“In any aspect of what I do in life, I am always going to be trying to grow and improve,” begins Jen Hoy.
Hoy is a 26-year-old forward for the Chicago Red Stars and the last remaining 2013 draft pick on the current roster. A graduate of Princeton University (36 goals, 18 in her senior year) with 13 goals for the Red Stars between 2013 and 2016, Hoy sees professional development as a combination of consistency, commitment, and balance.
When she first joined the league, her perspective was more raw. In the beginning it was just “go out there and work hard.” Four years later, she qualifies that ambition and drive with lessons learned and wisdom gained.
“From my first game in 2013 to now, I feel like I’ve grown tremendously as a teammate and also tactically as a player in what Rory [Dames, Red Stars head coach] has asked me to do…I’ve enjoyed the transition from being a younger player to more of an experienced player on the team. It’s fun to be able to see it from a different perspective and recognize that I do have more of an opportunity to be a leader on the team and positively affect the younger players.”
If there were one thing Hoy could relay to younger professionals, it would be “believe in yourself.” This advice is not a cliché sentiment; self-confidence has been consistently identified across industries as an indicator of professional success. In fact, the “Confidence Gap” in young professional women has garnered attention from C-suite executives and elite publications such as The Atlantic and Forbes (to name just a few) in recent years.
“If you have one player that has full belief and the other that is doubtful of themselves, the player with confidence is going to outshine the other every single day. Do what you need to do to make sure you’ve checked off 100% of the boxes to do what you need to do to perform at your best – technical work, nutrition, or resting your body. Figure out what that is for you and make sure you do it day in and day out – that’s how you get full confidence,”says Hoy regarding building confidence on the pitch. The forward points to her time in Australia this past winter as a growing experience where she focused on building certain aspects of her own game, using the time to improve her movements off the ball and to experiment with her creativity.
Despite focusing on these tactical and technical aspects, Hoy also emphasizes the importance of balance. “A lot of times in life and soccer it’s easy to over think. It’s important to grow in areas like tactics but it also gets easier to overcomplicate things and think too much.” Now Hoy finds herself focusing on not only checking every box day in and day out to be her personal best but also leaving space to enjoy her sport and her teammates.
“I find joy in moments where [my teammates and I] are doing everything we need to do in training, but everyone is smiling, everyone is laughing–finding joy in those moments and that healthy mix of work-life balance. In terms of what our identity is, if you ask any of the older players it’s going to be work hard, blue collar…but I would also say that we really do have a focus on building each other up and being positive. We are focused on having high standards, but moving in a positive direction while doing that.”
The cohesion of that Red Stars ethos is something Hoy attributes to the constituent parts of the team. “[The Red Star players are] good people, role models, leaders. I think the most important thing is to have good people who are going to work hard for each other. That blue-collar mentality is something we’re so proud of in Chicago.” Hoy goes on to credit Chicago’s ability to draft the right talent as being part of this culture. “Rory knows what he wants, and he is really talented at choosing a player, not just for their attributes on the field but off the field. It makes us an incredible threat around the league because he knows how to find talent and really invest in his players. He is a very loyal coach.”
The NWSL is halfway through its fifth season and has growing visibility in the states and abroad. The hard-earned achievements and marginal but steady successes of the league continue to build a culture of high performance and increased quality of play. When asked how she reconciles challenging moments of self-doubt with her priorities of self-belief, habitual improvement, and positivity, Jen Hoy does not hesitate.
“You just need to recommit [in those moments of doubt]. Recommit to what you know you need to do to prepare yourself as a professional, because the work you put in, the preparation you put in, it absolutely will pay off in the end. In life there’s always going to be ups and downs and injuries and I would prefer to approach life with a positive attitude every day. So just recommit. Recommit to your program and try to remember that this is a journey. I try to enjoy that journey as much as I can.”