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(July 7, 2015) - Taking an inside look at the extra pressures of being a professional athlete, featuring Boston Breakers defender Lauren Lazo.

The Pressure’s On

Taking an inside look at the extra pressures of being a professional athlete

Featuring Boston Breakers defender Lauren Lazo

By Katie Ponce I July 7, 2015

Pressure takes on a whole new meaning in the professional world. As if performing on the field wasn’t stressful enough, professional athletes must also carry themselves in everyday life to be role models in society. To help articulate really what this looks like, I sat down with Boston Breakers rookie Laruen Lazo. Her transition from college soccer to the professional lifestyle has not been easy, but she has made it look easy with five appearances for the Breakers since joining the team, including their 1-0 victory over FC Kansas City.

Lazo, originally from Scottsdale, Ariz., signed with the Boston Breakers this season after finishing her college career at Princeton University. During her career at Princeton, Lazo was made first-team NSCAA All-Mid-Atlantic Region, second-team All-ECAC, and first-team All-Ivy League. From being a clear star at Princeton to making the transition to the Breakers, Lazo has definitely felt like she has had to relearn the ropes. When I asked her if she feels more pressure with being a rookie on the team than possibly some of the other girls, she said, “absolutely.”

Lauren Lazo defends against Seattle Reign FC's Beverly Yanez (Photo By Mike Gridley)

“I don’t think it is just me, [Suzane Pires] and [Stephanie Verdoia] are both rookies as well and we all feel the pressure even at practice,” Lazo said. “I think a lot of it is because our teammates hold us to a high standard. It’s not like college where you can get away with mistakes. Here everyone expects your best.”

Pressure of being the new person in town gets even tougher when you come in and quickly find yourself as a starter. Lazo missed the start of the season to finish up with her degree at Princeton. However, being late was no excuse; she still was instantly expected to be articulate with her decisions and would hear it from the coaches if her touch was even slightly off. Still, after signing with the Breakers, she became a starter in the defensive line.

“My first game in the back, I was beyond nervous, the most nervous I’ve ever been. It was a different feeling because I usually don’t get nervous,” she said. “I got through my first games on adrenaline. [Being a defender] was a new position for me, and (head coach) Tom (Durkin) expects [me] to defend well, but at the same time get forward and connect every pass.”

Adjusting into her new role has also changed off the field. Although she has noticed that she does not receive as much personal media attention as she is used to, Lazo has definitely noticed the increased fan attention for the team. Both on social media and at the games, the fan base is much larger than she is used to.

This attention from the job may not seem so bad, but comes with its difficulties. Every year, we hear about an athlete who hurts their image by some of the choices they make. Professional athletes are not just paid for what they do in their sport, but the role models they chose to be in everyday life. Soccer in America is still not in the limelight compared to sports like football or baseball. Minus Sunday’s epic victory over Japan to become World Champions, we hear even less about women in soccer.

Since female soccer players do not get the same attention in sports as men do, there is an extra job of being a part of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). As athletes, we have come a long way, and several women have assumed leadership roles in the public eye. This presence off the field is crucial for female athletes to continue to grow the support for the game. While performing as soccer players is the first priority, being a part of the NWSL does not assume automatic fame. The players of the NWSL are the brand and need to part of the movement to expand the knowledge about professional women’s soccer.

“Some people don’t even know about our games,” Lazo said. “We work hard; we are out here every day just like the men, but we do not have the same attention. The women’s game is a different game, and in order for it to excel we need to promote ourselves. It’s a dream come true to have a league and we have to be a part of the effort to make it stick.”

After the U.S. Women’s National Team’s win Sunday, the country is hooked on the 23 women who brought back the title. Much like the 1999 victory, the female soccer world hopes that this added excitement will bring fans around the country back to the NWSL. With the all the buzz around the game, players like Lauren Lazo feel the duty they have to keep these fans hooked. From appearances to summer camps, Lazo and the Breakers work full time to keep their fans engaged and coming back for more.

Although playing the game at this level and as a female brings extra stress, like Lazo said it’s a dream come true to be playing.  It wasn’t very long ago that the pressure of being a women’s professional soccer player wasn’t a known feeling. When you look at it that way, for this sport, the pressure is not a burden, but another reminder of how lucky these athletes are that they get to live their dreams. The humility of the girls makes them relatable and I find it commendable all that they do for this game. It’s no wonder their biggest fans are young players who hope to be like them some day.

Help support Lauren Lazo and the rest of the Boston Breakers by coming to a game. Learn more by following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Join the #BreakersFamily

Lauren Lazo signed as a discovery player on May 14, 2015

Follow on Twitter: @laurenlazo



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