Carli Lloyd is one of 12 leading contenders for Sports Illustrated's 2015 Sportsman of the Year. You can see the full list and the entire series of essays that make the argument for each candidate here.
What makes an athlete great? We always talk about how it takes hard work when there is nobody watching. I'm sure we have all heard the many stories about Carli Lloyd and her dedication to her training with the help of her long term mentor and coach, James Galanis.
We saw her score three goals in the World Cup championship game against Japan this summer at Vancouver’s BC Place, marking the fastest hat trick in World Cup history and making her the lone player to ever score three goals in a World Cup championship game, male or female.
What you may not know about Carli—and what I respect the most about her as a great athlete—is her mental game. Having a strong and continuously improving mentality is what separates great players from legends. True champions continue to excel and work at building their mental strength and focus throughout their careers. Life is similar to sport. There is always something to overcome, whether it’s injury, new coaches, being benched or personal struggles. Life goes on and doesn't stop, and it certainly isn't put on hold for the major tournaments.
What I admire about Carli—as someone who has cemented her legacy, and who is a true champion—is that she has been through more than people probably remember: fitness challenges, coaching changes, suddenly finding herself on the bench and her own personal life challenges. She manages it all with sheer commitment, passion and leadership. She makes me—and everyone around her—a better person and a better athlete by holding people as accountable as she holds herself.
I have seen Carli navigate through many shortcomings, disappointments and emotions to come back stronger and better. Oftentimes people don't talk about the mental quality of an athlete. They talk about skill and technique. They are bias towards the glitz and showmanship. They focus on the number of goals a player has scored.
A sport is a form entertainment. But Carli is more then an entertainer. She is world class and her dedication to fully focus no matter what life brings is a skill that few have. And that’s why I believe Carli Lloyd should be named Sports Illustrated’s 2015 Sportsman of the Year.