Sam Mewis - USWNT
My name is Sam Mewis and I am a midfielder for the North Carolina Courage and the USWNT. I grew up in Boston, MA, with an older sister who also plays professional soccer in the NWSL. I split my time between Raleigh and Boston and I love both places.
Who is in the photos? Where were the photos taken?
The photos were taking during the first part of the USWNT camp Send-Off Series before the World Cup. The team was training in San Jose. The pictures are mostly of my closest friends and me – Abby (Dahlkemper), (Emily) Sonnett, and Rose (Lavelle).
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning with any of the photos?
I think that one of the themes of my photos is showing that our lives are not super-glamorous all the time. I think that the USWNT can sometimes give off this notion that everything we do is super polished, but it really isn’t! We do have access to so many resources and are certainly are in one of the most professional environments that I can imagine - but I tried to show some of the more realistic parts of our lives. The bathrooms (not glamorous), the ice bath (cold as F), the bus (constantly traveling), Facetiming my husband (a lot of us are in long-distance relationships).
Some aspects of being a professional soccer player are really hard, while others are amazing and so much fun. It’s a privilege but also requires balance. I also think I showed how much fun it is that we get to hang out with our friends all the time. I feel so fortunate that my job is something where I get to do what I love with people I love. I really feel like my pictures demonstrate just how much fun we get to have with each other. The girls on the team are truly my closest friends and the time we spend together is never boring.
What is your favourite photo? Why?
My favorite photo is the one of Sonnett and Abby laughing and being goofy together. Abby is one of my oldest friends - we’ve being playing together all through our careers starting at UCLA. Sonnett is one of my closest friends - we were alternates at the Olympics together and it bonded us in a way that is really unique and important to me. Seeing Sonnett and Abby become close friends over the past couple of years has made me really happy because I love them both so much. They both have been so important to me and I love that they have become close friends and can share goofy, authentic moments like the one captured.
Are there any good stories connected with the people you photographed?
Something that has been particularly cool about this journey to the World Cup is becoming friends with Alex (Morgan). Alex is like an ACTUAL celebrity. She’s truly an icon of our sport and yet is such a normal person. I have truly enjoyed getting to know her and it’s been so much fun to realize that we can make fun of her and joke around with her! I think that coming onto the team as a young newbie, you see all the veterans and these famous players and you act so meek and quiet at first with them. But after a while it’s like, “these people are my teammates and I’m just going to be myself and treat them normal”.
Once you are able to break down that wall that you see as separating you from them, it really brings the team so much closer, because everyone is truly friends with each other and can just be themselves. So I feel like this picture captured this idea that Rose and I have developed a relationship with Alex that is more than just teammates. She’s become our friend and we share so many little moments with her, like taking ice baths and suffering through the cold. I have so much respect for the veterans on the team, like Alex, and even more respect for the way they have accepted the new players and crafted real relationships with us.
What are the biggest changes happening at the moment in women's football?
I think we’re in this really crucial time right now for women’s soccer where it’s not just the players who are supportive of creating change. I think that the world is starting to pay attention and listen. There is so much happening politically that the movement to create equal opportunity for everyone, everywhere, goes so much further than just sport. My hope is that we will continue to see companies and federations start to support their women as they support their men, whether that be financially or otherwise. I love that I’m seeing more of women’s football in the media and in ad campaigns and I think it speaks volumes to the potential of the game that big companies are seeing us as a good investment.
What has been your football journey up until now?
I started playing soccer in kindergarten where I quickly realized that I loved it so much I wanted to be the best. I trained all the time at home and on my own and so my parents put me in club soccer. That extra challenge made me even more committed to get really good. I remember watching the '99 Women’s World Cup and thinking, “I’m going to play for that team someday.” I played club soccer for Scorpions with the same group of girls from U9-U19. We are still all really close friends to this day. I played high school soccer as well, at Whitman-Hanson High School, my hometown public school. I had so much fun playing with my friends and I really think that experience contributed to how much fun I have while I play.
I went to three youth World Cups - U17 in 2008 in New Zealand, U20 in 2010 in Germany, and another U20 in 2012 in Japan. We won in 2012. I went to UCLA where we won a National Championship in 2013, and then I was drafted to WNY Flash in 2015. We won the NWSL in 2016, the same year I was an alternate at the Olympics - before the team was sold and became the North Carolina Courage. Since we’ve been in North Carolina, we have won the shield in 2017 and 2018 and won the league championship in 2018. My time with the Courage has been unbelievable - I have one of the best coaches ever in Paul Riley and have learned so much about the game.
What does football mean to you? Do you have a message for the next generation of young female footballers
Football, to me, is joy. My purest moments of happiness have come from my football. There is something about the opportunity to get better every day, about the possibility and the hope of winning, about sharing myself and my passion with my friends and teammates that brings me more joy than anything else in the world. To young female footballers, I would advise them to cultivate their joy in the game. Have an attitude where you enjoy the hard work, you enjoy the time spent playing and your game will develop so much faster than if you just go through the motions.
What are the opportunities for female footballers in the USA?
The opportunities for female footballers in the USA are good and continuing to grow. I think that college soccer provides an important platform to select players for the NWSL, which is a growing league. I want to keep pushing for the NWSL to grow and improve, but I feel that it is an awesome league with a lot of world-class players. Financially, I think that we can make playing professional soccer an even more lucrative career and my hope is that we can accomplish that by continuing to grow the game.
What is the future for US women's football?
The future is bright! When I think about the women who are leading the charge in the fight for equality and the growth of the women’s game, I feel so confident that our future is in good hands.
What do you expect to change after the 2019 WWC?
I hope that after the 2019 WWC there are more fans of the game. I hope that the World Cup helps women’s leagues all over the world grow and attract more fans. I hope that the World Cup inspires young girls to want to play professionally and for their countries. I hope that people who have the means to contribute to the game on a global scale feel that women’s football would be a good investment. I hope we see equality in many countries, leagues, companies, and federations.