2016 in Review: Christie Rampone

There is only one Captain America in my eyes, and here is my profile on her for MyWSports

Women’s History Wednesday Profile: Christie Pearce Rampone

July 20, 2016|Erica Ayala

Christie Pearce Rampone is a consummate professional who has bounced back from injury and two pregnancies to win two World Cup Championships, four Olympic medals and a Women’s Pro Soccer (WPS) Championship. Now in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), the Sky Blue FC captain reflected on her nineteen-year career with MyWSports.

 Rampone, known affectionately by her teammates as either “Ma” or “Pearcie”, grew up playing multiple sports in her hometown of Point Pleasant, New Jersey. She remained in New Jersey for college, playing basketball, field hockey and soccer at Monmouth University.  In basketball, Christie Pearce is the all-time leader in steals per game (10), 3rd in steals per season (88) and 7th in career assists (334).  Christie also holds multiple program records in soccer.  The walk-on forward made an impression on the Monmouth record books. Christie is tied for 1st in goals per game (4) and ranked 1st in goals per season (29).  She also remains the career record holder in goals (79), assists (84) and points (312).

Rampone switched to a defender when she was called up to the US Women’s National team in 1997.  Her experience as a young defender likely contributed to her success.

In an interview with SoccerTimes, a young Pearce discussed her switch, “Growing up, playing forward I had a great time, but now, being a defender, it’s such a challenge. Look, I get to go against Mia (Hamm), Kristine Lilly and Tiffeny Milbrett every day at practice. It’s awesome.”

Staying Power

When a new coach comes along, roster changes are likely.  Players who were the go-to for one coach’s system might find themselves utilized less frequently, or not at all.  Rampone has experienced six different coaches in her career with the national team.  So, how has she earned her starting spot through all the transition? Through confidence and hard work.

However, Rampone did not always have the confidence, nor the work ethic she has today.  Rampone was gifted with a natural athletic talent.  Her parents were athletes and Rampone often cites “good genes” as a key to her longevity and success in soccer.  However, despite playing multiple sports throughout college, it wasn’t until her first national team camp that Christie really settled into soccer. “After that January 1997 camp, when I realized I had the talent, I just needed the confidence and ability to do it … that’s when I chose soccer.”  Christie retired from all other sports and began her journey as a professional soccer player. That’s when the hard work really began.

 Rampone experienced her first setback in 2001 while playing for the New York Power in the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA).  “I apparently was known for my speed, agility and quickness and the ACL (injury) takes that away.  Rampone thought her career was finished.  However, through her recovery, Rampone learned to refine her natural talents, “with an injury, you have to push past that comfort zone. When I realized I could do that and I could get fitter, I realized … how much of the game I was missing, because I wasn’t physically fit enough at that time to play 90 minutes.”  Recovery enabled Rampone to think differently about what she was capable of, physically.  Rampone recovered and went on to play in the WUSA and with the national team in 2002.

Captain America

Rampone was named a captain for the National Team in 2008.  Then head coach, Pia Sundhage, remarked in the US Soccer announcement, “Christie has great experience on this team and has the respect of every player for what she has accomplished and how she conducts herself on and off the field … (she) has a great feel for how to be a leader and a teacher. I think it is a great choice for our team.”  Rampone took over duties from Kristine Lilly, who stepped away from the team to have a baby. Lilly announced her retirement January 2011 with 354 appearances for the National Team.  At the time, many questioned if there would ever be another player to reach 300 caps for the USWNT.  Three years later, Rampone reached her 300th appearance on October 24th, 2014 against Mexico.  With a 3-0 victory in the 2014 CONCACAF semifinal match, Rampone captained the USWNT on the night they qualified for the World Cup; Rampone’s fifth and final. Christie was on the pitch and wearing the captain’s armband as the United States won its first World Cup since “Pearcie” and the ‘99ers did it sixteen years prior.  Rampone served as captain of the US Women’s National Team for eight years.

However, Rampone considered herself quiet and shy growing up.  Being a vocal leader is something she had to grow comfortable with.  Additionally, and in true Christie Rampone fashion, she challenged her personal boundaries and learned to become more vocal. In doing so, she became a wiser, more confident player.  “I was a quiet, shy person growing up, not ever thinking I would be in that leadership role,” shared Rampone, “even though I had the characteristics of being a (leader), the voice was the last piece.”  Christie is thankful she was given the opportunity to serve as captain.

From earning the respect of her coach and her teammates, to being forced to think less selfishly about the game, being a vocal leader elevated Rampone’s game, “I got to see and think the game at a higher level – not just thinking about myself.  I was thinking about the people in front of me, next to me and behind me, and how to make them better.”

The Ultimate Soccer Mom

Christie Rampone led Sky Blue FC to its first and only national title in 2009.  In the inaugural WPS season, Sky Blue made the playoffs, but found themselves without a coach. “It was a fun year.  We went through (laughs) so much as a team. So when I took over I (tried to make it) like we were kids again.”  Rampone admittedly struggled with things she was not used to being in control over, like film editing and other logistics.

 Overall though, Rampone tried to enjoy the ride, “it was just a fun road, going from that fourth place, all the way to winning it.”  After the trophy was secure, Rampone announced that she was already three months pregnant with her second daughter, cementing her reputation as the ultimate soccer mom.

Since first becoming parents in 2005, Christie and her husband Chris have integrated family life with the arduous schedule of an athlete. “I’m on the road more than 200 days a year and I think people see that I’m a professional athlete and assume I must have a nanny. Nope, my husband and I just take the family show on the road. These girls have more passport stamps than most adults, and 20 or more “aunties” who love them to pieces,” penned Rampone for The Players’ Tribune.

MyWSports asked what she hopes her daughters, Rylie and Reece, will gain from the proximity to her career.  Her answer, confidence.  Her daughters have seen the ups and downs of the careers of their mother and her teammates. Rampone hopes her daughters will be able to navigate through life, knowing that things will be unfair at times. Despite that, she wants her daughters to stay motivated. “I think that they’ve gotten so many life lessons along the way, but the most important is being a confident, strong woman.”

 Professor Rampone

Any coach or teammate of Christie’s will tell you she never stops learning and improving, thus making those around her even more confident and skilled as well. Head Coach of Sky Blue FC, Christy Holly, noted, “A comfortable player doesn’t get better, and that’s why (Rampone) gets better every single day.”  Additionally, Holly attributed Christie’s success to her humility, “she doesn’t spend the whole time thinking about herself.  She’s thinking how she can push someone else, and while she’s doing that, she’s pushing herself.”

 In turn, Holly is thankful to have her knowledge as a resource.  He notes that having a player like Rampone actually makes his job easier. “There’s good communication … I can easily come to her and she can easily come to me,” said Holly, “at the same time, she’ll come and ask questions about, what can be better. I’m very fortunate to have someone of her caliber and her experience beside me.” In his first season as head coach, he also hopes to be the second “Christy” to coach Sky Blue to a title (this time in the NWSL).

Teammates past and present also know how valuable a teammate like Christie Rampone is.  MyWSports caught up with fellow Jersey Girls Heather O’Reilly and Erica Skroski, who shared their thoughts about playing with Rampone.

Rookie defender, Erica Skroski discussed playing on a backline with Rampone for Sky Blue, “My friends in the league ask me, ‘What is it like to play next to Christie Rampone?’ I say it’s awesome!”  Skroski is taking advantage of playing with someone she, and many others, consider an idol.  From how to read the game, to how to be a professional off the field, Skroski is soaking it all in, “She’s just so hard-working and dedicated to the game … she’s making me a better player every minute that I play with her.”

 A veteran in her own right, O’Reilly’s first response to the name Christie Rampone was, “Legend!”  With a huge smile, she continued, “fond memories of 2009, (Rampone) is a wonderful teammate and captain.” O’Reilly has won a WPS title, 3 Olympic gold medals and a World Cup Championship with Rampone. “I have a ton of respect for Pearcie, as I call her … it’s been an absolute honor to play with her on the National Team, and in our time (in New Jersey) at the club level as well.”

We asked Heather to describe an aspect of Rampone’s game that is overlooked, “I think everyone thinks she’s very fast, but I think she reads the game (very) well.  She makes plays look easy, when they aren’t easy.”

An Ever-Growing Legacy

When asked what she hopes fans and players will say about her style of play, Rampone stated, “that I give 100% every time I step out on the field, and try to be as consistent as possible.  That I try to make everyone around me better by making (the game) look simple.”

 Although fans and sports media want to know when Rampone will hang up her boots for good, Christie herself seems less interested in the ceremony behind such things.  Admittedly, as a writer and a follower of her career, I initially found this hard to accept.  I found it hard to imagine a player like Rampone walking off the field as if her last game were the same as any other.

Despite how real the desire to see off our heroes may be, what is equally true is, while those moments allow us to celebrate the accolades, they may gloss over the sacrifices.  The time traveling, training, recovering and ultimately, the time away from family, friends, and the life that awaits after a career.

Perhaps the most sincere form of acknowledgement is to allow one to step away on her own terms.  Christie Rampone has given more than most to women’s soccer.  Her resume speaks for itself, so perhaps Christie knows there is not much else for her to say, or do.  Perhaps, that is okay.

Earlier this year, Rampone was inducted to the New Jersey Hall of Fame.  In her remarks to the audience, Rampone ended her speech by stating, “For now, my career will end like it started, here in New Jersey.  I’m lucky enough to be playing for Sky Blue FC one last time this summer.”

Catch Rampone in action this weekend as Sky Blue FC takes on the Washington Spirit.  Tickets can be purchased at Sky Blue FC.com

Leave a Reply