(Photo credit: Roscoe Myrick @shotboxer)
Rachel Corsie is a Scottish footballer from Aberdeen, Scotland. She has been playing for the Scotland national team since 2009 and in the NWSL since 2015, where she currently plays center back for Utah Royals FC. I had the privilege of interviewing Rachel while she was in Australia playing on loan for Canberra United of the W League.
In my interview with Rachel Corsie, a common thread emerged from her responses: friendship. And of course, friendship seems to hover like a cloud in the back of Rachel’s mind. “It has always been about being outdoors with some of my best friends,” she replies when I ask how she felt when she first started playing the sport. And it is friendship that we can thank for having Rachel as part of the sport. “I think I was 8 when one of my friends asked to come and play for his team.” Family played a role too, as her family’s love of sport and soccer surely helped Rachel gravitate toward the game.
For all of her talent, I was naturally curious what high school and university soccer looked like for Rachel. “I actually wasn’t allowed to play for the school team when I was growing up. It was a boys’ only team and so I only played for a club team growing up in school. That has changed and there are now better programs in place to support younger girls who play soccer back home,” Rachel says. University wasn’t that much different, at least in the beginning. “In the beginning of university, we didn’t have a women’s soccer program either, so I actually started one,” Rachel recalls. “By the time I left 4 years later, we were in the top division and went on to win the league the year after I left.”
Clearly, those obstacles she faced didn’t prevent Rachel from developing her talents. In fact, they may have fed into her personality traits and helped her push her to becoming the best she can be. “I am extremely competitive, sometimes too much for my own good. I love the challenge of trying to stop teams scoring and often playing against some of the opposition’s best players,” Rachel says. As a player that enjoys building relationships with the backline and working in partnership to get W’s on the board, defense is definitely Rachel’s main mentality on the pitch. This wasn’t always the case though. “I started as a centre midfielder when I was younger, which I think is probably common. Once I got to senior level, I was asked to fill in at training as a CB, when I was returning from an injury, and obviously did something right (or wrong depending how you look at it), as I have been there ever since.” Right or wrong, your teammates are surely happy to have you in the defensive third!
Soccer is clearly a deep passion of Rachel’s, but that doesn’t mean the process of getting to play professional was straightforward. “I almost needed a push into professional sport. I was 24 and had just qualified as a Chartered Accountant with Ernst & Young in Glasgow. The lead audit partner at the time, Jim Bishop, was a huge encouragement to me and had supported me through my three years at the firm, up to that point, as I tried to balance working, studying for my professional exams, and also playing for Glasgow City (Scottish Champions) and the Scotland Women’s National Team. Three full time engagements all at the same time!” If not for the support from Jim and her friends and family during this time, who knows if Rachel would still be playing the sport she loves.
For all the support she had, Rachel still had her reservations. “Probably my biggest fear was the uncertainty and the risk,” she says. “Being an accountant, making high risk decisions that came with contractual and financial instability was very much outside of my comfort zone.” Eventually the fears subsided but the realities of playing professionally, especially internationally, still weigh on her. “I miss my family and friends so much. I am very fortunate that so many of them are understanding of my lifestyle and that we mutually make the effort to keep in contact and share our lives across the world. A couple of my best friends have made it out to visit me in the US and to Australia too and that means more to me than I can ever express.”
(Photo credit: Roscoe Myrick @shotboxer)
For many, being away from family and the friends you grew up with is an almost impossible pill to swallow but being able to follow your passions and dreams…well that can make the difference. “I am so grateful I made the leap of faith,” says Rachel. “Being paid to play the game I fell in love with as a child is something that will forever be the greatest privilege. I also have been sure to make some incredible friends along the way and I am so grateful how so many of them have impacted my life in some positive way.”
I know many professional athletes and I often find myself curious about what is going on in their heads; maybe that’s because I’ve always looked up to pro athletes, not unlike many who have participated in athletics. I wonder how being a professional in their sport has influenced their thinking and perspective, and how they have grown from professional athletics. Naturally, I wanted to learn Rachel’s thoughts on what she’s learned from playing soccer professionally. “I think an important lesson for me has been to find humility in times of hardship or challenge,” she begins. “We go through difficult games, moments, seasons or whatever it may be, and often it can be too easy to become defensive or to deflect. I think as I have matured as a professional, I have also become far more considerate and open-minded. On my journey, I have met so many incredible individuals from all backgrounds and it has been a great opportunity for me to change some of my prejudices and preconceptions about a lot of things.”
Before we wrapped up, I asked Rachel how she felt when she donned Scotland’s colors compared to club colors. “Our country is renowned for its patriotism and Scottish pride, and to pull on that jersey is almost indescribable,” Rachel explains. “To be selected to represent your national team is a unique honor. I am so proud to be given the chance to play for my country and every opportunity really is as valuable and special as the first. To have also played a part in the growth and development of the game in my country and to experience it with some of my closest friends has truly been amazing.” I am not surprised when she mentions her friends yet again.
I learned a lot about Rachel from this short interview, but what I took away most was how important relationships are to this Scottish footballer. In a response about what has been so great about playing professionally, Rachel says, “It is exciting to think of all the fun vacations we will have travelling to see one another all around the world once my playing days come to an end.” I even asked about her college days and what she loved about them. Her response: “Definitely the social aspect of studying.” A message to Rachel’s friends and teammates: you are extremely appreciated and loved. And to all of the youth athletes reading this, Rachel has a message of her own for you: “Do your best to have fun, as when we are enjoying life it illuminates our achievements and brings even greater happiness into our lives and those around us. Always give yourself the chance to perform at your very best. And from every small decision to the biggest ones, try to make as many good ones as you possibly can.”
Follow Rachel Corsie and her Utah Royals FC teammates in the upcoming 2019 NWSL Season. Their first game, also a home game, will be April 20th and you can stream the match via the NWSL app and NWSLsoccer.com.