Scholastic News: Like every player, you’ve had tough times in your career. What would you say to that kid who loves soccer but just got benched or is struggling?
Crystal Dunn: It’s always easy to enjoy something when you’re scoring goals, when you’re winning, when you’re always starting and always playing. And I think the moments that we actually want to forget are the moments that are challenging. It may not feel like it at that time, but those challenging moments make you even better than you thought you could ever be. I would tell any child right now who just got benched or didn’t make a team that something great is coming.
Scholastic News: Tell us about the U.S. Women’s National Team.
Crystal Dunn: We have this “Never say die” mentality. We will fight until the very last whistle blows. We feel like we can achieve anything. Your efforts, your energy, your positivity, your leadership in every moment that you step foot on the field—that’s what we try to bring to every game. It’s just so much fun. There are some days that we are grumpy because we missed out on [a family] event, or we don’t see our spouses. But ultimately leading into the World Cup, we know all those sacrifices we made are going to be worth it. That’s what’s going to push us to win these games and really take our game to the next level—and hopefully be in the finals and hopefully hoist up the trophy.
Scholastic News: You are one of 28 players who are suing U.S. Soccer over gender discrimination. [The women are paid less than the players on the Men’s National Team and say that the league provides fewer resources to the women’s team.] What are your goals in the fight for gender equality in sports?
Crystal Dunn: It always starts with someone standing up and wanting change. It’s just shedding light on things that happen to us because of who we are as female athletes. We play the same sport as men, we put in the same effort, we’re sacrificing the same amount of days away from family members, if not more. And I think people need to know that we take ourselves very seriously and that’s how we should be treated. If I show up to work and I’m putting in the same amount of hours, doing the same job as another employee who happens to be a man, why should my paychecks be any less? Why should I feel like I’m not valuable?
Note: The interview has been edited and condensed.