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Why Crystal Dunn believes motherhood made her a better athlete

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Crystal Dunn, who gave birth to her son Marcel last May, says motherhood has given her a new perspective. (Brad Smith/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Becoming a mother has brought a new perspective to Crystal Dunn’s game.

The U.S. Women’s National Team defender is heading to her second World Cup. But since Dunn gave birth to her son Marcel last May, she is seeing the game with fresh eyes.

“I feel like I’m a better athlete now, being a mom, because I have learned to really appreciate every little moment,” she told Just Women’s Sports. “Every pass, every tackle, just every moment I’m on the field I think I look at differently.”

Dunn astounded fans last year when she made her return to play less than four months after giving birth, rejoining the national team for its September training camp and the Portland Thorns for their NWSL Championship run in 2022. She’s looked strong to start 2023, scoring five goals so far in the NWSL regular season and starting five of seven USWNT matches leading up to this summer’s world championship in Australia and New Zealand.

And she’s doing it all while balancing two positions — her natural position of attacking midfielder for the Thorns and outside back for the USWNT. Dunn spoke out about the difficulty of making that switch for the first time earlier this year, though she also has come to recognize that versatility as her superpower and as part of her legacy.

“Playing multiple positions is something that I think I’ll be remembered for,” she said.

Referring to Marcel as her most prized possession, Dunn says her son is also her favorite person to FaceTime when she’s traveling (in addition to her husband Pierre Soubrier). The FaceTime calls won’t be necessary during this summer’s tournament, with Marcel also making the trip Down Under. Dunn is one of nine returning players from the USWNT’s 2019 championship roster, and one of three moms along with Alex Morgan and Julie Ertz.

“Being able to see my son in the stands has been the biggest joy of it all, just knowing that you know I’m playing for something so much bigger than just me winning games,” Dunn said. “I’m playing to be seen through his eyes. He doesn’t care if I miss a pass or lose a game.

“And I think that that’s really great. It gives me that comfort, knowing that I’m just out there doing the best I can and that’s really all that matters.”

Marcel even has her seeing the USWNT’s kits from Nike in a new light.

“The white ones kind of look like my son took a paintbrush and just literally threw his paintbrush at me, so I think that’s kind of cool,” said Dunn, a Nike athlete. “I know that’s funny to say, but I think it’s a different look… I think I like our blue jerseys a little bit better. It just looks clean. I like the color blue, and I think it just looks more American.”