Magnificent Obsession After the Women's World Cup, Lauren Sesselmann is more determined than ever to help lift up young female athletes.

It takes a certain degree of toughness to play at an elite level in women’s soccer. Lauren Sesselmann displayed that toughness fairly early in life. “Growing up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, I loved playing basketball,” she says. “But then my parents introduced me to co-ed soccer in the fifth grade. In my first game, I threw a boy on the ground, and when I came off the field, I told my parents, ‘This is the greatest game ever!’”

Sesselmann showed such a passion for the game that her parents would drive her two hours each way to Milwaukee to compete with one of the better clubs in the state. “I didn’t have much of a social life,” she says. “Most people outside the game have no idea the blood, sweat and tears and the sacrifices that go into becoming a player at an elite level.”

There was no greater time that she needed to fall back on her internal resilience than during the 2015 Women’s World Cup. Having a Canadian-born father allowed Sesselmann to play for the host country, Team Canada. She proudly wore the Maple Leaf on her uniform as the team played nearly flawless defensive soccer in the group stage. But early in the quarterfinal matchup against England,

Sesselmann slipped on the turf, which helped Jodie Taylor of England gain momentum toward scoring the first goal of the game. England eliminated Canada 2-1 from the tournament. While many factors contributed to the team’s elimination, the anonymous vitriol on social media focused on Sesselmann.

“After the World Cup, no one was more devastated than I was,” Sesselmann says. “But the negative things people said were unbelievable. You can’t listen to the bandwagoners. Things don’t always pan out the way you hope. It doesn’t change who you are as a person. I am so proud to represent Team Canada. Fortunately, there are so many young girls who follow me on social media and who were incredibly supportive. I get messages from them all the time. Knowing that I could have an influence on that many young athletes made me feel amazing.”



Unbowed by the disappointment of 2015, Sesselmann is training with the hopes of returning to Team Canada for the 2016 Olympic Games. She is also a defender for the Houston Dash of the National Women’s Soccer League, and a teammate of Carli Lloyd. “After the World Cup, when we came back home, we were playing in front of 15,000 people. Hopefully, this being an Olympic year, that world stage will help continue to fuel interest in the league.”

As big as the spotlight is on the world stage, Sesselmann realizes the stakes of the NWSL may be even higher. “Going into the league four years ago, we kept hearing, ‘This is it. This is the last women’s pro soccer league. If this doesn’t work, it’s over.’ It would be devastating not to have a place for women to play professionally.”

That’s one of the reasons why Sesselmann is dedicated to conducting camps for girls around the world. She hopes to add 10 more camps this year, as well as several scholarships to help underprivileged girls experience the sport and the lessons they can learn from it. “We want to help girls not only as athletes, but off the field as well. We want to give them a safe environment to make a mistake. Girls struggle a lot with the pressure that society puts on them. We do a lot of leadership-based work to help them break out of their shells.”

Sesselmann has been breaking out of her own shell lately. Her Fit as a Pro video fitness series has gained a growing audience online. And she’s begun a new career as an actress, completing two feature films with a third to begin production this fall. “It’s still weird to see yourself on the big screen,” she says, “but I love it! Sometimes it’s fun to be someone else, even if it’s only for a little while.”