Taylor Smith has been having quite the summer, receiving a call-up to the USWNT for the Tournament of Nations and earning her first 3 international caps. She started for the USWNT against Australia and Brazil, and then came on in the first half against Japan to record her first 2 assists with the senior national team.
Having earned a starting role with the North Carolina Courage this NWSL season, Taylor has been growing her game in more ways than one. We wanted to sit down with her and talk about what role soccer has played in her life and her coming to terms with her identity.
A Fort Worth, Texas native and UCLA graduate, Taylor has put her life into soccer and allowed it to dictate where she lives, who she spends time with, and what she does day in and day out. It’s played a huge part in helping her to discover herself and continue to grow as a person.
SC: What has your relationship with soccer been like for the past 2 years?
TS: Honestly, it's been up and down. At the beginning in college I had a lot of success; however, my last year competing for the Bruins was not that great overall. I ended up not getting drafted which took a huge toll on me, more so mentally than physically. Little did I know, not getting drafted and ending up with the Flash (now Courage) was one of the best things that would ever happen to me. I was surrounded by amazing people who helped me grow in and out of the game. My first pro season I truly learned the value of being a team player and giving my all even though being the first sub off the bench wasn't necessarily the role I wanted to play. After the 2016 season I got my first call up to the senior team. Coming into this season, I decided I needed to make changes in order to be the best me. I made small changes in my eating habits and recovery habits. Switching those small things had a huge impact on my game. I had never felt so prepared to play and that gave me so much confidence. Midway through season I got another call up to the full team and I felt so excited because this time I felt so prepared. The camp was a lot of fun and a great learning experience and I’m so blessed to have experienced it.
SC: Do you feel like soccer has helped you to grow and understand yourself better?
TS: Absolutely. I'm in the environment day in and day out so I’ve experienced many emotions through the process. I’ve learned from personal experience that every reaction has a consequence. I’ve also learned that you can always respond positively to any situation. I’ve learned that, but I still need my friends to constantly remind me!
SC: What was the process of coming out like?
TS: For me, I told people one by one but it wasn’t really planned. I only really told my close friends and then it kind of just got around. Like I said in my video, I’ve known my whole life but the very first time I ever said it out loud was around my senior year in high school. Everyone I told except for a few people were accepting. One person said, “It better be a phase”... it for sure wasn't. Then in college, I felt I was in a more accepting community and that's when I decided I'd had enough of hiding this secret. Everyone was great and no one treated me differently. I had had numerous boyfriends, but in college I had my first girlfriend and it seemed like my life was finally making sense and coming together as I came out. Now being a pro athlete and taking control of my own life, I feel so comfortable being out and being me. I’m just happy.
SC: Do you feel a responsibility to set an example for others who might be struggling with coming out?
TS: I dont know if I’d say its a responsibility but I feel like it's important for me to share my story, mainly for the kids out there. I know that if 13 or 14 year old Taylor saw someone she looked up to come out she wouldn't be so scared to be herself.
SC: What is your best quality as a person/athlete/teammate and how do you think you use that to contribute to your team?
TS: I think I'm pretty relatable and down to earth. But my life by no means has been easy. Growing up my family didn't have a lot so I think that makes me appreciate everything I have now. I think it also is a constant reminder of how important giving is, whether it's clothes, money, a smile, or a helping hand. A lot of my life I felt like I had to work 100x harder to get things in life. For a long time I saw that as a hindrance but now its one of the most valuable things about me because it forces me to be at my best and work as hard as I can as much as I can.
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Here's another peek at what she has in store for you on her Youtube channel...