WILTON, Conn. -- When it comes to being on a successful team, it’s all about putting the needs of the team first, says Wilton native Kristine Lilly, a retired U.S. Women’s National Team soccer player and two-time World Cup champion.
On Tuesday, Lilly — who now lives in Texas — returned to her hometown to speak to local student athletes in a talk called “How to be a Teammate” at the Comstock Community Center.
She told an audience of more than 50 people that a lifetime of being part of a team has taught her the importance of being a good teammate.
"Nowadays, there’s been a lot of change in kids’ mentalities about 'me' or 'the team' and if you’re playing a team sport, it’s about the big unit," said Lilly, who won four NCAA national championships at the University of North Carolina. She is now 45 and the mother of two daughters.
She empathized the importance of making one's teammates look good -- any time the need arises.
“If I'm sitting in the locker room and 'Megan' is sitting next to me and leaves her shin guards here when she goes to practice, I can bring them to her so she won’t get in trouble," Lilly said.
Children from the audience raised their hands and gave examples of what it means to be a good teammate.
“Be happy, not jealous,” said one.
“Work with each other,” said another.
Lilly said being a good teammate is also about taking care of yourself so you can perform to the best of your ability.
"Part a good teammate is making sure you are ready to play -- that you're fit and you're resting, eating right and hydrating.
"Once you take care of yourself, then it becomes about the bigger picture and that’s your team," she said.
Lilly said she's extremely grateful for having people to support her in the rough times and also to celebrate in the good times.
No matter what sport or activity you participate in, it's important to have fun.
“I played for 23 years on the national team because it was fun," Lilly said, adding that she wouldn’t have done it if it wasn't fun.
She said she greatly enjoys coming back to her hometown -- the place where her career began.
"Wilton will always be my hometown and a place where I feel really comfortable," Lilly said. "This is where I played soccer on the fields, at Allen's Meadows, at Wilton High School and ran on that track inside the field house — all these places helped me to become the player I was.
"They were where I worked hard and honed my skills and had the platform for my career."
She said she wanted to give this talk to show kids that someone from their area can do great things by working hard and putting their mind to it.
Since Lilly retired in 2011, she gives coaching clinics and run camps every summer in Wilton, as well as around the country. She is now one of the assistant soccer coaches at the University of Texas.
Lilly was invited by the Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network to speak to the Wilton soccer community for a profile that will broadcast across CPBN platforms in 2017.