Rachel Buehler, '07, was captain of the Cardinal women's soccer team (for three years!). Recently she became the 12th woman to be named co-captain of U.S. women's soccer. She talks about sports, Stanford and her future. Excerpts:
What do you do as co-captain?
Christie Rampone is the other captain. She's very experienced. A lot of what I do is kind of help her. Part of the reason I got chosen to be captain is I'm a younger player. The national team has a range of ages. We have one girl in college that's in our pool of players; we have Kristine Lilly, who's 39 and a mom. A few of the women on the team [including Rampone] have kids, and several of them are in their mid-30s.
How many people are on the team?
There's a pool of players. That pool probably ranges from like 25, 30 players, that get brought into training camps pretty often. For tournaments, there are usually 18 to 20 people who compete.
How do you divide responsibilities?
We work together on pretty much everything. And we work really closely with our coaches and general manager. It could be as simple as a training schedule. We're kind of a voice for the players. The coaches come to us with an idea or problem. We get a feel for what the players want. Christie already has an idea of what the older players want and need. I'm so young, and I've only been on the team since 2008.
What's the peak age for soccer?
They say late 20s or early 30s is when you're at your peak. There's a lot of experience that goes into it. Defense is very nuanced--and attacker, but I'm a defender, so I'm partial. It's an endurance sport. They actually say in endurance sports, people tend to peak a little later. Who really knows.
Do you feel like you keep getting better?
I do. I do keep working really hard. The older I get, the more repetitions I get of hitting a certain type of ball. I've been working on hitting a long ball with my left foot to a forward or an outside.
What's your job like?
There's a woman's professional soccer league in the United States now. All of us play on the national team and on a professional team. We have two seasons almost. From March until September, we're primarily with our professional team. This year I think we played 24 games--basically one a week, sometimes two a week.
Then what happens in September?
It becomes all national team season. That's from October to February. It gets very complicated. Then in a World Cup year or an Olympic year, we're not really with our professional teams very much because we're preparing. We really don't have a professional season.
Where do you officially live?
I kind of split the year. During the professional season, at least this year, which is a non- World Cup or Olympic year, I'll live up here--right now in the East Bay. I train with Gold Pride. This year we're based at Cal State East Bay in Hayward. Last year we were in Santa Clara. I have an apartment with one of my teammates. Once this season's over, I usually move home, which is San Diego, to my parents or my boyfriend. They're both in San Diego.
Is your boyfriend a soccer player, too?
He's not a soccer player. I met him at Stanford. He was visiting one of our mutual friends. He's on the business end of construction.
What other Stanford players are on Gold Pride?
We have a lot of good Stanford representation. It's me, our goalie Nicole ["Barnie"] Barnhart ['04], Ali Riley ['10], one of our other defenders, and then Kelley O'Hara ['10].
Are Stanford players on the U.S. national team, too?
Barnie and I are pretty regular. Kelley O'Hara has been brought in with us, too.
What does a defender do?
Basically my job is to try to prevent the forwards and other players from getting goals. We kind of play with a zonal defense. When somebody comes into my area of the field, I do everything I can to get the ball away from them. As a defender, I'm known as a strong tackler. I'm tackling the ball, not the person!
Could you become like swimmer Dara Torres, who earned a place on the U.S. Olympic team at age 41?
I'm 25. It's hard to say. The lifestyle we lead--there's a ton of traveling. For the pro team, I'm traveling back and forth across the country. For the national team, I'm gone for two or three weeks, or I'll be home for five days and then have to go to Norway. I'm not sure when I have a family what I'll want to do. I kind of take it one year at a time.
Is the 2012 Olympics your goal?
The World Cup is next year in 2011, and the Olympics is 2012. Those are my immediate goals. I try to go with the flow. It's hard to plan. I did not think this was going to be happening to me. I thought I was going to be in med school right after college!
Did you go to see the World Cup in person?
No, no. We were in season here. That would have been cool, though. I watched it on TV!
Do you work out with the men's team and know them?
We cross paths occasionally. We're often not at the national training center at the same time. We play out of Los Angeles. The Home Depot Center is our main home base. That's theirs as well.
Do you have a corporate sponsor?
On the professional team, Amway is one of our sponsors. We don't have a ton, but we're trying to get that to grow. The U.S. national team, Nike is obviously a huge sponsor for us, and Gatorade.
You majored in human biology. Are you still planning to go to med school?
I think so. The question is, when will it all happen? It's hard for me to plan out my life. I think I want to enjoy soccer.
What kind of doctor would you like to be?
I'm not sure exactly. I have a lot of experience with athletes. Orthopedics is appealing. I've had both my knees repaired, my ACL's repaired. My dad's a heart surgeon. I don't know that I want to do that. It's very stressful. I like working with old people a lot. I've done a lot of volunteering with the elderly.
What about all your awards?
The NCAA Top Eight award--that was cool. I was chosen from among thousands and thousands of NCAA athletes. There are eight of us who were chosen for our academics, leadership and community service, as well as athletic achievements. I cared a lot about all those aspects while I was in college. It wasn't for me just about soccer. It kind of reflected all those things I cared about.
How was your redshirt year as a junior in 2006?
I redshirted because I was competing in a youth World Cup for the under-19 national team. Our tournament was right smack in the middle of our college season. My coach and I just decided it would be better if I redshirted. I only stayed one extra quarter because soccer is a fall sport. It was really nice.
Was it tricky juggling away games with academics?
It was tricky. I also had youth national team commitments. During college, I played on the under-19 and under-21 youth national teams pretty consistently throughout. Not only did I have my Stanford soccer commitments, but I also had all these youth national team commitments throughout my college. I'd have to figure out how I was going to take my tests. I took a ton of tests on the road. I was constantly getting notes from friends, and I had really good communication with my TA's and professors. I had to be really proactive and organized. Stanford was, for the most part, really supportive. Everyone at Stanford's nice. They're the nicest people in the world.
So, how were the 2008 Olympics?
It was amazing. At that point, I'd just kind of been brought into the national team leading up to those Olympics. For me, it was a dream because I did not expect to be there. It was a sudden change in my life path. I wasn't a starter, but I played in two games, so that was really special for me as well.
Are you still active in Stanford athletics?
I don't have a lot of time, but I'm as supportive as possible. I got so much from soccer and academics. I'm in really close contact with my old team and my coach. I come out when I can and try to talk to the girls.
Would you want to be a coach, or a doctor or both?
I wouldn't rule out anything. It would be really cool to help people in a coaching manner as well. I really want to help people in my career. Coaching, too, is appealing. I think I'm still leaning toward doctor.
Would you like to go to Stanford Medical School?
Do you want to have kids and send them to Stanford?
Oh, yeah, of course! My dad went to Stanford. He never put any pressure or anything. He was very much, "Just go wherever you want and enjoy yourself." If we were in the Bay Area, we'd stop by the Stanford campus.
What do you think was most special about Stanford?
For me, it was just the combination of everything--the athletics, the academics, the community. I one time described Stanford as a bubble of niceness!
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