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‘Here’s the thing about Jae’: How Howell aims to captain Louisville to a better future

At 23-years-old, Jaelin Howell is a somewhat unlikely captain of Racing Louisville. She is a microcosm of a team that hopes it is on the rise.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into last year’s offseason, Racing Louisville FC midfielder Jaelin Howell knew she could do better.

Her rookie year hadn’t gone as well as she hoped and her club ended the season near the bottom of the table in ninth place. That wasn’t good enough, so the defensive midfielder spent her time off consulting with nutritionists to improve her diet, working with strength and speed coaches to improve her speed of play, and continuing to see a sports psychologist to strengthen her mental game.

“I didn’t want anybody to have a doubt in their mind about who I was as a player, as a person, or a leader,” the defensive midfielder told The Equalizer. “I wanted to do a 180 with all of that. And so having that mentality going into the offseason, knowing that I’m going to have to change a lot of things but it’s going to be worth it because when I step onto that field I’m going to be a different player.”

Howell’s hard work paid off. Not only did she come into the 2023 National Women’s Soccer League season revitalized, but her growth mindset and desire to improve herself for the betterment of the team ultimately helped her earn the captain’s armband. Being named captain at only 23-years-old, while in only the second year of her professional career, may have come as a surprise to some, but Louisville head coach Kim Björkegren was confident in Howell’s leadership capabilities.

“For me, it doesn’t matter if you’re 25 or 35,” Björkegren said. “The most important thing is that you do your best every single day for yourself but also for the club and yourself, and that’s Howell.”

Five months into her captaincy, Howell has shown a marked improvement on the field despite wrestling with nagging injuries. She also helped lead her club to to their best overall performance in their three-year history. In this exclusive conversation with The Equalizer, the defensive midfielder shares how she’s been adjusting to her new role, what it takes to build a winning culture in a young team, and how she’s working to balance helping her club reach greater success while still achieving her own goals.

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