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Chasing the Dream with USWNT athlete Lauren Crandall

Feb. 24, 2016, 2:10 p.m. (ET)

As part of our weekly Wednesday Chasing the Dream posts, we’ll be featuring a USWNT athlete up until the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

The ball is launched wildly upward, spinning dizzily out of control leaving her teammates’ mouths partially agape in awe and wonder if she’ll be able to repossess the pass. Out of nowhere, in her Team USA uniform, Lauren Crandall positions herself underneath the spiraling ball, to connect it with her foot; on purpose.

Oh, you haven’t heard?

Hacky sack is a USWNT pregame tradition carried on since Crandall’s induction onto the team in 2005. But Crandall isn’t just the captain of the hack crew. She also wears the highly regarded band around her shin guard for the U.S. Women’s National Field Hockey Team.

In her teenage years, moving from Pittsburgh back to Philadelphia with her family, Crandall’s friends introduced her to the sport of hockey. Her neighbor Colleen’s premonition in middle school regarding Crandall’s hockey career path stuck with her.  

“Our neighbor at the time said, ‘You’re going to get a scholarship someday. You’re going somewhere with field hockey. I’m telling you. You understand the game.’ And I’m like, what? I don’t get anything about this sport. I’m not even sure about the rules.”

Colleen kept repeating these votes of confidence from 8th grade to high school until Crandall did fulfill her fate of earning a scholarship and graduating college in 2007 as a Wake Forest University Field Hockey athlete.

“It’s crazy that she saw that in me,” said Crandall.

During the course of her hockey timeline, many people have seen something special in Crandall.

The Doylestown, Pa. native completed her four-year career as a Deacon with a pair of NCAA national championships in 2003 and 2004 before moving onto Team USA full-time. The USWNT defender and two-time Olympian captained the Team USA at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Staying busy off of the pitch in an effort to further her education, Crandall has also earned her graduate degree from the DeVry University Keller Graduate School of Management. She currently applies this degree as a Marketing Specialist for Ecore when she’s not on tour with Team USA. Aggressive and motivated in every facet of her life, Crandall keeps an air of humor with her.

“As I have gone further on in my career, I’ve moved farther back on the field,” said Crandall chuckled. “I don’t know what that really means, but the only position I haven’t played is goalie. And that’s the only place I have left to go to. That’s as far back as it takes me. I think I’ll stop before that happens.”

Crandall is many things to many different people.

To her young niece and nephews she is Aunt Lala. “You go bye-bye back to work. You go play hockey,” repeats Harrison, her nephew, every time she leaves for an event.  

To her old hockey friends she is a standout baker already creating five USWNT wedding cakes. She put her baking days on the back burner in order to focus on her nutrition plan going into Rio which caused surprise. “It’s like you’re canceling Christmas on us,” commented a friend.

To her teammates, she is a leader. She is the captain.
When Crandall was first named dual captain of the squad in 2011, it was a transition period. Kate Barber had been the captain and from this point, the team had always had a mono captain system.

At first, Crandall was focused on what it meant to be in the captain role, the on-field responsibilities, but not necessarily the leadership that went with it. In 2012, after she had captained the team at the 2011 Pan American Games, her mindset changed. She wanted to learn how she could better lead the squad.

“My teammates will tell you I’m a talker,” said Crandall. “Sometimes I talk too much. If there’s something that needs to get done, I just start talking because I want to get it done. But what I’ve learned in these last few years is that listening is a leadership quality and skill that could be a lot more useful than just talking. I’m trying to develop my listening so that I can understand my teammates’ wants and needs and make decisions as a team. My progression of that would be from a mono captain system to okay, I wear a captain’s band now but all that means is during the coin toss I guess heads or tails. We’re a squad of 23 people that decide things together and different people lead at different times. My job is to allow that to happen. As the technical captain of the team, I think that’s the best thing I can do.”

While guiding the team into the 2016 Olympic cycle, Crandall has big goals for Team USA.

“This time I don’t just want to go to the Olympics,” said Crandall. “I’ve been there two times. I want to make a statement at the Olympics. I want to medal. My focus is very process oriented on that.”

It’s a spot she hasn’t let herself think about mentally yet.   

“There are 16 Olympic roster spots and everyone is trying to win one of them,” said Crandall. “We train every single day, twice a day and I think it’s healthy to have competition for every one of those spots. For everyone to think, ‘I have to win my way onto that roster. I have to be better than I was yesterday’ makes us stronger as a whole.”

Whether wearing the captain’s band or not, she carries the kind of commitment and grit one looks to emulate to be the best pitch player possible.

Check next Wednesday for another USWNT Chasing the Dream post.

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