me (my husband and my family). Without them, I couldn’t have done it.
Top photo courtesy of Utah Royals FC.