Jane Campbell remembers the day she thought a desk job was in her future, “…my first year in the league was really awful. I honestly thought, 'Should I just retire? Get a desk job?”
Thankfully, the 24-year old Houston Dash goalkeeper didn't let self-doubt get the best of her.
Despite being the youngest goalkeeper to ever train with the US national team at the age of 17, Campbell's rookie season was rough.
“My first game in the league, we ended up losing 5-1 or 5-0. It was awful. I don't think I've ever let in five goals before that game. So, that was quite a shock to the whole system," says Campbell
To solidify a starting position, let alone remain competitive in the league, she needed to change her game physically and mentally.
“I just wasn't confident in myself. I was overthinking. Trying to do too much. I needed to figure out what was going to work in the pro game, which was bigger, faster, stronger players and way more sophisticated," says Campbell.
As a Stanford grad and daughter of two elite athletes, Campbell is no stranger to hard work and learning how to strengthen her weaknesses.
Promptly after finishing her rookie season, Campbell says, “I got with Atlanta-based strength coach Mark Kovacs, and I talked with the forwards about how they were going to beat me. I was determined to learn how I could be better and that's reflected in my game.”
Campbell credits her competitive edge and relentless work ethic to her parents. Her mother, Chrystal, was a Navy fighter pilot who rowed for the Naval Academy, and her father, Mike, a Navy lieutenant, pilot, and captain of the Wesleyan hockey team.
Today, Campbell is co-captain of the Houston Dash and a 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup champion. Not only did Houston's Head Coach, James Clarkson, extend Campbell's contract through 2021, but he also refers to her as “the best goalkeeper in the league.”
So what makes Campbell so exceptional? Her ability to strike the nearly-impossible balance between having unwavering confidence and believing there's always room for improvement—even when you come out on top.
“The first two or three games of the Challenge Cup, I just wasn't myself. I was really overthinking it, but, at the end of the day, I knew that if the game was tied at the end of regulation and we went into PK's, I could win the game for my team.”
We spoke with Campbell about what it was like inside the bubble during the Challenge Cup, her thoughts on gender inequality in sports, and the weirdest (yet game changing) ingredient she adds to every smoothie.
What's your greatest piece of advice?
One thing I always tell kids who ask how I've made it as a pro is to always have joy in what you're doing. I know that's cliche, but with how strenuous our sport can be, or any strenuous job, there are going to be really tough times. Every time I step on the field, I try and have as much fun as possible—even if I'm having a really bad day. I think that can just apply for anything you're doing.
Sometimes I'll coach kids privately and they just don't want to be there. And I'm like, “Hey, that's totally okay. Because if you're not having fun, it might not be for you. And that's totally okay also." It's important for kids to take that with them, because having fun and bringing joy to what you do, can really help you be that much more successful.
Favorite song on your workout playlist?
I'll go with “Rockstar" by DaBaby.
Your go-to 20-minute, no-equipment workout?
I'd go back to basics and do a circuit that includes: Push-ups, squats, lunges, and core work. As many reps and as many rounds as possible.
Favorite cheat meal?
Any type of mac and cheese. I had a spell in college where I wouldn't eat any mac and cheese because I thought it was so bad for you. But, oh my gosh, it's like the tastiest thing.
Whole Foods Auntie Anne's Organic Mac & Cheese. That's my favorite.
Pre-workout and post-workout training rituals?
I love Ladder Pre-Workout. I use that before I lift. Then, first thing in the morning, I have a smoothie with Ladder Vanilla Plant Protein mixed with Ladder Greens, then I add water, and it's kind of weird, but I put frozen rice cauliflower in for texture. I think adding veggies to my smoothies helps me stay pretty consistent with my weight most of the time.
Then, my afternoon smoothie is usually strawberries, bananas, peanut butter, Ladder Chocolate Plant Protein, Ladder Greens, frozen rice cauliflower, and then just water or some almond milk. In Houston, being so hot during these summer months, the electrolytes are obviously crucial. So I love having the Ladder Hydration mix at all times.
What would you say was your biggest disappointment and how did you bounce back?
My rookie year. My first game in the league, we ended up losing 5-1 or 5-0. It was awful. I don't think I've ever let in five goals before that game, so that was quite a shock to the whole system. I spent all my time reading. The book, "The Little Things: Why You Really Should Sweat the Small Stuff" by Andy Andrews helped me with the mental side of my game and my own thought process.
My favorite chapter talks about the phrase "If you could choose..." As grade school students, we are all asked "If you could choose anything in the world to be, what would it be?" The chapter explains how this phrase makes it seem as though it's a fairytale or almost unachievable but it's fun to wonder. The author details how important it is to realize that that phrase isn't meant to be a fairytale, but a long term goal that is achievable if you want it to be.
I don't really think of these times as disappointments, even though they were hard times, I'm very thankful because I wouldn't be the player I am today because I would have gotten complacent.
What was a highlight inside the bubble during the Challenge Cup?
Winning the tournament was obviously a big highlight for me, but one of the biggest was getting voicemails and messages from our medical staff back in Houston who were helping out at Anderson Hospital during COVID.
So hearing messages from our medical staff, or people in the hospital getting treatment, thanking us for providing entertainment and saying that we were such an inspiration during this weird time.
And then winning on top of it, it was so much more to us than just the tournament. I think for us, it really helped to know that we were giving the city of Houston a glimmer of hope and positivity during a strange time. So the moments when I'm able to reflect on myself not only as a player, but also a person, and realize what's going on in the world around me and how I can help either the game or my city, I think that's been very helpful.
What was the biggest adjustment in your transition from college to the pro league?
The pro game, in any sport, is so much more about your IQ and how you read the game. You'll hear it all the time from older athletes, they're like, “young guys and girls are way faster, so as you get older you have to be way smarter."
Going to Stanford, we were top five in the country at all times—no questions asked. But, I got away with a lot of stuff, that could have been a mistake, but it wasn't because I was playing against someone that wasn't as athletic as me or as smart.
Once I jumped to the pro level, none of that works.
My teammate, Rachel Daly, would make me look silly. She would say, “Listen, that's just not gonna work here." We've been teammates now for four years and it's been amazing, watching her and seeing how she thinks about the game. And that way I can kind of think the opposite of her and hopefully shut her down. And that's kind of what I do with everyone I go against.
I actually think watching basketball helps my game a lot because there are so many patterns in soccer and basketball that are similar.
My coaches always say I need to watch more soccer, and I get that, but for me, I'd rather watch small patterns, like a 5 v 5 scrimmage or 3 v 3, because I can see gaps and channels way quicker than I think the average person can. Then I replicate those patterns in our full field games. I think that's really helped my IQ.
What was the inspiration behind your apparel brand, Ace of Spades?
My rookie year in Houston, when I was really having that down year. I really wanted to be a starter and I wasn't starting. But, I knew how good I could be.
The idea of being the ACE of spades, came from that card always being the most powerful card in any game. So, especially in Houston, you know, people don't think we're a very good team and yet we all know we are.
It's almost like we have a hand of cards and we have the spades, but it's just whether or not we're willing to play it. And I think the Challenge Cup is a great example of that. We ended up playing the card and we ended up winning. So, I think the Ace of Spades could represent one person like myself or you or anyone, not knowing if they've got that confidence, but just know that you do, know your ability and don't be afraid to play it.
Do you ever envy that men's soccer gets more of the spotlight than the women's league?
To be frank? Totally. But, I also think, whenever I see a male athlete get something that we don't, it just gives me this extra motivation of, “Okay, well I'm going to go and do it just as well, if not better. Regardless of my gender."
I can't speak for anybody else, but I think it's interesting that I have yet to have a talk about whether or not the men's and women's leagues are equal. It's always very separated and we're lesser. I've never felt that the men's side really cares much about our side unless one of the guys has a daughter.
So, I do get frustrated because that's obviously very common. Not just in sport, but in life. But, having a mom in the first class of women at Navy, she always said, “Just go out and do it. Toss everyone's opinion to the side and just do it." My mom has given me the mentality that, sure, gender is a thing, it obviously exists, and it's very important. But, at the same time, you're so strong that you can do anything, regardless of what people say about your gender, because you're so strong and powerful.
Latest Netflix binge?
Zach Efron's documentary, “Down to Earth," where he travels around the world to different little towns and talks about food, or water, or certain wines. I think it's really interesting.
If you could train with anyone who would it be?
LeBron or Serena Williams. They've been impeccable on and off-the-field. They've done amazing things in business and just as human beings.
Seeing athletes at their peak performance, I wonder how that translates in their off-the-field life, because those things can go such a long way as an athlete, and, as a person.