At age 34, out professional soccer player Joanna Lohman is one of the oldest players in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) as a midfielder for the Washington Spirit. But she certainly doesn’t come across that way, especially if you look at her hair which she credits as her best physical feature – the JoHawk. Compete had an opportunity to learn more about this amazing athlete and we want to share it with you.
Compete: Thanks for sharing your story with Compete readers, Joanna. First, tell us about your background, favorite sports teams and athletes and whether or not you’re taken.
Joanna Lohman: I was born in Silver Spring but now live in Bethesda, both in Maryland. My favorite athlete is Serena Williams and my dream job is to be the GM of the NFL’s Washington Redskins, my favorite team. As far as sports, in addition to soccer I have also played basketball, tennis and softball as well as swimming and cross-country running. And I am single.
C: We love your hair. What about the various changes you make in it?
JL: I think my hair – The JoHawk – is my best physical feature. I shave a side of my head in various shapes that have meaning for me; one of them is the HRC symbol.
C: What is it about sports that makes you love it, what is it that motivates you to play?
JL: I love sports because it forces an athlete to be incredibly honest with his or her own strengths and weaknesses and provides opportunities to consistently work on both. Sport also teaches invaluable lessons about loss, adversity and failure. It allows an athlete to pick him or herself up after falling and encourages him or her to problem solve and try again.
C: So please tell us more about you currently, about who you are.
JL: I have played professional soccer for 12 years. My journey has taken me all over the country and world pursuing a passion that I dreamed of as a little girl. Throughout those 12 years I have overcome injuries, set-backs and uncertainty to land with the Washington Spirit, my hometown team.
As an out professional soccer player known for being unabashedly herself, I use my incredible platform to encourage others to love their authentic selves. I realize that we all struggle to find acceptance and belonging. But together we can create a beautiful community filled with unconditional love. Sport is not only my day job but also my vocation. I see the way it breaks down barriers and I want to use sport as a vehicle to make a positive difference in this world.
C: What do you consider to be your greatest personal achievement?
JL: Being uncontrollably happy and realizing that it takes work, hard work as well as relentless and realistic self-reflection. I am also proud to be one of the oldest players in the National Women’s Soccer League, meaning I have not only achieved my dreams but I am living out that dream each and every day.
C: You’ve called yourself a professional athlete few people know about but you’ve had a lot of success as an athlete. Can you share your athletic achievements with us?
JL: Yes, here they are broken down into international, college and professional eras:
* Seven caps for U.S. Women’s National Team
* Trained with USWNT during 2004 Olympic Residency Training Camp
* Member of U21 U.S. national team from 2000-2005; squad captain for 2003-04
* Helped lead U21 team to three Nordic Cup championships earning MVP honors in 2002
* Captained U23 squad
College – played for Penn State University 2000-2003
* Scored 19 goals with six assists in senior season, finishing career No. 5 in all-time goals scored (41), No. 2 in assists (37), No. 4 in points (114) and No. 1 in game-winning goals (8)
* Named Big Ten Player of the Year in 2003
* First Team NSCAA Academic All-American for 2001-2003
* Two-time Mac Hermann Trophy and Honda Sports Award finalist for 2002-2003
* First team All Big Ten for 2000-2003
* Three-time NSCAAA All-America selection
* 2000 Big Ten Freshman of the Year
* Named NCAA Woman of the Year in 2004
* One of three recipients of Penn State’s Outstanding Senior Athlete Award in 2003
* Currently tied for second leading scorer on top-ranked team [Washington Spirit] in the NWSL (at the time of this writing).
C: With all this acclaim it’s hard to comprehend that you feel you aren’t well known. What would you tell your younger self if you had the opportunity? Would you change your life in any way?
JL: No, I would not change my life. I did a TEDx Beacon Street video in October 2014 where I shared my life’s story, “The uncomfortable ride to the top.” In it I talk about how soccer is a niche sport and how twice, professional soccer leagues have gone under. So I now earn $18k a year but it is a job I love even though there is no job security and stability doesn’t exist. But I feel like a millionaire.
There is immense value and fulfillment in pursuing your interests with every ounce of your heart, body, mind and soul. Do not be afraid to care; to care so much that it is terrifying. While you will never get everything you ever wanted in life, you will find happiness in the process of getting better each and every day. Nothing you will ever accomplish will come without an incredible amount of hard work and perseverance so keep grinding. The glory will come from looking back and seeing the total sum of all the incremental improvement. And finally, love with your whole heart.
By Brian Patrick
Photos courtesy of Joanna Lohman