Wednesday, October 20

Trinity Rodman: ‘My mother wasn’t in the NBA, but she’s my role model’ | NWSL

Trinity Rodman is a rarity in soccer.

Almost all American women her age take a well-traveled path: They play soccer in college and then, after graduation, join the National Women’s Soccer League through the draft or sign in Europe.

But at 18, before playing a single minute of college football, Rodman felt it was time to turn pro.

After being told that he couldn’t sign with NWSL clubs until he first went through the college draft, he enrolled at the University of Washington, but left quickly because Covid pushed back the sports schedule. She became the youngest player ever drafted in January when the Washington Spirit selected her No. 2 overall.

“My mind was already there before I went to college, but then as soon as I got there, I realized that I could be pushed to a higher level,” Rodman tells The Guardian. “Why wouldn’t you want to take the opportunity to improve on what you would have done in college?”

As if Rodman’s record decision wasn’t flashy enough, she is also the daughter of former Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman, a fact that has followed her throughout her young career. But all it takes is watching her on the field to see why she’s more than just a “Dennis Rodman daughter” and has earned her place as a rising talent.

Being the youngest player drafted into the NWSL comes with a certain level of pressure and expectations, but also Rodman’s last name.

In almost every interview she’s done since the Spirit recruited her, Rodman has been asked about her famous father, but he’s not new and “has definitely been a thing my whole life,” she says. Now that he has turned professional, instead of his friends constantly asking him about his father, it is journalists.

If it bothers her, and who could blame her, she never lets it go. “He’s my dad at the end of the day and I don’t think he’s going to go away so I just answer the questions and then move on.”

As for growing up like Rodman, he says, “You could say it set me more on fire than knocking me down. I was more in the mindset of, instead of saying, ‘Oh, this is annoying, I don’t even have a name,’ I was more like, ‘Oh, I’ll show these people that I’m an individual and me. I’m going to develop in football like he did in basketball, ‘so I think I’m more motivated by that ”.

While some people are obsessed with his connection to the greatness of basketball, Rodman quickly and organically gravitated toward soccer, the sport that became his safe haven.

She tried basketball, of course, but she was more influenced by her older brother DJ than anyone else. As far as she knows, her father never tried soccer, but her brother did and did not like to play with his feet. “It was fun because I really wanted [DJ] that I liked soccer like he wanted me to like basketball, but we were both like, ‘No, this is not going to work,’ ”he laughs. DJ now plays basketball at the University of Washington.

Her mother, Michelle Rodman, who primarily raised Trinity and JD as a single mother after her divorce from Dennis, said she always knew that her daughter was cut out to be a professional soccer player.

“In elementary school, I’ll never forget it, she was so intense and serious about the game,” Michelle tells The Guardian over the phone. “She would pull away and just cry, like, ‘Why doesn’t anyone else try?’ She just ran back and forth across that field, like she still does today, because she was used to no one else trying. “

That competitiveness isn’t something Rodman attributes to his father either, with five NBA championships or not. When The Guardian asks Rodman if there is a question that no reporter has asked that they should, she does not hesitate:

“Having a father like me, no one asks about my mother because obviously she is not an NBA star, but I just want people to know that my mother has been my support system in everything in life and that she is my best friend. and my stone “. Rodman said. “I don’t think people know how close we are and even though she wasn’t in the NBA, she has an extremely competitive and driven mindset, and she’s an extremely strong woman. She is my role model. “

Michelle has certainly raised two excellent athletes. Although last year’s U-20 World Cup was canceled due to Covid, Trinity, a 5-foot-10 forward, scored eight goals and assisted in six during the qualifying tournament, making her one of the most productive players on the team. . Spirit’s head coach Richie Burke calls her “a tremendous talent” and has praised her ability to cope with the new demands of being a professional.

To that end, the Spirits have tried to learn from their experience with Mallory Pugh, the USWNT star who had a trajectory similar to that of a teenager, and have tried to insulate Rodman from outside pressures. Pugh never fully settled with Washington and has since been traded twice while losing her spot in the USWNT, but the Sprits have high hopes for Rodman’s future, and signed her to a three-year deal.

As media requests have reached Rodman, a Southern California native, the club has tried to keep up with her, slowly distributing them. The Spirit has also asked former USWNT goalkeeper and hall of fame member Briana Scurry to guide her. In her club-provided accommodation, Rodman has been assigned a room with Devon Kerr, a doorman four years her senior who has given her valuable advice, and the two have become friends fast.

It’s been an adjustment for Rodman, but with career ambitions that include one day playing for the senior team, the 19-year-old is trying not to waste time. Spirit’s NWSL Challenge Cup opener is April 10 against NWSL, the North Carolina Courage powerhouse.

“I’ve learned a lot in the short time I’ve been here and personally, for me, these weeks have seemed like days,” says Rodman of his preseason with the Spirit. “It is happening very fast and I just want to learn more and more. So much information is being thrown at me and every player is amazing and willing to help me improve. “

Rodman’s selection scene during the 2021 NWSL draft was memorable. Rodman, approaching remotely from a room full of balloons, smiles at his laptop camera as his mother jumps into the frame, shaking her fists and wearing a custom hat with “TEAM TRIN” stamped across the front.

Rodman and the Spirit hit base for the first time by chance, he says, before the talks took a more serious turn before the draft. By the time draft day rolled around, Rodman and his mother had their hearts fully set on Washington but, as is often the case, rumors surfaced that teams were trading better draft picks, which could have altered the draft strategy of each team. Once the Spirit chose Rodman as number 2, it was a relief.

“At the time, we really weren’t sure, there was talk on the air that she might as well be number one,” says her mother. “We were nervous about it because she expected to be No. 2 with Washington, so it was a bit chaotic and surreal.”

Now that Rodman is there, he has been working to expand his repertoire.

Rodman, already known as a direct hitting threat, wants creativity to be seen as a more important part of his game. She admires Tobin Heath, known to fans as “the nutmeg queen” for her flashy playing style, and Christen Press, once an objective striker who has turned into a cunning broad threat.

“I want to be funky with the ball and do weird tricks and be deceptive,” says Rodman. “I want people to be able to see Trinity Rodman as being unpredictable with the ball and that they will never know what he’s going to do.”

She hopes to win trophies with the Spirit and earn her first call-up to the senior USWNT, of course. But his personal goals this season, his professional debut, are more practical.

“The biggest goal for me is to work on myself and have a driven mindset to move forward,” she says. “I want to go faster. I want to get stronger. I want to be smarter. I want to be more skilled in the field.

If he can do that wait, it’ll just be Trinity Rodman, period.

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