Despite tons of travel and lots of working-mom guilt, soccer pros Shannon Boxx, Christie Rampone, and Amy Rodriguez (above with son Ryan) say that they still score big balancing their athletic careers with family life. (Photo: Getty Images).
There’s so much to admire in U.S. National Soccer Team stars Shannon Boxx, Christie Rampone, and Amy Rodriguez: They’re stellar athletes, they’re competing in the FIFA Women’s World Cup finals in Vancouver on Sunday — and they’re mothers.
“It’s awesome,” Rodriguez says of juggling her jobs — as a forward for FC Kansas City and now the National team, while raising her nearly 2-year-old son, Ryan, with husband Adam Shilling — in a new video, “World Cup Soccer Moms,” posted Monday on the U.S. Soccer website. Like the two other mothers on the team, the 28-year-old adds, “We all really enjoy being moms, and being a professional athlete at the same time, is a cool thing.”
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It’s also a difficult thing. Unlike most working mothers, this trio’s career-family juggle involves physically grueling training camps, up to 260 days a year of travel, and six-month-seasons away from home. U.S. Soccer pays for nannies at training camps and tournaments, reports the Atlantic, but even when the team is on the road without kids, they’re still parenting.
The Rampone family (Photo: Instagram/Christie Rampone)
“Things happen and we’re still responsible,” says Rampone in the video. She plays defender and, at home in Point Pleasant, N.J., protector of her two daughters, Rylie, 5, and Reece, 9, with husband Chris Rampone. Take her girls’ lice outbreak. “My husband was freaking out he had no idea what to do,” says the 40-year-old team captain. “I was saying, ‘Call your sister, we’ll need you to help out,’ and then I was just like, ‘OK, whatever, call the salon.’ He took them to the salon, got rid of the lice. We’re all good, but dad and hair sometimes doesn’t really mix.”
From left, Rodriguez, Boxx, and Rampone (Photo: Twitter/USSoccer WNT).
Considering the sheer number of hours and the amount of travel that pro athletes face in-season, “work-family balance can be quite difficult,” says Scott J. Behson, Ph.D., a professor of management at Fairleigh Dickinson University, who published a report, “Work-Family And Sports: When Even Millionaire Athletes Need Employer Help To Balance Work And Family” in the Journal of Diversity Management. “Athletes face a lot of pressure to be fully ‘in,’ and even spend spare time training and working, more so than in most careers,” he tells Yahoo Parenting. “Perhaps the best equivalent is to top-level executives in terms of hours and being all-consumed.”
Behson, who also authored The Working Dad’s Survival Guide: How to Succeed at Work and at Home, adds: “It’s really hard – especially as society puts pressures on moms that we don’t necessarily put on dads when it comes to traveling so much and having a big career, which is an unfair situation.”
Rodriguez, for one, confesses that she’s had moments stressing over working-mom guilt. “Obviously I feel little bit selfish at times when I feel like ‘Hey, I’m a mom on this team and I have a little baby at home,’ [who] I leave at home, and I almost have that guilty feeling,” she says. “But at the same time I want to show [my son] what a tough female athlete is and…be a good role model.”
Until 1994, when National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee Joy Fawcett became the first player to have a child and keep playing soccer, according to the Atlantic, players typically left the sport once they had a family. As the magazine details, Fawcett’s teammate Julie Foudy told ESPN, “In the past, all those years before Joy, players would say, ‘I’m going to retire because I want to have kids; I have to quit because it’s time to start a family.’ But Joy said, ‘Wait, why do I have to retire, why don’t I just keep playing and I’ll pop ’em out in between World Cups and Olympics?’”
Shannon Boxx in action. (Photo: Getty).
Professional male athletes, of course, don’t have to deal with the physical side of becoming a parent. “Men aren’t derailed, unable to do what is required in their career if they get pregnant, give birth, and then have to recover,” notes Behson. “Guys can’t breastfeed. These [professional women soccer players] make a living with their bodies” — which makes their post-kids return to the sport even more impressive.
Rodriguez admits, in another video on the team site, that she “felt like having a baby was quite risky…[But] I wanted to prove that I could have a baby and come back and I did that. I just wasn’t ready to be done. Because I was pregnant that didn’t mean that my career had to end.”
Rampone’s daughter gets tough, like mom, center in poster. (Photo: Instagram/Christie Rampone)
Yet for midfielder Shannon Boxx, having a daughter, Zoe, 2, with husband Sean Taketa is what gives her the motivation to make her last run at the World Cup her best, despite battling debilitating lupus. “My daughter has been a big reason why I wanted to come back after having her,” says the 38-year-old in the video. She’s from Redondo Beach, Calif, plays for the Chicago Red Stars, and plans to retire post-Cup. “Once you have a baby and they’re on the road with you, you’re doing this sport because you love it, and you want them to experience it with you, but you also realize it is a game. You have this little one, who is the most import thing in the world, [which puts the sport] into perspective and it makes you enjoy what you do so much more.”
(Photo: Instagram/Amy Rodriguez)