Lloyd, Harris give back to Marines by attending youth camp

Looking around the field, women’s soccer star Carli Lloyd saw nearly 250 kids running, smiling and kicking balls.

There were boys and girls on the field, children of military members, enjoying the sunny, but not too hot weather, and were waiting to meet a key member of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.

Lloyd, who netted three goals in the finals, helped the national team win gold in the 2015 World Cup in July in Canada.

Lloyd, a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and recent World Cup Champion, and her squad helped bring excitement to the sport.

And the scene at Cherry Point on Saturday showed that.

Lloyd, who has 82 international goals, was a guest on the base to encourage, inspire and meet fans and families of Marines at a soccer camp.

“I think it is a great way to give back because, for me, I didn’t grow up with many live role models,” Lloyd said. “Just by patting some of these kids on the back or giving them a high-five or smiling at them and telling them ‘good shot’ or ‘good pass,’ it goes a long way.

“It’s good to come to something like this because the Marine Corps does so much for our country and this is the least I can do to come here and help inspire their children and make a difference.”

The camp for kids between the ages of 6 and 14 was put on by ProCamps, an organization that operates camps and events across the country with professional athletes.

The past two years, NFL wide receiver Steve Smith was the guest of camps at Cherry Point.

“We love to bring the players here to let the families know they are not left behind and that we care for them,” said ProCamps CEO Adam Ross. “We know freedom is not free and what these guys go through, these families go through, is unimaginable to us.

“To do something like this and have them have a good time for a couple days, it’s the least we can do.”

This time, ProCamps brought in two of the world’s best female soccer players. Goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris was at the camp on Sunday.

The Marine Corps Family Program and the Marine Corps Community Services sponsored the camp.

Lloyd was introduced, made a speech, then walked around station-to-station interacting with the children, and then had a meet-and-greet with photo and autograph opportunities.

“I can’t thank the Marine Corps, and the military, enough for all they do,” Lloyd said. “People often say we (professional athletes) are heroes, but in my eyes, those are the heroes for what they do for our country.

“They basically put their lives on the line every day and it’s truly remarkable and amazing. I look forward to being here and meeting some of them and inspiring their kids.”

Since winning the World Cup, Lloyd has seen the popularity of soccer increase, especially with the younger crowd.

The U.S. Women’s National Team defeated Japan 5-2 in the gold medal game of the World Cup in Vancouver on July 5.

“I think we’ve transcended the sport. We’ve definitely seen it emerge as one of the top sports, and it’s not just little girls that are watching us,” Lloyd said. “I’m looking around and the amount of boys that are here and that have recognized me and who were watching the final, that says a lot.

“We’ve now hit the wide spectrum of people – older people, younger people, boys, girls, men - people that don’t even watch the sport. I think it can only get better.”

Lloyd, a team captain, said that fans come out in full force now to watch them play, a lot more so than when she started. The 33-year old midfielder won the gold medal in the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics and then again in the most recent World Cup.

“When you do take a step back and actually look at how far the sport’s come from when I first got on the team, we were barely getting 5,000 people at our games. Now we are easily averaging 30-35,000, which is remarkable,” Lloyd said. “You want to make something better than when you started and that’s the message with our team. We have people retiring and leaving the sport and they are leaving it better than when they came in.”

Lloyd scored six goals and was the first to score three goals in a Women’s World Cup Finals. She was awarded the Most Outstanding Player Award.

“It was a dream come true for me to win a World Cup,” she said. “I think our journey was a little slow at first, but we couldn’t have finished any better than we did and it was a dream come true.

“It felt like we were playing in the U.S. because we had a lot of fans there in red, white and blue everywhere. It was truly amazing and a great journey and it was great to see how many people came over and were able to watch us play.”

Lloyd, who played her college soccer at Rutgers and is currently playing professionally for the Houston Dash, accomplished it all through hard work and dedication, she said, which was her message to the campers on Saturday.

“I think it’s about how hard you work. It seems easy to just say to work hard in life, but you really have to spend a lot of hours putting in all the work,” Lloyd said. “At the end of the day, you hear about so many professional athletes and the reason they made it is because, from such a young age, they’ve been putting in the work.

“That’s what it’s all about, being able to work hard and work on your weaknesses as well. We all want to work on our strengths, but you have to work on your weaknesses and improve in those areas.”

Adam Thompson is the sports editor of the Sun Journal.