More than a decade before her now world-famous hat trick led the U.S. women’s national team to victory in the 2015 Women’s World Cup, midfielder and Mt. Laurel resident Carli Lloyd was well used to walking into neighboring Evesham’s Blue Barn Recreation Facility to hone her skills.
What she might have been slightly less unprepared for was walking into the Blue Barn on July 22 to a surprise crowd filled with hundreds of kids from the Marlton Soccer Program and township summer camp, along with parents and township officials, all there to present her with a key to the facility and name a court in her honor.
Before Lloyd arrived, those kids who packed the gym of the Blue Barn filled the room with Chants of “USA” and “I believe that we will win.”
And when Lloyd finally did step from behind a dividing curtain, the cheers might have very well reach levels loud enough for those back in Mt. Laurel to hear.
Lloyd, who was originally told she would be there to speak to a few dozen kids, thanked the crowd for being there to greet her as she reminisced about her years at the Blue Barn.
Lloyd’s time at facility stretches back 12 years to 2003, after she was cut from the U.S. under-21 team and believed she would stop pursuing soccer, before meeting trainer James Galanis and rekindling her love of the game.
“We popped in and started training here, banging the ball up against the wall, using these mats to shoot. We have used this gym so many times I’ve actually worn out shoes that I’ve had to throw away from the surface, but it’s been amazing,” Lloyd said.
Lloyd used words and phrases such as “amazing” and “part of me” to describe the Blue Barn, and said everyone there had always welcomed her and Galanis with open arms, never trying to give them a hard time for being there or interrupt their training.
She also used her unique journey, which she said was filled peaks and valleys, as a lesson to kids and adults seated before her.
“When I look at all the things I’ve accomplished, the great things, they’re amazing, they’re unbelievable — all the difficult times I’ve gone through, they’re times that have actually helped shape me and actually helped me get back up twice as much,” Lloyd said.
Galanis also said the Blue Barn played a huge part “in building Carli Lloyd,” and when it seemed as if Evesham Mayor Randy Brown asked them to attend the day’s event as if it were a favor, Galanis said he and Lloyd weren’t going out of their way to be there.
“Every year for the last 12 years, November, December, January, February, March between three to six hours a day, we have been in this gym right here working when no one was watching, and in all those years, we have never had an issue,” Galanis said.
Brown said Galanis, while in Greece the day after the World Cup, took the time to call Brown and thank the people of Evesham and the township for letting them get so much use out of the Blue Barn.
As a parent, Brown said Lloyd’s journey epitomizes that being great is an incredible journey that takes hard work every day.
“I have two little girls, 7 and 9 years old, and I want them to have heroes, too, just like we did growing up,” Brown said. “We are very fortunate, very fortunate, to have someone who has shown the way for the younger kids on how to succeed.”
After being presented with a key to the facility, both a large ceremonial key and a literal key to the Blue Barn’s doors, and being told her name would be permanently painted on the wall, Lloyd said she looks forward to coming back to train there in the future.
“Who knows, we might even have some spectators crowding around and watching us train, but it’s good, this is what it’s all about, bringing communities together,” Lloyd said.