The Stanford women brought home their third consecutive Capital One Cup this year. The award is given out to the best overall D-1 men’s and women’s athletics programs, which once again was the Cardinal women by a fair margin. Championships in swim & dive, volleyball, tennis, and water polo paced the runaway victory.
The athletes were honored at the ESPY Awards earlier this month in Los Angeles. Presenting the Capital One Cup to Stanford was Christen Press, the Utah Royals FC and USWNT star fresh off a World Cup triumph. She most notably scored one of the two goals in the semifinal victory over England.
Christen played for the Cardinal from 2007-10, putting together one of the most decorated careers in program history. Her name is found throughout the school record book, including her leading 71 goals. She received the Hermann Award, given to the nation’s top player, and was twice a national runner-up. She was also an Academic All-American.
I sat down with her to talk about the impact Stanford has had on her life, in soccer and otherwise.
What was it like representing Stanford in the Capital One Cup ceremony after all of these years?
Christen: I feel like I always represent Stanford in how I play, and how I live, as a very proud alum. I think it was a lot of fun to get to go to the ESPYs with all my teammates fresh after our World Cup victory, and all together, but it was particularly fun for me because I got to do the Capital One Cup and to give it to Stanford for their third consecutive. It was an honor to be able to present that trophy, and I’m very much looking forward to continuing to support them, and cheer them on for another potential victory this season.
One thing I’ve heard a lot from new recruits to Stanford is that they’re not making a four year commitment but they’re making a forty year commitment. So it’s now been over a decade since you were that high school student. In what ways have you noticed the forty year commitment paying off?
Christen: Well I think that the biggest thing that I take away are my relationships. I think obviously I learned so much in the classroom. I actually just loved my time at Stanford, I loved my classes, I loved my professors. And then I obviously was given this huge opportunity because of Stanford soccer. But at the same time, just the relationships that I built there, and kind of the lessons of life that I learned are paying dividends now to this day. And I think that there’s a lot of pride for my teammates and I who got to play Stanford soccer, and now we get to continue to represent them on the professional and international level.
You talked about how Stanford’s now won three straight Capital One Cups, and six overall [in the 9 years it’s been awarded]. What do you think it is about the place that attracts the best people? Because it’s not just one sport, this is across a lot of different sports.
Christen: It’s the most beautiful campus. It has this electric vibe of people who want to change the world. So one step on Stanford University campus and any athlete, any world changer, any dreamer would be hooked, because it’s a place to cultivate all of those things. It’s a place of inspiration and belief, and I think for those of us that do make the decision to go to Stanford, nobody regrets it. It’s a beautiful place to become an adult, to transition from a young person to an adult. And I think that it just instills values and work ethic in you that no matter what you end up doing - sports - or whatever your career is, those are invaluable lessons.
When you were at Stanford, you were one of the top players, and in your pro career since then you’ve been one of the top players. Now in the World Cup, you’re on Team USA and you find yourself in a bit of a different situation. But you’re called upon in the semifinals to sub in unexpectedly, and you deliver. How do you stay ready for a moment like that?
Christen: I believe that for me to be successful, I have to kind of cultivate a level of energy and maybe readiness and just like self care and self love everyday in my life. So that moment in the World Cup, or like starting in the World Cup, or like replacing one of the best players in the semifinals of the World Cup, they don’t faze me. That’s the way I deal with my profession and the pressure that comes with it. And I think that how I felt in that moment when I was called upon to do a very, very hard job, I felt confident, I felt prepared, and I felt incredibly supported by my teammates, and I think that’s why it was successful.
At this point, what is there left to accomplish? You’ve won the Hermann Award, you’ve won the World Cup. What goals do you still have for your soccer career and beyond?
Christen: My goals have always been of a different nature than that. My goals are to play with joy, which isn’t always easy. It can be stressful, and it can be hard living away from the people that you love. So actually my biggest goal right now is to bring joy into every training and every game that I play in. And then the goal that I’ve had probably since Stanford was just to get better every single day, to commit to growth. Because I believe in my potential, I believe that if I grow and if I play with joy, the accomplishments that people write down on paper, they come or they don’t come. But what’s important is kind of the way you carry yourself in that, and just committing to having a life that brings joy to others and values your body and your mind and your soul, and nurtures you. I think those are the real goals of life, and that’s sort of how I frame everything that I’m doing.
Back to the ESPYS. Who were you most excited to meet there?
Huh, that’s a good question. I think the ESPYs is a star-studded event filled with the best of the best in every sport, and I think that more than dying to meet one person or anything like that, I just feel like it’s amazing to be around best-in-class athletes, and that there’s like a common understanding of how your life works and all the things that you sacrificed to be there. So I think I generally just enjoy the atmosphere in general. I think this year it was a pleasure to meet Sandra [Bullock] because she has so many nice words to say about our team and about our fight for equal pay.
Have you had a chance to make it to any Stanford games recently, soccer or others? And are you still in touch with Coach [Paul] Ratcliffe?
Christen: Yeah, Paul writes me messages, and so will Earl [Koberlein], and I do definitely feel connected to the program in big ways. I think the last time I was back at Stanford was for a football game, maybe two years ago, with Kelly [O’Hara]. And it’s a top priority for me to make it back for a sports game. I’m hoping we’ll play one of our Victory Tour games in the Bay Area and I’ll be able to make it at least on campus to walk around and feel all that good juju!