Soccer Star Sydney Leroux on Injuries, Motherhood, and Mental Toughness

George Orozco

National Women’s Soccer League star Sydney Leroux knows what it’s like to have to fight to get back to the top of her game. “I think with injuries, pregnancies, I think you question – can I still do this? Is my body going to do what it used to do, the way that I know it can?” she says. “Especially when I was coming back from my kids, I felt like I had to learn how to run again, and I had to learn how to do all these things because I just had a baby. But your body knows what to do.”

Mental toughness is crucial in this context, too, she adds: “Having that belief that you can come back and be exactly who you were, and even better, has really helped me and still does.”

Leroux’s journey throughout her athletic career has had its fair share of challenges, including returning to soccer after multiple injuries. Originally from Canada, Leroux currently plays as an Angel City FC forward for the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). She also played in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, where she took home a gold medal. As all eyes are on her former squad ahead of this year’s Olympics, Leroux reflected on everything from overcoming injury to embracing motherhood.

What It’s Like to Overcome Multiple Injuries as a Pro Athlete

In addition to playing for Angel City, Leroux has been busy with a new campaign with Tylenol – one that holds special weight from her own experiences, given that she’s had multiple ankle injuries, including a micro-fracture of her talus bone, and broken ribs. “I was injured in 2021, ’22, came back ’23, and it’s been a journey,” she says. “It seems like I’ve been injured and out for a while. Being able to partner with a brand who’s been doing so much more is very exciting.” As part of the partnership, Leroux is introducing the Tylenol Care Commitment, a recovery fund to help athletes get back into the game.

The mental toughness required to get back to sport is something Leroux knows well. “Our jobs are our bodies, so when we don’t have that, we’re like, what will we do with ourselves? I just took it day by day,” Leroux says. “Every morning, I was like, I’m going to get this day, and I’m going to do everything that I need to for my body, and then I’ll deal with tomorrow as it comes. I think that’s the most important thing. I tell all my teammates, or anyone else who’s going through an injury, to take it day by day and don’t look too far into the future.”

Still, Leroux admits that keeping a positive mindset can be difficult, given the isolation that can happen in recovery. “Being injured, or being taken out of something that you’ve been doing for so long, is a really lonely place that not a lot of people talk about,” she says. “I think that we should, because it happens. We should talk about injuries. Injuries happen, unfortunately, they are a part of the game.”

Balancing Motherhood and Looking to the Future of Women’s Soccer

Part of what inspires Leroux to get back out on the field is her children. “Where there’s love, there’s motivation, so I think of my friends, family, kids, and the fans as well,” she says. That love was palpable in a heartfelt video of her son cheering ecstatically as Leroux scored her first goal post-injury last year.

“For me, I love the fact that my kids can watch me play and follow my dreams,” Leroux says. “They get to come and see me play in front of 22,000 people, and they think it’s so cool.”

But for Leroux, it’s also important to be honest about it being “impossible” to perfectly balance her career and motherhood. “I would just say, to give yourself grace and be present when you can,” she says. “And I don’t know, continue to laugh through things, we have a lot of laughter in our house because things can be so crazy, so yeah, do the best that you can.”

It’s been an exciting journey to grow both her own family and career – and to see how women’s soccer has become so popular. As she explains, “When we started the league like 13 years ago, we had 30 people in the stands, and we were playing at a high school. To see the growth of women’s soccer and women’s sports right now is unbelievable.”

Now, women’s soccer stars have a huge audience, on and off the field. Alongside teammate Ali Riley, the pair host the “BFFR Show,” a series of video blog episodes that are authentic, funny, and will make you laugh out loud.

It all comes back to keeping that positivity alive, whether she’s healthy or injured – and that’s what Leroux suggests for any aspiring athlete. “Find something that you’re passionate about. Continue to play, and love it,” she says. “Playing soccer for me is fun. As serious as it can get, it’s still so much fun.”

Jade Esmeralda, MS, CSCS, is a Staff Writer, Health & Fitness. A life-long martial artist and dancer, Jade has a strong passion for strength & conditioning, sports science, and human performance. She graduated with a Master of Science degree in Exercise Science and Strength and Conditioning from George Washington University.

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