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Lilly Retirement Feels Right; Former Teammate Hucles Shares

January 10, 2011 – 10:42 AM

By Laura Pappano

Somehow, when Kristine Lilly announced her retirement from soccer last week, it felt real — and appropriate, both a rarity these days among professional athletes trying to figure out if it’s time to retire (or not).

Why is that?

Perhaps because she didn’t do it impulsively, but took several months after the end of the season to decide. And it was on her terms.

Last season with the Boston Breakers — and this year with the US team — she remained a factor and one of the most skilled players on the field. She had time to burnish her legacy and earn her records. She did it with poise and focus. She was not a showboat.

And unlike some female athletes who retired to start families, Lilly was already a mom. (Her daughter last fall at a practice at the Harvard fields played with trainers — mostly hide and seek, but soccer ball play, too!) The point: Lilly didn’t cut her sports career short because of some myth that motherhood and pro-sports don’t mesh.

Yet, she recognized that she was getting older. She’s 39. In May, she became the oldest player to score for team USA. Last spring she spoke with FairGameNews about starting what would become her final season with the Boston Breakers (Q&A here).

In short, Lilly is doing what most athletes talk about wanting to do — but struggle to carry out: Going out on top, at just the right time.

Last Friday, I spoke with Angela Hucles, a former Lilly teammate on the Boston Breakers, World Cup and Olympic teams. Hucles retired in October 2009 and now works in commercial real estate and is president of Dream Big! a new non profit that provides sports equipment and covers playing fees to poor and homeless girls. (Q&A with Hucles about her retirement here).

Hucles e-mailed over the weekend with her thoughts about Lilly’s retirement news. Here’s what she wrote:

I am very happy and proud of Kristine for making her decision on retiring from her soccer career.  She has given so much to the sport and to the teams she played on, and I feel very honored that I was able to play with her both on the professional club level as well as the US team.

Lil was my first roommate the very first time I was ever in a camp with the full women’s national team, and was also there to be my captain the first time I played professionally for the Boston Breakers.  She has always been there and that’s one of the things that make her and her illustrious career so special.  To be able to sustain excellence for that long…I truly don’t know many people in the world who are in her league.  I know she will be missed by her teammates, coaches and staff as well as the fans who have followed her for years.

Kristine Lilly walking off the field with teammates after practice, Spring 2010

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