Sophia Smith is currently at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, causing chaos for defenders opposing her and helping the U.S. women’s national team go for a three-peat victory. Smith has been incredibly successful since being drafted by the Portland Thorns in 2020.
However, Smith doesn’t consider herself a social butterfly. And, for a number of years, Smith had heard the words “mental health,” but never though too much about it. Her perspective changed when she was drafted by the Thorns and immediately, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down her rookie season.
“I got to Portland and COVID started,” Smith explained, on the NBC Podcast, My New Favorite Futbolista. “I was in a new city, by myself and I didn’t know anybody. You can’t do anything, and you’re isolated in your apartment. I was like, ‘OK, I’m not OK.’ That’s when I honestly started to struggle with my mental health. I’ve struggled with depression, I have anxiety still, till this day. I realized that it was a real thing, and it was serious.”
Smith also mentioned her longtime friend, and fellow Stanford teammate, Katie Meyer, who passed away from suicide in March 2022.
“It was hard. Even still, to this day, it was hard to talk about,” Smith said on the podcast. “I mean, everything felt real. It was traumatizing, honestly. You heard about things like that, but you never think it’s going to happen to someone close to you. The hardest part was that there weren’t any signs of anything. She was, from the outside, the happiest, most full-of-life person. She had so much energy. You wouldn’t know she was hurting.
“That’s what makes mental health scary. You don’t know what someone else is going through. Since then, I have had a different perspective on life and people. I try to approach everything with, ‘You don’t know what someone is going through.’ You won’t always see signs of struggle.”
Smith’s boyfriend Michael Wilson, a wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals and former Stanford football player, said that relationships are what matter to Smith the most.
“She and Katie were long friends before I actually met Sophia,” Wilson said. “They played on youth national teams together, since they were, I don’t know how old. It was Naomi [Girma], Katie and Sophia. They were like the triplets at Stanford. They’re best friends. They came in together, took the same classes together and ate at the dining hall together. If I was with Sophia, there was Katie and Naomi, too.”
The 22-year-old forward said she’s learning to balance her work as a professional soccer player and her life outside of soccer.
“My balance is, obviously I love soccer. It’s my life, it’s everything to me. But I understand now that it’s not who I am,” Smith stated. “It’s not the only thing I offer to this world. When I’m on the field, practice, locker room, I’m focused on soccer. But when I step out, and go to my apartment, you will not find any soccer-anything. It’s my sanctuary. I’ve learned to balance loving the game, loving the sport, but not letting it be my whole entire life. And learning how to make my mind shift when I’m not playing. I don’t need to be in that state, 24/7.”
Smith said that whenever she needs support, she relies on those relationships — with her parents, her family and boyfriend.
“A lot of my happiness and perspective, when things feel stressful and the world feels like one bad thing after another is happening, I go back to my family,” she said. “They know how to make me happy and make me feel peace, gratefulness to have a family like that. Relationships are the biggest thing. When it’s all said and done, and you’re laying on your deathbed, you’re not going to care about the physical things you have, but the relationships you’ve made and the experiences you’ve had with those people you care about.”
“The best thing you can do is be kind to people,” Smith continued. “Take the time and say hello to someone. Send a text if you feel like you haven’t checked in on someone in a while. Those things have come to life more since that happened.”
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