Carson Pickett: solid athlete, extraordinary person

I'm a big fan of women's pro soccer and followed the sport for years. One of my favorite players is Carson Pickett, who I first noticed from her expert defending against my favorite team. She's great at set pieces and can place a corner kick perfectly in the box ready for any teammate. She can hold a defensive line, then instantly switch gears to league-leading assists on goals. I was stoked when she was added to the US national team roster in 2022, which honestly felt overdue.

Previously, she was a soccer star in college and helped FSU win their first NCAA title, and did it as a defender by not allowing any goals scored against FSU in the entire tournament. She graduated, got picked up in the player draft, but didn't get much play time until a few years into her career where she's now known for great defense and plenty of assists.

Carson's also unique in that she was born with a limb difference. In interviews, she talks about how much she disliked this back in her earlier days. Every newspaper interviewer has wanted to ask about her left arm instead of her prowess on the pitch. In college, she'd wear baggy sweatshirts so fellow students wouldn't notice or ask about it either. Years later, she says a conversation with her mom helped flip the script and she came around to realize she could help others with limb differences by being more visible.

A few years ago, someone snapped this photo of her at a game greeting a fan. It's an amazing photo, and the big smiles say a lot about what's happening. It immediately went viral to the point I still see it pop up at least once a week, four years later.

This past weekend, I got to take a quick trip to San Diego to watch the Wave play Racing Louisville. I was in a section with a bunch of other Louisville fans and though we lost, it was a great game. We stayed around for almost an hour after to see all the end-of-season presentations.

When the game first finished, the Louisville squad shook hands with everyone, congratulated San Diego players, spent a few minutes doing a few cool down runs, and then slowly filtered off the field, and we cheered each of them on as they went past.

I noticed all the Louisville players walked into the locker room eventually except one. Then I saw it was Carson Pickett, as she was mobbed by a bunch of people at the edge of the stadium and was dutifully taking selfies with all of them. There was lots of hugging and the small crowd around her never dissipated. She honestly spent at least 30 minutes meeting families and taking lots of photos and from my seat I could see some of the kids had limb differences. My eyes immediately welled up thinking about how incredible that day must be to the kids beside her.

Last night, I was curious and wondered if I could find any of those selfies she took earlier. After a few minutes on Facebook, I found a post from a mom of a kid with a "lucky fin" who got to meet her after watching Carson be an elite pro athlete out on the field for a few hours.

Carson Pickett is one of the best defenders in the NWSL, but witnessing her selflessly meet and greet fans long after most people left the stadium, I really have a whole new level of respect for her.