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 latte gulping, briefcase carrying, pencil pushing average American holds the same job for 4.4 years, according to Forbes. Outlier Katelyn Falgowski has been clocking into the same office for 11 years. Ignoring the traditional routine of tailored blazers and data laden Excel sheets, Falgowski is a different business-minded breed. As a member of the USWNT since 2005 and a two-time Olympian, she can’t afford to be the same. As the game grows with rule changes, popularity, new program location and competition, Falgowski adapts. Her constant is change.
A prime example of such adaption came in her early teenage years. As the youngest player to be named to the U.S. U-20 Women's National Team at the age of 14, coaches spotted something special in her pitch-side talents. Playing amongst athletes in college could easily bring about nerves, but Falgowski wasn’t fazed by understandable, adolescent fears.
“I never realized at the time that it was a big deal,” said Falgowski. “I was just going out there playing, enjoying it and having fun. A big compliment was that the girls made me feel like I belonged, so I give credit to them all for letting me fit in. It never occurred to be that I shouldn’t be there or shouldn’t belong. Going into something without having fear and not doubting yourself helps.”
She brought this air of confidence with her to the University of North Carolina. As a proud and successful Tar Heel she racked up such honors as finishing her career as UNC's all-time leader in assists, National Player of the Year by the National Field Hockey Coaches Association and named first-team All-America, the fourth All-America honor of her career. After she retired from her collegiate career, so did her jersey number, 23.
“Something about being a Tar Heel will change your life forever,” said Falgowski. “No matter how long you’re away, whenever you go back it feels like home.”
Her years on the national team haven’t been a flat-line story. It came with peaks and valleys. Through the lulls and harder moments regarding injuries, her tank never ran empty. One of the hardest obstacles to come back from was a concussion she suffered from a debilitating concussion in 2010. Struggling because she physically couldn’t see the results, it is all was based off of how she felt. Falgowski is not new to bouncing back. With a successful knee surgery in 2011 paired with an aggressive rehab schedule, midfielder Falgowski was back on the turf preparing for the London 2012 Olympic Games in April.
Falgowski advises anyone going through an athletic related injury to carry a specific attitude.
“You need to be fearless about it,” said Falgowski. “You don’t know what will happen but if you don’t do anything, nothing will happen. Challenge yourself to take the first step. Injury isn’t a fun thing but it doesn’t have to define who you are.”
Perhaps her perseverance tabled with her talent have attracted such a dedicated fan group. These Falgo followers can be spotted in the bleachers wearing branded gear that represents number 23. The brand Falgo23 came to fruition through her sister Kerry’s push. As much as the community looks to support Falgowski, she looks to support Lancaster. Active with Nook Field Hockey as the technical director of Nook the Academy, she fully embraces the local athletes.
“We are in the heart of hockey, it’s awesome for these girls to have Team USA in their backyard as role models and for hopefully one day be out there themselves,” said Falgowski.
The youngest collegiate athlete on the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games roster and 2012 Olympian acts as a veteran leader on Team USA, but a certain athlete-generated culture demands everyone to hold each other accountable no matter the day or event.
"It’s not just every 4 years, it’s every day," said Falgowski. "For how hard we train, the mentality is to give it your all, all the time and that will be no different today or tomorrow or the first game of the Olympics."
So yes, it has been 11 long and rewarding years spent on the national team, but there hasn’t been any internal grappling or lingering questions. When you know, you know. And Falgowski wholeheartedly believes athletes know when they’re not done playing, when there’s more to give.
“You want to be out there with your family, your teammates, and to play for your family, friends and everyone supporting you,” said Falgowski. “I play for the next generation of girls who will take my spot when I am finished. You play for the love of the sport because you can keep going.”
With more than 200 international caps to her name, Olympic Games experience most only dream of, Falgowski isn’t ready to punch out. There’s business to attend to in Rio de Janeiro.
Check usafieldhockey.com next Wednesday for another USWNT Chasing the Dream post.
**Be sure to visit Teamzila's Chasing the Dream campaign apparel and souvenir book by clicking here.**