Football

Two-time World Cup winner Kelley O'Hara on how to build mentality and team spirit like the USWNT 

Kelley O'Hara played every minute of every game when the United States Women's National Team won Olympic gold at London 2012.

By Ed Knowles ·

With two FIFA World Cup wins and an Olympic gold medal, U.S. footballer Kelley O’Hara is the member of an elite group of people: The United States National Women’s Team (USNWT).

She believes a winning mindset can be learned.

“There are certain things that you're born with,” she said to the Olympic Channel Podcast.

“I was born a competitive person…

“But [with that feeling of], like, ‘I want to beat everybody’ comes learning, ‘How do you do that?’

Once you have that realisation, you have already overcome the first hurdle.

There [are] steps and ways to become a winner - Kelley O'Hara on winning mentality

Kelley O'Hara makes a tackle in the FIFA 2019 Women's World Cup 

Kelley O'Hara: Why are the USNWT such a good team

The USA have created and fostered a fantastic team spirit that is, now, the envy of their competitors.

But it isn’t an accident. It’s a topic of thought and discussion within the squad.

“I don't think you're ever going to have a team of 18 plus players that are best friends get along perfectly, [who] want the same things, [and] think the same way.

“That's not that's just not real.”

It’s about putting in the work. Every day.

The USWNT environment is built on intensity and excellence - Kelley O'Hara

Megan Rapinoe and the USWNT celebrating winning the FIFA Women's World Cup

It could be interpreted as an intimidating atmosphere to an outsider. It’s actually about setting expectations at the right level.

“If you were in our sessions, you would understand…

“This isn't just like - you show up, you win [a gold medal at the] Olympics.

“This is working towards this with intensity and excellence every single day. And that's the only way that we become who we become.”

Rapinoe and O'Hara congratulate Samantha Mewis on her second goal against Mexico during Olympic qualifying in 2020  

Kelley O’Hara’s new podcast with Just Women’s Sport

Kelley has launched the second season of her podcast.

She’s enjoyed speaking to female athletes like Mikaela Shiffrin and Alex Morgan about how they have overcome some of their more difficult moments.

“I think a lot of people look at athletes and they're like, ‘Oh, they are perfect, super successful, [and] have never had a bad day in their life or whatever.”

It is how successful people deal with the setbacks that makes them extraordinary.

“Whether you're an athlete, or you're in the corporate world, they still go through the same things that everybody else goes through.

“I've enjoyed hearing how they handle the setbacks, because I think that's where you you learn the most as a human.

“How [do] you handle defeat, failure, obstacles, that sort of thing? So, hearing different athletes approaches to that has been pretty cool.”

Kelley O'Hara: Finding your authentic self

USA’s 2019 World Cup win seemed to coincide with a massive shift of worldwide perception to women's sport.

Members of the team started to build huge social media presence based on a simple principle of being authentic.

“I think that we've made a lot of strides in the space of just being who you are and being comfortable with that.”

USA v CAN, Women‘s Football Semifinal Highlights from London 2012

Summary of the exciting football semifinal between United States and Canada...

There were loud, campaigning voices like Megan Rapinoe.

And softer, but no less important or impactful, voices like Kelley.

“If I'm somebody that people can look to and see somebody living their life exactly how they want to be living their life, and it gives them confidence to do the same. That's an amazing thing to be.”

LISTEN: More inspirational interviews on the Olympic Channel Podcast every Wednesday.