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Soccer Mom - Joy Fawcett

Joy Fawcett has made two post-partum returns to soccer, but never while enduring the rigors of a full-time, professional league

MIA HAMM IS MORE FAMOUS, Brandi Chastain is more media savvy, and Kristine Lilly has over three dozen more caps, but no one in women's soccer has accomplished quite what Joy Fawcett has during her lengthy international career. The quiet, unassuming Fawcett continues to defy the odds--and her naysayers--as she demonstrates with each tackle, pass, and shot that a professional sports career is possible even after three kids.

At 33, an age when most women's soccer players have retired, Fawcett smiles back on her past, is excited about her present with the San Diego Spirit, and remains optimistic about her future. "It's amazing after being off for so long that Joy is able to fit right in," said Spirit coach Carlos Juarez following her first scrimmage with the team, one month to the day that Fawcett gave birth to her third child.

After her first week of post-birth training, Fawcett showed no discernible evidence of having recently delivered Madilyn Rae, Joy and husband Walter's third daughter. Her passes are crisp and on target and her legs keep her ahead of players who in some cases are a decade younger than herself. Protected only by a red shirt similar to those worn in practice by NFL quarterbacks, Fawcett throws herself into a wall of players battling for a header in front of the goal. "Unbelievable," says teammate Shannon MacMillan of Fawcett's recuperative powers.

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Having seen Fawcett's legendary post-partum rehabs twice before, MacMillan knows she won't have to wait long until Fawcett--one of her closest friends--will be joining her in the Spirit's starting lineup. MacMillan has even less concern about how Fawcett will do once she is there. "She's definitely going to step in and make a difference for us," says MacMillan. "She runs non-stop and she always seems to be in the right place. Joy is not a very vocal person, she is more of a silent leader, but she gets it done. Watching her play, you can see how smart she is."

That intelligence allows Fawcett to read the game like few others. No longer among the national team's fastest players, Fawcett compensates with her ability to anticipate the play. She remains a bastion of strength on the U.S. defense, regardless of whether she is playing in as a center back, a holding midfielder, or on the flank. Juarez is not sure where Fawcett will gain the majority of her minutes, but he loves her versatility. "We're looking to play her wherever she can help the most," says Juarez.

Because the Spirit attack was inconsistent during the first two-thirds of the season, Fawcett will be pushed farther forward than fans of the U.S. national team have ever seen her play. That's all right with her. After all, Fawcett is the highest scoring defender in U.S. soccer history. "Joy adds another level of composure, she's creative, and she doesn't turn the ball over," says Juarez, clearly delighted to finally have her available.

Fawcett's offensive skills were always advanced for a defender. National team defender Kate Sobrero has learned a lot from Fawcett, but still hasn't figured out how she does what she calls, "the Joy Fawcett move." "When Joy chases down a ball that has gone over her head, she is somehow able--on a full sprint--to cut the ball back using the outside of her right foot," says Sobrero. "When she does, the other player usually goes flying. I've never seen another player do it. It seems impossible."

While Fawcett has yet to teach Sobrero her patented move, she did try her hand at coaching a few years ago. During a five-year stint at UCLA, she led the Bruins to the NCAA Final Four and walked away with Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors. "It was very good for me," says Fawcett of her UCLA experience. "Being in that situation helped me to grow and allowed me to look at the game a little differently. Developing players was what I enjoyed the most."

Commuting from her Orange County home to UCLA's Westwood campus was, "brutal," according to Fawcett. "If I go back to coaching, it would have to be more local," she says. "I think I'll probably end up working with younger kids. I love to work with the little ones."

And with her own growing family, who would know more about little kids than Fawcett? After all, she has shown an extraordinary ability to maintain her career while at the same time caring for her three children, Katelyn Rose, 7, Carli Jean, 4, and newborn, Madilyn Rae. Frequently called the "Ultimate Soccer Mom," Fawcett has become a master at coordinating schedules. The kids have become highly adaptable as well.

Regaining her fitness while meeting her family's needs has been a challenge, but facing challenges is what Fawcett does best. "The hardest thing has been just finding the time," Fawcett says of her training regimen. "I have a newborn and two other small children, so it is sometimes hard to find somebody to watch them. I'm [constantly] tired and often don't sleep at night, so it's difficult. Sometimes, I just drag them with me and put the baby in a jogger."


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