'I Was Meant for Soccer and Motherhood—and I Can Do Both'
World Cup champion Sydney Leroux is the only mother on her professional soccer team. Pulling that off is a huge accomplishment, but this mom of two takes it in stride.
When the Orlando Pride women’s soccer team travels for away games, the players sleep two to a room. Sydney Leroux, a forward, is no exception. But she’s had some unusual roommates: her kids, Cassius and Roux, who both traveled with her as infants. “It would be pretty good birth control if a teammate were in there with us to experience the lack of sleep,” she says, laughing. “Everyone wants to hold a baby until nighttime comes!”
Leroux, 29, is an Olympic gold medalist, a World Cup champion, and a rarity in professional sports: She’s returned to play following two births—son Cassius, 3, and now baby Roux, born in June 2019. “‘How do you do it?’ is the question I get all the time. You just do,” Leroux says. Then she adds, “There are days when I’m like, ‘I don’t know how much longer I can do this.’ And then I think, ‘This is absolutely what I was meant to do. I was meant for soccer and motherhood, and I can do both.’”
Her husband, Dom Dwyer, has the same job she has: He plays forward for Orlando City SC, the men’s team. Their travel schedule works out so that one parent is usually at home. “Our teams share a stadium, so if my team has a home game, that means Dom’s team has an away game, and vice versa,” Leroux explains. The baby always stays with her, since she’s breastfeeding. There’s no nanny during the off-season, but, fortunately, there are four grandmas willing to fly in for occasional babysitting stints. Leroux has her mom and stepmom in Canada, and Dwyer’s mom and stepmom are in England.
With the support of family and teammates who are “like 18 babysitters,” Leroux says the only negativity she encounters comes via social media, usually from male-dominated sports accounts. “People actually say things like, ‘She should be in the kitchen,’ ” Leroux says. But she attributes motherhood to catapulting her Instagram following to over a million. “Women in sports want to be seen as athletes and moms and entrepreneurs and all the amazing things that we can be,” Leroux says. “That’s important.”
The Vancouver native worked hard to get to the top of her game. After beginning her career at UCLA, Leroux played with Team USA at London’s 2012 Olympics, where she scored a goal and won a gold medal. Later, Leroux was on the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup team, which clinched the trophy in her hometown.
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Leroux met Dwyer in 2013, and the pair married two years later. They were on teams in different cities, so Leroux asked to be traded to Kansas City so they could be together. “As soon as I got there, we found out I was pregnant,” she says. Leroux gave birth to son Cassius in September 2016.
In their first few years of parenthood, the couple weathered another team-location-related separation, a family move to Orlando, and a devastating miscarriage. “I had to let my teammates know because I was out for a little while,” Leroux says. “They were amazing, and it made us close.”
After their loss, the couple decided to stop trying to plan. “We got pregnant again two months later,” Leroux says. Even though she realized she’d have to bow out when the season started, Leroux trained, visibly pregnant, until she was six months along.
“We knew that we wanted a baby, so the timing wasn’t really going to matter,” Leroux says of her daughter’s birth last June, which happened during the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. “Roux was an absolute blessing for us.”
Leroux was determined to play the end of the competitive season that she hadn’t been able to start. With her doctor’s okay, she began training again just five weeks postpartum, pumping before and after practices. Leroux made national news September 29 when she returned to the pitch only 93 days after giving birth to Roux. “I made a promise to myself that I had to keep,” says Leroux, who broke down in tears after the game. “It was such a beautiful moment. It was special to be back on the field with the people who went through everything with me, including my husband and kids,” she says.
When Leroux counts her blessings, her children are at the top of the list. “I talk to Dom about how we have a really cool opportunity, since we have a boy and a girl, to show Cassius how to be in this world and show Roux that she can do anything. Being a parent is not easy, but I think that’s so special, and I’m really lucky.”