U.S. Olympic Team gold medal-winning soccer player Megan Rapinoe is partnering with vitaminwater as the brand's official U.S. Olympic athlete. They’re teaming up to launch the vitaminwater “be a tryathlete” program ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The campaign, launching this summer, will unite vitaminwater tryathletes who boldly pursue vibrant and dynamic experiences in life.
The ultimate vitaminwater tryathlete and one of the U.S. Women’s National Team’s leading goal-scorers and craftiest players, Rapinoe is a fan favorite known for her guitar playing, off-field goofiness and pixie haircut. We caught up with her to chat about life on and off the field.
You seem like a perfect fit for this program and vitaminwater. How do you embody the vitaminwater ‘be a tryathlete’ mentality?
I’m definitely a “try” person. I like to do new things and constantly challenge myself to enjoy experiences, travel to new places, try different foods and just do things that are outside the norm. Boredom breeds sadness. On the field, I’ve always liked to push the boundaries, be creative and put myself out there. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s always worth it. I’ve been able to grow a lot as a player by embracing my own unique style.
You’ve made your mark as one of the most creative players on the U.S. Women’s National Team. How would you describe your playing style?
I want to make the pass no one else would try or do something that’s a little bit risky, but the reward is something close to a goal or at least a shot on target. I try to be unpredictable. Sometimes I feel like if I don’t know what I’m going to do, then no one will. And my teammates know this about me. They know that when I have the ball they need to be on their toes. But it’s a balancing act… you can’t just be trying crazy stuff all the time.
Your creativity follows you off the pitch, too. Your Instagram feed showcases your personality. And you’ve described your look as 'part tomboy, part hipster, definitely part want-to-be-very-comfortable.' Why is having a personal style important?
I’ve always had it. Before I was even aware I was doing it. I’ve always tied little strings on my wrists or made little bracelets or been interested in fashion and expressing myself in that way. It’s just for me. I like to put stuff on that inspires me. For me it’s not about keeping up with trends… it just makes me feel good. It’s a creative outlet I think I’ve always had.
Has your style evolved as you’ve gotten older?
Oh yeah. I change it all the time. Sometimes I’m feeling more feminine, sometimes more masculine, sometimes more androgynous. I showed up to the ESPYs in a white dress, and people said, “I never thought you’d wear something like that.” And I didn’t either. But it was what I was feeling. But I’d never wear those heels again… they nearly killed me. It’s a way for me to express how I’m feeling on the inside, too. For me, clothes and the way I carry myself is an expression of that.
Your hairstyle has its own social media handles. How and when did you come up with the style, and are you surprised by the attention it has garnered?
I was blonde all growing up. Not platinum blonde, but I’d gotten highlights. Then I went dark in college. I had it for a few years, but I’m not sure it quite suited me. So I was like, “Oh why not, I’ll just give it a try.” I’d seen a few other people do it, and it looked good. I was in D.C. with my best friend and she convinced me to do it. It suits me now. I like the look of it and it fits me. And it’s pretty easy to change.
Speaking of trying new things, you play guitar and sing. When did you first pick up a guitar, and what do you love most about music?
My parents were very adamant that my twin sister, Rachael, and I played an instrument growing up. They tried to keep us well-rounded. So I started playing guitar at 9 or 10. I put it down in high school as I got more involved with soccer, but picked it back up after college and have been playing ever since. It’s such a sense of relief for me, and an escape. A place emotionally I can go and just relax and disconnect from soccer. I need that. I can’t just be soccer, soccer, soccer. It’s too intense of an environment to be in all the time. Music satisfies and challenges me in a different way and lets me tap into the creative side of my brain, which I really love.
What’s the last new thing you tried for the first time?
My fiancée, Sera, is a drummer. She’s amazing. Whenever I see someone do something they’re amazing at, I say “I want to do that just like them!” It’s been a humbling experience because playing the drums is really hard! I play a few times a week… sometimes it’s just nice to bang on them as hard as I can.
You assisted on one of the all-time greatest goals in soccer history, to Abby Wambach at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup quarterfinal match against Brazil. The U.S. was seconds away from elimination. Did that play change your life?
Definitely. I think it changed everyone’s, to be honest. I don’t know where the women’s game would be without that play. For me personally, pulling something off like that under such intense pressure solidified my worth to be in the starting lineup. If we didn’t score, we were going home. It’s safe to say it catapulted me forward but also the rest of the team and sport.
You were part of the Olympic gold medal-winning team in 2012 and 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Champion’s team. How would you compare the playing atmosphere of the Olympics Games and the FIFA Women’s World Cup?
In one sense, we have the same job to do and the tournament format is similar. But they’re very different. In The Olympics, you’re part of Team USA, and that’s something that’s really special. It’s not just about you or your sport. Before matches, we’re watching other events, and after matches we’re going home to check on the medal count. It’s such an incredibly unifying experience. The World Cup is completely different, but amazing in itself because it’s all about women’s football. And it’s really special to have it be the marquee event of the summer. Canada did a great job (in 2015). The fans were incredible… every match felt like a home game.
Is there pressure on the U.S. to win gold in Rio after winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup?
We have pressure on us every game! We’re expected to win every time no matter what. Pressure is a given for us. It doesn’t faze us. We thrive on it and take pride in the fact that we’re favored to win. We’ve won gold in the last three Olympic Games and the last World Cup, so we deserve to have that pressure on us.
You tore your ACL three months ago. Where does your recovery stand, and what does the roadmap to Rio 2016 look like for you?
I’m just rehabbing. For me – especially having gone through this same knee injury before and having always gotten a lot of questions about this, especially from young players – I just want to take it as it comes. I don’t want to put any restrictions on the way my body is feeling. I don’t want to put benchmarks out there and then, if I’m not ready at that particular moment, have it be a letdown. Or if I’m ready earlier… I don’t want any of that clouding my judgment. I need to be in touch with my body and take things as they come. Of course, The Olympics are right around the corner, so that’s a question I always get. I want to be there and am doing everything I can. And if I’m ready and if I’m the player I need to be out on the field, then I’ll definitely be there. But at the same time, I’m not willing to put the rest of my career at risk by rushing things. It’s a mistake I made in college and was unfortunate in tearing it again. I want to make sure I’m ready and have made that very clear with my team and everyone around me.
More to come soon on the vitaminwater “be a tryathlete” program. For now, check out this behind-the-scenes video featuring Rapinoe challenging herself, and trying a few new things off the soccer field: