Captain America: Student by Day, Soccer Star by Night

Printed+with+Permission+of+Alyssa+Thompson

Printed with Permission of Alyssa Thompson

Ella Yadegar

Alyssa Thompson ’23 walked out beside her U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) teammates at Wembley Stadium under beaming lights and the chants of 77,000 attendees. Preparing to take on England in the match, Thompson said she could not help but notice how different this experience felt from her typical school games at Ted Slavin Field. She became the youngest player to debut for the team since 2016 after substituting into the game for forward Megan Rapinoe on Oct. 7.

Thompson said playing in such a large stadium was a shocking experience because of the size of the crowd.

“I looked at the whole stadium,” Thompson said. “It was very scary imagining all those people watching, but they seemed so far away. I couldn’t even see their faces. When I first walked out, I could hear the chants, and it felt like they were right in my ear because of how many people were there. When someone missed a shot, [the audience] was so loud.”

The team lost 2-1 to England and then lost 2-0 to Spain four days later. Thompson said even with the losses, her experience so far with the team has been invaluable. She said she has learned many important skills from the other professional players on her team.

“ I watch [my teammates’] movements, how they go about their day, and the recovery they do to stay in the shape that they are [in],” Thompson said. “I try to mimic their movements to make sure I’m in those half spaces. And then for recovery, they’ve been doing this for so long. Seeing how they take care of their bodies and are able to play this game and the longevity of their [bodies] is amazing.”

Thompson won the Girls Soccer Gatorade Player of the Year Award after her sophomore season in 2021. Before being called up to the USWNT, Thompson competed with the U-20 USWNT at the 2022 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica in early August. Thompson then became the first high school athlete, along with her sister, to sign a Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) deal with Nike. Alongside her parents, she signed her letter of intent to attend and play soccer at Stanford University on Nov. 9 in Taper Gym at the upper school.

Girls varsity soccer player Skyla Wilkins ’25 said it is inspiring to watch someone from the school play with a professional team.

“It’s amazing to see someone from Harvard-Westlake compete at that level, and it makes me proud to be a part of this school whenever someone from outside of school mentions it,” Wilkins said. “What she’s done is almost like a Disney movie.”

Wilkins said that as an athlete herself, she admires the hard work Thompson puts into developing her skills with her club team outside of school and the national team.

“Seeing Alyssa achieve what she has, especially because she’s so close to home at Harvard-Westlake, has been really inspiring in all aspects of my life,” Wilkins said. “It’s amazing to even know that, through hard work, it’s possible to reach these goals and has inspired me to do the same.”

Similarly, girls varsity soccer player Victoria Pugh ’25 said she looks up to Thompson on the soccer field and as an athlete in general.

“It is incredible to see Alyssa playing in the World Cup and on the national team because it shows us as athletes and scholars that with enough hard work, dedication and perseverance our dreams can become our realities,” Pugh said.

Matthew Murray ’24 said while Thompson is an amazing athlete, he also admires her kind personality.

“I’m good friends with Alyssa’s sister and I sit next to Alyssa in Spanish,” Murray said. “She’s super nice and chill. For someone who’s doing such amazing things, she’s incredibly humble as well.”

Since she is playing for the USWNT and her club team, Thompson is missing some days of the 2022-2023 school year. Thompson said even though she had to miss a few days of school for the team’s games against England and Spain, her teachers have helped her keep up with her work.

“Honestly, I don’t think I would be able to do it at a lot of other schools because of the faculty at Harvard-Westlake,” Thompson said. “[Head of Upper School] Ms. Slattery and all my teachers are very supportive and very helpful with me leaving. They’re super flexible, and when I came back [from my trips], they helped me get back on track and weren’t super strict about everything, which is really nice.”

Thompson said when she is away from the team and with her friends at school, she chooses not to talk about soccer.

“I don’t want people just to think of me as soccer,” Thompson said. “I don’t want it to be why people want to be friends with me or why people talk to me. I just want to be a normal person, I guess. I feel like I don’t talk about it because I don’t feel that I have reached all the goals that I want to yet. And I feel like if I can become better and if I get too confident or have a big ego, then that might stop me from becoming a better player.”

Multiple media reporters, including Eric Sondheimer and Tarek Fattal, sports columnists for the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Daily News, respectively, have commented on the successes of Thompson at such a young age.

Thompson said she appreciates the recognition she is receiving and does not feel pressured by the media to perform better.

“I don’t really feel pressure from [the media], more so [from] myself to just be the best I can,” Thompson said. “I hope that I can continue that and not let [the media] get to me.”

The USWNT is set to play Germany in its final two matches of the year in preparation for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia.

Thompson said she still has skills she wants to strengthen during her time playing with the team.

“A big goal for me in the upcoming months is just evolving,” Thompson said. “Not everything in my game is as strong as what I would like. I don’t want to just be a fast player. I want to work on my left foot and just [on] finishing in general.”