EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally published on May 5, 2021 by the Ohio History Connection. Ashland Source has entered into a collaborative agreement with the Ohio History Connection to share content across our sites.
Rose Lavelle may have been born and raised in Cincinnati, but she is rising to worldwide fame as a breakout star on the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT).
At just 25 years old, the midfielder has already impressed fans at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, winning the Bronze Ball award for her performance in the tournament.
The Bronze Ball is awarded to the third best overall player in the FIFA World Cup. Rose played in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) from 2017-2020, but currently plays professionally for Manchester City Women’s Football Club in Manchester, United Kingdom.
A handful of NWSL players made this international move during the COVID-19 pandemic to remain active in the sport when they could not play domestically. Rose remains a key player on the USWNT roster. Lavelle got to this point because of her unique playing style, her driven mindset, and her roots in the youth soccer clubs of Cincinnati.
Lavelle first started playing soccer at 5 years old in Cincinnati’s YMCA coed youth leagues. Her very first game foreshadowed her attitude and determination that would be seen throughout her career.
When Lavelle scored her first goal in her first soccer game, she didn’t celebrate. She didn’t even smile. She kept her cool and didn’t let anyone see her excitement, and thus was born a very serious player.
She went on to play for several Cincinnati soccer clubs, including Cincinnati United Premier Soccer Club. She was a four-year varsity starter at Mount Notre Dame High School in Cincinnati and went on to play in college at the University of Wisconsin.
Lavelle won several awards in the competitive Big Ten Conference during her time at Wisconsin, including the Big Ten Conference Freshman of the Year award.
Rose Lavelle was always one of the smallest players on the field. At only 5-foot-4, her playing style reflects her size. Lavelle had to master her skills earlier than other kids on the field in youth soccer because they were bigger and could rely more on their size to get them close to the ball.
She quickly learned that she had to adopt a different strategy. In Cincinnati’s YMCA co-ed leagues, Lavelle would hang around the perimeter of the herd of players because she knew the ball would always pop out from the pack. Then, Lavelle would pounce on the ball.
Lavelle is not only aware of space while she plays, but she also had to develop incredibly skilled footwork. Lavelle met coach Neil Bradford at Cincinnati United Soccer Club when she was just 8 years old.
He recognized her talent and taught her how to refine her footwork to compete with the bigger players on the field. Bradford, an Englishman, introduced her to a more European playing style than what was normally taught in the U.S.
Whereas American soccer style is often seen as “bullish and authoritative,” Lavelle’s technique is “steeped in skill and sophistication." Bradford taught Lavelle to maintain her field of vision with the ball at her feet, which resulted in the very creative playing style Lavelle is known for today.
Check out this video of Rose at home in Cincinnati, talking about her soccer career.
Lavelle’s determined mindset about her future also played a key role in her success as a professional athlete. She did not call her plans to play soccer on a world stage a dream of hers.
She wouldn’t call it a dream because she did not see it as unattainable. Lavelle says she never saw a future without professional soccer, and she willed it to happen for her.
She is still just as determined as she was at age 5, when she scored her very first soccer goal and didn’t even crack a smile.