STACK Athlete of the Year 2015: Carli Lloyd Surpassed All Expectations

The USWNT soccer star wins STACK's 'Athlete of the Year' honor for her stunning play and intense dedication to training.

You know about the 16 minutes. Everybody knows about the 16-minute span during which Carli Lloyd ruled the world.

In less time than it takes to watch an episode of a sitcom, the U.S. Women's National Team player racked up three goals in the World Cup Final—the third of which was a white missile launched from midfield past a normally stout but suddenly hapless Japanese goalie and into the corner of the net.

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You know about the 16 minutes. Everybody knows about the 16-minute span during which Carli Lloyd ruled the world.

In less time than it takes to watch an episode of a sitcom, the U.S. Women's National Team player racked up three goals in the World Cup Final—the third of which was a white missile launched from midfield past a normally stout but suddenly hapless Japanese goalie and into the corner of the net.

Lloyd's hat trick was the first ever by a woman in a World Cup Final, and it ended what people thought would be a tough match against Japan before even 25% of the game's minutes had elapsed.

Carli Lloyd

"I don't just want to be a participant in the World Cup," Lloyd said before the match. "I want to have a legacy. I want to have people remember me."

Lloyd achieved that ambition with a truly unforgettable performance on the world stage. But what people did not see were the hours upon hours of work—in the gym, on the field, in freezing ice baths, and in her own head—the Lloyd had to put forth to realize her dreams.

"I've dedicated my whole life to this," Lloyd said in a press conference after the World Cup final. "Everything comes second. But I wouldn't have it any other way."

RELATED: Go Inside One of Lloyd's Workouts

Need evidence that Lloyd means her "whole life"? Her training schedule is 17 years long. She's been working with Universal Soccer Academy coach James Galanis since 2003, regularly putting in two sessions per day, at least one of which brings her to the point of tears every week.

"[Galanis] keeps raising the bar, making the training harder for me," Lloyd told Shape. "The only way I'm going to grow as a person and a player is if he makes it uncomfortable for me."

Her willingness to endure discomfort and work past the point of exhaustion, combined with a focus on healthy eating, rest and recovery, have transformed Lloyd, who as a younger athlete was cut from the USWNT's Under-21 team for being out of shape.

"Fitness was definitely an issue for me when I was younger. I've turned that into a strength of mine now," Lloyd said.

But the most important work Lloyd put in over the past decade-plus of training took place in her mind. The once-inconsistent player who botched a penalty kick in the 2011 World Cup is a huge proponent of visualization, and she has spent hours picturing her own success.

"You can be physically strong, you can have all the tools out there, but if your mental state isn't good enough, you can't bring yourself to bigger and better things," Lloyd said. "I've constantly been visualizing, constantly growing more confident with each and every game."

RELATED: Listen to What Carli Lloyd Said About her Mindset Before the 2012 Olympics

For eerie proof that her visualization worked, there's this: Before the World Cup began, Lloyd worked out alone at the Medford Strikers Field in Medford, New Jersey.

"I'm running, and I'm doing sprints. It's hard, it's burning. And I just completely zoned out," Lloyd said. "I dreamed of playing in the World Cup Final, and visualized scoring four goals."

So what if her subconscious was off by one?

Now that she has become a worldwide celebrity and secured her place in soccer history, it's back to business as usual for Lloyd. She's a coach with the Strikers, and she's already begun looking ahead to next year's Olympics in Rio. With more attention and higher expectations on her and her teammates than ever before, Lloyd vows to be ready.

"I've pushed on my status a little bit," Lloyd said after the final. "I have to stay up here. I'll be back to work, and stronger than ever."


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: SOCCER | MOTIVATION | NEWS | 4W | COACH | TRAIN | PRESS | VISUALIZATION