Jeff Carlisle, US soccer correspondent July 19, 2023, 02:02 AM ET
CloseJeff Carlisle covers MLS and the US national team for ESPN FC.
AUCKLAND, New Zealand – United States women’s national soccer team forward Sophia Smith says everything she and defender Naomi Girma will do at this World Cup will go back to her former Stanford teammate Katie Meyer.
Meyer, who along with Smith and Girma was part of Stanford University’s 2019 national championship-winning football team, died by suicide in March 2022. Meyer’s parents, Steve and Gina, attempted to get the college to adopt a policy called “Katie’s Rescue” whereby students could elect a trusted adult “designated advocate” to provide support.
With Girma and Smith now set to represent the US at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, they have taken steps to honor Meyer’s memory. On Tuesday, Girma wrote an emotional tribute to Meyer on The Players Tribune titled “This Is For Katie” where he said Meyer “is a true friend in every way.”
Girma also detailed how he, Smith, Sofia Huerta and other members of the national team have partnered with Common Goal, a charity project for the football community, to launch mental health initiatives during this World Cup. This will be done through a three-part feature series and several public service announcements aired throughout the tournament.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Smith said Meyer’s death was something he was still grappling with.
“Every time I talk about Katie it’s obviously emotional, and then just with everything that’s come out today, it brings all of those feelings back to the surface,” said Smith. “But I feel like I’m in a place where I can talk about it and talk about Katie in a really positive way, and that gives me more happiness.
“But of course, yeah, whenever it’s on social media, it’s hard to look at, and it just alerts you. But I think what we put out and The Players Tribune by Naomi, that’s really cool and really great to read, and everything we’re doing right now for Katie, so that means a lot. But yeah, of course, that’s a hard thing to talk about.”
Smith also detailed the steps he has taken to manage his mental health during the tournament where attention will be focused on the US trying to win a third successive World Cup.
“I think the big thing is leaning on your teammates and knowing that we’re all in this together, whatever the emotion is,” said Smith.
“Everyone probably felt it at some point. For me, deleting Twitter, the best thing I’ve ever done. Don’t know what happened. But I think just kind of balancing; we did all these shots and partnerships and stuff a few months ago, and it’s all coming out now, and it’s a lot and it’s like something new every day. So trying to put that aside and focus on what we have to do here, and that’s to play football in one World Cup, and finding that balance I think is really important.”