(NEW YORK) — This year, U.S. Women’s Soccer star and Olympian Julie Ertz announced her retirement from the sport after over a decade of professional play.
Ertz, 31, who was on the 2015 and 2019 championship Women’s World Cup team, said she was taking time to focus on her family, which includes her 1-year-old son Madden.
Ertz spoke with GMA3’s Eva Pilgrim about her career and what’s next for her.
GMA3: So let’s go back to the very beginning. Why soccer?
JULIE ERTZ: Soccer just embodied who I was and what I wanted to be. Luckily, I was able to go to an incredible college and I got to be on the youth national team. Once we won the Under 20 World Cup, I was like, I don’t want to do anything else but this for my life.
GMA3: You’ve had a lot of life happen while you were playing soccer. You got married, [and] you have a baby. Your name was different in the beginning than it is now.
ERTZ: I feel like I was so lucky to have soccer as an outlet, really, because I think it allowed me to learn so much on and off the field and share that with my family. It really is cool how sports can unify people and be an outlet and bring so much emotion and it’s just all because of a sport.
GMA3: I have to ask you about the  World Cup because there was a lot of discussion about the U.S. women’s team there. There was criticism of how you all played. How did you feel about that criticism?
ERTZ: I mean, tough. Obviously, we didn’t have the greatest of outcomes at all during this year. I think it’s one of those common sayings, effort’s going to beat talent. And [it’s] not that we didn’t have effort in there, [it’s] just we didn’t put a performance on to win the game.
And at the end of the day, if you don’t score goals, you don’t win games, and we know that better than anybody else. And so the game is about scoring more goals and we didn’t do that.
GMA3: I think personally about what I was doing eight months after I had my child and it was not playing at a professional soccer game.
ERTZ: I didn’t know if I was going to get back. I’m not going to lie, I am just as confused as you are. I feel like the saying is “It takes a village to raise a child.” I guess it also takes a village and a lot of support to get back pretty quickly after pregnancy.
Because I got home and was like, I don’t know what just happened. I got home, I looked at my husband, [and] I’m like, I don’t know what I just did.
GMA3: At what point did you decide you were going to retire?
ERTZ: It was pretty shortly after. I think just understanding kind of the craziness that the year was and navigating being a first-time mom.
Sacrificing time was probably the biggest one for me. Just realizing [that] I have to drop off Madden and leave, it’s like, man, I don’t want to miss any of his firsts.
Don’t get me wrong, I love playing, but, obviously spending time with my family, there’s just nothing like it. And so I think that was just like a moment for me of like, I can’t balance enough of what I want to do.
GMA3: You said when you retired, “Mama can still play.”
ERTZ: I did say that. People seem to really like that one.
GMA3: Also lots of people were saying you were playing some of the best soccer they’ve seen you play in your whole career.
ERTZ: To be able to choose yourself like this is the right time for me.
I mean, gosh, I look at my kid’s face and I’m like, I just want to put you down to bed every night. I want to wake you up.
I’m stepping away and knowing that I feel like I was playing great soccer. But at the same time, I have been doing this for a long time.
There’s just also time that I just can’t get back. So I just go let my heart lead the way.
ERTZ: I think a clear one is motherhood. I’ve really enjoyed doing our work with our foundation. [I’m] also just [going to] be OK with maybe a little bit of uncertainty, too.
I feel like, normally, I’d be pretty nervous about the unknown, but I’m actually very optimistic and excited to just venture out on what’s next.
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