JANE GERSHOVICH/ISI PHOTOS

Beverly Yanez joined Reign FC during the second season of the NWSL. She went on to play six seasons for the club, having previously played abroad for INAC Kobe Leonessa in Japan. After a decade of professional soccer, Yanez announced this week that she was retiring from the sport. She sat down with JWS to discuss her hopes for the future, why now is the time to step away, and how much the league has grown since she joined.

How have the last few days been since you announced your retirement?  

It’s been emotional, just seeing the outpouring of love. I’m very grateful for the amount of people that have reached out, whether it be on social media or to me personally. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster knowing that I’m finished doing something that I’ve done for so long, something that has brought me so much happiness and structure to my life. Soccer has been such a big part of my identity that it feels weird to ask what I’m going to do without it, because it’s all I’ve known since I was a kid. But I’m also very excited for the future.

Why is now the right time to step away? 

There was a lot of thinking that went into the decision. In part, I started to feel that, though I love the sport so so much, my body just isn’t recovering like it used to. I feel like I’m getting a little bit older. I’m also very excited at the thought of starting a family. And I knew that I wanted my career to end on a positive note. I wanted to walk away still loving the game, which I do. To step away is tough, but I’m incredibly grateful for everything that it’s brought to my life. And I’m thankful to be able to walk away on my own terms, having had such a positive experience and with so many good memories. I can honestly say in my heart of heart that I gave it everything I have.

JANE GERSHOVICH/ISI PHOTOS
What are you most looking forward to about retirement? 

I think it’s easy for people to overlook how much you have to sacrifice to consistently play at the highest level. Every single day of my career I woke up asking how I could be the best version of myself in order to help the team. Every single thing in my everyday life revolved around the fact that I needed to perform at my best. That meant I ate at a certain time every day, and I ate certain things the day before a game and the day of a game. It meant I couldn’t walk my dogs on game day because I could never be sure how long they’d want to go. I had to manage my body on a consistent basis and obsess over every little thing. I loved it, and that’s how I chose to live, but that kind of life can also be very, very draining after a long period of time. So I’m excited to now just get up and ask myself, like, what do I want to eat today? Do I want to walk the dogs twice today? Having that kind of daily flexibility is honestly what I’m most excited about. That and getting to spend more time with my husband, of course.

What was it like getting to play for Reign FC throughout your NWSL career? 

I’ve said it a million times, and I’ll say it a million more, but to be able to start and end my NWSL career with Reign FC has been a true honor. The club has just been so incredible during my entire time there. They take such good care of their players. They give them the maximum that they can, not just financially, but with whatever they can do to make sure players are comfortable and enjoying their experience. It’s a fun and competitive environment where athletes can thrive. They really care about you as a person, which was a huge reason why I stayed there for so long.

JANE GERSHOVICH/ISI PHOTOS
You’ve been in the league since almost the beginning. How has it changed in your time? 

I have seen the league grow immensely over the course of my career, which is one reason I’m so at peace walking away now. I’ve been able to witness and be a part of the growth, and now I step away with so much hope that it will continue to grow. The difference between how many boys and girls come up to ask us for autographs at airports now versus six years ago is just incredible, and it shows you that our efforts have made a real difference. Even in retirement, I’m still going to do what I can to give back to the younger players and use my knowledge and my experience to empower those who are fighting for more recognition and equality. What the national team did this past summer was beyond amazing, and I’m in complete support of them and all other women who are standing up for more equality across the board. I got to experience that fight firsthand and now I’m going to be able step away and continue to encourage those who are working to grow and improve the league.

Looking back, how are you different now than you were at the beginning of your career?

It’s been an incredible journey. The game has taught me things that I will carry with me the rest of my life. It’s taught me how to improve myself, how to be organized and healthy, how to be there for my teammates, how to come together and find commonalities with people I might have never talked to if I passed them on the street. It’s made me look at life differently, and I’m going to take that with me into my new everyday reality. I want to get to know people, I want to get to share my experiences with people. I want to hear about what other peoples’ lives are like. And that’s because soccer showed me how to be more outgoing, how to be more of an extrovert, how to open up and get to know people. It’s let me travel the world and meet the most amazing people who I will call friends for the rest of my life. There’s so many stories I hope to tell my kids someday about the people I met and the journey I had.