Until 20 years ago, women players who wanted to start a family would quit their careers. But more athletes are stepping up to the challenge of balancing motherhood with their love of the game.
Amy Rodriguez had just won an Olympic gold medal when she discovered she was pregnant. Rodriguez, a 28-year-old forward for the U.S. women’s soccer team known as A-Rod, says her son, Ryan, is the “biggest blessing in her life,” but initially, she panicked. She had no idea how her body would react or how willing she’d be to leave her son to go to training camps and tournaments. “I had no idea how I would do it,” she says. “I just knew I wasn’t ready to be done.”
Having signed with the Seattle Reign in the third iteration of a U.S. women’s pro league, she was expected to be their star forward. Instead, she spent the 2013 season watching the team play without her. In September of that year, a month after giving birth, Rodriguez went to breakfast with the Reign coaching staff. They told her they were eager to get her back on the field and gave her a tiny baby onesie with the team’s logo. “I was like, okay, they are excited about me,” says Rodriguez. “It meant a lot to me.”