When Carli Lloyd completed her hat-trick in the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ Final after 16 minutes, it was not destiny. When she stood in front of the football world to collect her FIFA Women's World Player of the Year award, it was not fate; it all came from hard, unparalleled work.
Among the people she thanked in her victory speech was a name many would be forgiven for not knowing: James Galanis. His name may be unrecognisable, but his influence and mentorship with Lloyd is most important when trying to understand the No10’s charge to becoming one of the greats in the women’s game. FIFA.com sat down with the man from Melbourne’s suburbs to learn how he created a star.
FIFA.com: When did you start training and mentoring Carli Lloyd?
James Galanis: When Carli was 16 years old she was playing for a club called Medford Strikers. I happened to be working at the same club and with the goalkeeper in Carli’s team, and I watched Carli play for a couple of years. I saw a player with great skill and savviness without the ball, but she really didn’t have the right habits on the field – she worked hard when she felt like working hard. Her father approached me four years later while I was putting some training gear in my car. He said, “My daughter needs you.” I said, “Who’s your daughter?” He said, “Carli Lloyd.” I said, “I remember her from back in the day.” Her father then told me she was on the U-21 team and got cut and she was going to quit completely at the end of the college season, but it turned out someone got hurt, and she had been re-invited back in. He thought with my reputation I could reignite everything in her, because she had her mind set on quitting after her college season. Two weeks later, she gave me a call and we set up an evaluation.
How did you know she was going to become one of the best players on the planet at some stage?
I met her at the soccer field where she grew up playing and did a skill evaluation and discovered a player that had good skill but was obviously very unfit. I basically discovered a player that really didn’t know how a professional thinks. Based on what I remember from her off-the-ball movement, I knew she was skilled, and I knew that she had a street savvy. She knew what to do without the ball, and she was real crafty. I knew that if I could get her physically fit and fix her mind, teach her how a professional thinks, turn her into a fierce competitor, instil some discipline in her, I could have an amazing soccer player here.
What did you do specifically to guide her through that mental process?
I sat her down and explained that there were five pillars in order to be a champion player: Technical skills, tactical awareness, physical power, mental toughness and character. I told her she had the first two, but if we can grab her weaknesses and turn them into strengths, she could go on and be the best player in the world. I told her that back then and she didn’t believe me. In fact, nobody did, not even my wife believed me! She was a sponge, she was just looking for someone to guide her.
What convinced you, even when everyone was telling you that you were crazy, that she would become a star?
She was this athlete that was a sponge and willing to do anything. I explained the changes she needed to make in her personal life, and she made them right away. I told her it had to be her priority: forget about family, forget about friends, forget about boyfriend, forget about everything, they’ve got to come second. If you really want to do this, it’s got to be No1. She said, “I’m in.” We trained six hours a day, three hours in the morning, and three hours at night. Never once did she look disinterested or look like she was bored. She’d go home and prepare herself for the next day. I knew within a month she was buying into everything, and that’s what convinced me.