There was a time earlier in her soccer career when Carson Pickett didn't want to draw attention to her left arm or even talk about it. She just wanted to be like all the other players.
Pickett has since become more comfortable with what makes her both unique and a role model for others like her. The 29-year-old defender, who plays professionally for Racing Louisville in the National Women's Soccer League, was born without a left hand and forearm.
“As I’ve gotten older and more mature, I’ve realized that there is a platform that I have that other people don’t have. And I think for far too long I allowed myself just to kind of only focus on soccer, only focus on fans who want to talk about soccer and, you know, doing interviews that only discuss soccer and not my arm. And I think that that was something that I had to learn," she said.
Of course, there's much more to Pickett than her limb difference. She's a skilled defender who has earned call-ups to the U.S. team and appeared in a pair of matches last year. In doing so, she became the first player with a limb difference to play for the United States.
While Pickett is in the mix, the competition is fierce for a spot on the team that will go to the World Cup this summer in Australia and New Zealand, especially after the sport's governing body set rosters at 23 players. Teams at the men's World Cup in Qatar last year were able to use 26 players because of the timing of the tournament and the lingering impact of COVID-19.
For the moment, Pickett is focused on the NWSL season, which starts this weekend. Racing visits the Houston Dash on Sunday night.
Louisville is new to Pickett. She and fellow defender Abby Erceg were traded in January from the North Carolina Courage to Racing in exchange for Emily Fox. Racing finished ninth in the 12-team NWSL last season but the club hopes that tweaks made in the offseason provide a lift.
Coach Kim Bjorkegren said Pickett is already fitting in quite well
“She’s already really popular in the group. And of course, what’s also important is that she’s a really, really good football player. So to have that left foot in the defense line, it helps a lot,” he said.
Pickett has been impressed with the club's professional standards. Some of the perks include a gym and a cafeteria where players can get two meals a day — a rarity for a women's team.
“Things like that just show that they’re setting you up the best way that they can for you to perform on the field and you’re not having to worry about things off the field like nutrition, driving to a gym, trying to find a gym. So I think that has been incredible,” Pickett said.
Pickett was selected fourth overall by the Reign in the 2016 NWSL draft out of Florida State. She also played for the Orlando Pride and the Courage with stops on loan in Australia and Cyprus.
In 2019 while playing for the Pride, Pickett met a young boy named Joseph who had a limb difference just like hers. The moment they met went viral on social media.
Moments like that took on greater meaning when she played for the United States.
“When I got the chance on the national team and I walked on the field, it felt like it wasn’t just for me, it felt like it was one for my family and more importantly for all those people that were watching me, who maybe think because they’re different they’re not going to ever have a shot,” she said. “So I think that it carries a lot more weight now but I love it. I love that I can be that person for some people.”
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