Joanna Lohman, Diary of a Mad Soccer Player

Who she is: Professional soccer player Joanna Lohman has played in the WUSA Festivals in both Minneapolis and Los Angeles in 2004, and was a member of the 2005 Freedom Reserves. She had played for the Philadelphia Independence of the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) league.

What she does: She trained with USWNT during the 2004 Olympic Residency Training Camp, was a member of U21 U.S. national team from 2000-2005, captaining the squad from 2003-2004. She helped lead her U21 team to three Nordic Cup championships, earning MVP honors in 2002.

Why she does it: “Ever since I was 6 years old, I knew I wanted to be a professional soccer player,” Lohman says. “No, the profession didn’t yet exist. And yes, all of my teachers laughed at me. But I just knew. The good news is that after two decades spent playing on traveling teams, middle and high school soccer leagues, and as a college player, my dreams have come true.”


By Joanna Lohman
Professional Soccer Player
Philadelphia Independence

When most American’s think of pro athletes they think big money, big fame, big houses, big cars, and big egos.

That may be an accurate description for some sports, but for the ladies of the WPS, that stereotype couldn’t be further from the truth. So let me dispel the myths.

Soccer Rules

1. First, let’s talk about the paycheck. You may be surprised that there is a startling lack of 0000s on my monthly paycheck. The average salary in the WPS was $33,000 in 2010 (and by my estimation will be even less for 2011 and 2012).

The league is still in its infancy, and we are pioneers. So forget the houses you see featured on MTV’s “Cribs.” Most of my teammates are living for free with a family member who values soccer—and live-in role models.

2. Next, let me tell you about the joys of living on the road. When boarding an airplane to get to out-of-town games (or stampeding, as our team does since we all like the window seats), we walk past the first-class seating. Our spot is always in the back of the coach section.

Actually, many times we skip the plane entirely and board a charter bus for a six-to-eight-hour trip. Of course, it usually takes another hour to get where we’re going because the bus has to periodically stop on the shoulder of the road to re-close the broken luggage door.

3. What about the paid appearances with our endorsers? Do not even think about it! We are more likely to be sitting in a booth at a local youth tournament telling the parents and players about our team—that they often don’t even know exists.

4. As for our time off the field, we don’t have to worry about not having the money to buy the Xbox game that features our team. We’re too busy looking for alternate ways of earning money.

My teammates and I can be found coaching kids who aspire to be better soccer players, working as personal trainers—and sometimes working at a local restaurant or retail shop. Some of us, including myself, strive to put our college degrees to work (I was a business major). So when I’m not on the field, I work in the real estate industry.

Pretty glamorous, huh?

And that brings me to the ultimate question: Is it worth it?

Yes it is! While many people are living their dreams and are great at what they do, many others never found that perfect profession that enables them to achieve excellence. That is not to say they are not happy and successful, but their professional lives lack what I believe to be the most influential feeling this world has to offer: passion.

I have always hated the idea of not giving my all. I just cannot bring myself to do it. I believe that giving anything less than my best every single day I step on the field, as runner Steve Prefontaine said, “is sacrificing the gift.”

Sure, many of us could be making more money working in corporate America. But then we wouldn’t get to run around sweating all day, playing our favorite sport in the world with other athletes who are also at the top of their game!

I walk into my house every night with cuts, bruises, bumps, strained muscles, and tired legs, but I walk in so incredibly happy for what I get to do all day and with whom I get to do it.

How many people in this world can say that?

And yes, it is fun to go on local TV with your best friend and talk about it, as I did this spring with Lianne Sanderson.

Truth of the matter is, there is no game I would rather be playing, not for all the money and fame this country has to offer. My desire to compete—and win—runs in my veins.

Being a professional soccer player is so special, and unique. Pursuing greatness is the reason I want to wake up in the morning, and why I go to bed with a smile on my face.

I will stand in freezing cold ice baths. I will run and sprint until I nearly pass out. I will dive into crunching tackles. And I will pick myself up and do it all over again—just for the feeling this game gives me.

By playing this sport, I know for a fact that my teammates and I are changing the lives of many girls and young women simply because they are seeing us living out our dreams.

In fact, if there is just one young girl in the stands who goes home after watching our game and says to her parents, “that is what I want to do, and that is who I want to be”, then every minute of our reality becomes worth it.

Be on the lookout for future Be Inkandescent Magazine articles by our new Sports columnist, Joanna Lohman.

More about Joanna

In college at Penn State, Lohman scored 19 goals and had six assists her senior season, finishing her career at No. 5 in all-time goals scored (41), No. 2 in assists (37), No. 4 in points (114) and first with eight game-winning goals.

Among other honors, she was named Pennsylvania’s NCAA Woman of the Year in 2004, was a two-time M.A.C. Hermann Trophy finalist (2002-2003), a two-time Honda Sports Award Finalist (2002-2003), and a finalist for the Collegiate Women’s Sports Award for Women’s Soccer in 2003.

She was also a Big Ten Player of the Year in 2003, first four-time First Team All-Big Ten selection in Penn State history (2000-03), a three-time NSCAA All-American selection (2001-03), and a three-time CoSIDA Academic All-American (2001-03), one of three recipients of Penn State’s Outstanding Senior Athlete Award. She was also the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2000.

Originally from Washington, DC, Lohman currently lives outside Philadelphia while she plays for the Philadelphia Independence soccer team.