If you know anything about U.S. women’s national team and Reign FC forward Megan Rapinoe, you know that she doesn’t exactly live in a comfort zone.
On the field, she’s creative and takes chances, a blur of speed and finesse racing past team’s defenses.
And off the field – well, that’s where Rapinoe excels in pushing past boundaries.
She called out FIFA for what she said was a lack of support of the women’s game. She declared herself a “walking protest” of President Donald Trump in a Yahoo Sports feature. She becoming the first openly gay athlete to pose for Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition.
And that was all only in the past couple months. She, of course, made waves starting in 2016 when she took a knee for the national anthem at a USWNT match in support of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his protest of racial injustice. She’s a strong supporter of a myriad of social issues, from taking an active role in the U.S. players’ pay dispute with US Soccer to fighting for LGBTQ rights.
So as Rapinoe prepares for her third World Cup this summer with the U.S., it’s no surprise that continuing to push limits is how she’ll ready herself mentally.
“I think Brett Brown said it the other day with the [Philadelphia] Sixers – the minute you feel comfortable, you’re [expletive],” Rapinoe said, putting her own spin on Brown’s quote, which actually ended with “you’re in trouble.”
“So don’t ever feel comfortable,” she continued. “Don’t ever feel like you got a team nailed down. … I hope I’m kind of wildly uncomfortable the whole World Cup. That means I’m sharp. I’m on it. I’m thinking. And as a group, I think we should approach every game that way.”
Rapinoe will play an important role for this national team, which is a little more attack-focused than in years past. In the last World Cup in 2015, Rapinoe scored two goals and added two assists. She also has a knack for flash on big-time stages. In the 2012 Olympics, she scored directly from a corner kick, becoming the first player ever to do so in an Olympic tournament.
She’s been working herself back into full fitness over the past few weeks after missing time because of a hamstring injury earlier this year. But she’s “fit as a fiddle” now, Rapinoe said, and is ramping up for a run at another World Cup title.
The U.S. has never won two World Cups in a row, but it is looking to add another trophy after taking the Cup home in 2015. To get there, the battle tested Americans have to show they can deal with stress.
“I feel like to be on the team is pressure,” Rapinoe said. “People freak out if we win a game 2-0 and they freak out if we lose a game, or if we play great or whatever. … To even survive on this team, to be on this team for a long time, to even make a roster, you’ve gone through the gauntlet, in a physical sense, battling against each other in a competitive way, in a mental sense and emotional sense. I think that we really do have an extremely competitive and pressure-filled environment all the time so it’s not like now we get to the World Cup and it’s a little bit more.”