This afternoon, 26-year-old soccer player Crystal Dunn, a defender on the U.S. Women’s National Team, will take the field to play Thailand in the first round of the World Cup. Dunn grew up in Long Island, won a national championship at the University of North Carolina, and when she’s not chasing World Cup dreams, plays professionally for the Carolina Courage. Here, she talks about her struggles, her heroes, and, of course, her favorite tinted moisturizer…
What does your morning look like? How does a world-class athlete start her day?
Well, in the days leading up to the World Cup (during training and traveling), my typical morning starts more slowly than all of my teammates because I love to sleep in. I take my vitamins first thing, which are by my bedside so I can remember them. The whole team is on supplements, like vitamin B and iron, because we live our lives on the edge.
For breakfast, I never change up my routine. My team is the same way — we each eat the same thing everyday like clockwork. For me, it’s always an omelet with onions, peppers and tomatoes, and then a bagel or an English muffin on the side.
Got any beauty rituals or products that figure into this routine?
After breakfast, I wash my face, mostly to make sure I’m nice and awake. I wait until training to apply lotion or sunscreen. Lately, I’ve been really into It Cosmetics tinted moisturizer. It’s really light for daily use and provides a lot of things besides moisturizer — like coverage, a hydrating serum and SPF. So, I feel like I’m getting sunscreen protection and I also get to look cute. If I go out at night, I’m usually wearing Bobbi Brown’s line.
How much of your day is spent on the soccer field?
Training starts around 11 a.m. We warm up and then get into the full swing of training, and we’re pretty much off the pitch by 12:30. Occasionally, we’ll have a second training session or a lift [strength training] in the afternoon, which is typically an hour.
That is actually not as intense as I would’ve guessed?
Yeah, our coaches don’t want to keep us longer than they need to because they want to make sure we stay healthy, and we can recover and get ready for the next training day. It’s actually consistent with my training year-round, not just for the World Cup. For this team, we’re covering all that we need to in the hour and a half that we’re on the pitch every day. Trust me, it’s an intense 90 minutes.
What about off days? Do you have any rituals for restoring energy?
Recovery is so important, obviously. Some of my teammates get into the pool for a little workout. Some like to ice bathe, but not me, because that feels like I’m actually dying a long, painful death. I’d say that getting a good night’s rest — consistently — is brutally important for me. Also, relaxing, maybe going for a little walk, hanging out. Nothing too crazy. It’s crucial to rest.
What kind of hair products do you recommend for intensely active athletes?
I mostly love wearing headbands. I dabble with all kinds, but lately I’m into the thinner ones from Nike.
You were the last cut from the 2015 team — and they ended up winning the World Cup. That couldn’t have been easy. How did you get through it? What did you learn?
The biggest lesson from 2015 was that all I can do is control my attitude and how I feel about myself. Honestly, for a little bit, I started to doubt myself. Whenever that happens, no good can come from it, so these last four years have really been about me trying hard to never doubt myself, not even for one moment, and always remembering that if I stay the course I will end up where I want to be.
That obviously makes complete sense, but it’s very hard to get to that place. How did you get there?
I had so much support. I never felt alone. People were always reaching out to me, and my parents were making sure I was okay and reinforcing that I’m a good player and missing out on this one opportunity doesn’t mean that I’m not. You know, it’s just one thing that didn’t go my way. They kept making sure I was paying attention to what was next in store, versus hanging my head and staying in the moment that I really didn’t need to stay in. Obviously fast-forward four years, and I’m able to be a part of this World Cup and it’s just awesome. I tell people it wasn’t easy, but when you really, truly value yourself, nothing can penetrate that. It sounds so clichéd but it’s true. Once I decided to invest in myself as a player and a person, from that moment on, I felt like I was invincible.
You met your husband during that period, too, right?
Yeah, I met Pierre [Soubrier, head of sports medicine for the Colorado Rapids] the same year, and he helped me get through it. We used to watch all the games together at bars, so he was the first person that I was able to vent to and explain how I sad I felt. He was so supportive. Then I went on to have a great professional season — I won the NWSL Golden Boot [awarded to the player who has scored the most goals]. Because of Pierre, I almost forgot that I was the last cut or I didn’t make that roster. So many great things happened because things didn’t necessarily go the way I wanted them to.
You are involved in the pending lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation demanding equal pay for women, claiming you are compensated less than the men’s team even though the demands are the same and women’s team has been significantly more successful. [The USWNT has won three World Cup titles, and is favored to win this year, while the men’s team didn’t qualify to compete in the 2018 World Cup.] Can you talk about what that means to you?
It’s really important for women to feel like, ‘I have a voice and I’m not going to remain silent just because I don’t want to ruffle feathers.’ It goes beyond soccer players. It goes to any female in society who’s feeling like, ‘Oh, for a long time I’ve kept my mouth shut. I go to work, and if I feel under appreciated, I just bite the bullet and move onto the next day.’ We’re in a new era now where women are no longer happy with that arrangement. We’re putting in the same hours, and we’re sacrificing the same things, if not more. And it’s important for women across the world, whatever profession they’re in, to stand up for what they believe in and continue the fight. Even if there’s no progress with the lawsuit at this moment, there will be in the future, I’m sure of it.
I love how your team wore the names of inspiring women on their jerseys for the SheBelieves Cup earlier this year. Why did you choose Serena Williams?
For a lot of people, it’s so easy to see her and be like, ‘Wow, what an amazing athlete. She dominates her sport.’ But for me, she’s more. She has broken down so many barriers of what it means to be beautiful. To be a strong, defined woman and still feel like, ‘Hey, I’m feminine’ — that was something I had to go through as well. I have really big hamstrings, and I’ve always been told, ‘Wow, your lower body’s really strong. Not a lot of girls have legs that look like yours.’ At that point, I had to redefine what beauty was to me. It’s not someone thinking that women shouldn’t have strong legs, but it’s that there’s beauty in strength. That’s exactly what Serena embodies, and even though we don’t play the same sport, I feel like what she’s accomplished has really inspired me. Whatever negative press she gets from the media, she’s like, ‘Well, this is me and take it or leave it.’ I feel like that is just complete badass.
Thank you, Crystal! Good luck today!
(Photo of selfie with fans, high-fiving teammates, and through soccer net by The Players Tribune. Photo of Crystal in Carolina jersey, at Peak Sports and SheBelieves Cup by Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today. Photo of Crystal in navy jersey by National Women’s Soccer League. Everything else courtesy of Crystal Dunn’s Instagram.)