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Stanford’s Naomi Girma on National Team Camp and Using Her Platform

Football player taking a shot/ JWS

Naomi Girma is a defender for the Stanford University Cardinal, with whom she won the 2019 NCAA College Cup. 

How do you feel about being called into USWNT training camp?

I’m really excited. It just feels like a bright spot in what has been a tough year with obviously our season getting canceled and all these things. So yeah, I’m super excited to go.

How’d you find out about the call-in? And how excited were you to see some current and past teammates on the roster? 

I got an email. Sophie Smith, who went pro last year, is also going and we were kind of talking about it and it was just like, “Yeah.” It was really exciting. My parents were super excited. And I think it’s great to see familiar faces there and a new environment for me. And yeah, I think it’s just cool that Stanford has that many people representing them there.

How have you been training this fall given that the Pac 12 isn’t playing? 

I’m happy I stayed on campus. We’ve been getting good training with our coaches and then also playing by ourselves and just focusing on finer details that we don’t usually focus on during the season. It’s just been great to have a steady training environment compared to the rest of this year when we were at home.

At this point, do you count on there being a spring season?

Well, I’m preparing for a spring season. That’s kind of been my outlook the whole year. If there’s a season, I want to be ready for it. I think it’s looking a lot better because of how Stanford is pushing for basketball and football to get the testing to be able to fully practice and then also be able to play in the game. So I think depending on how this fall season goes for them, that’ll kind of determine what happens with us. But I’m hopeful for a spring season and I mean, it’s really cool. We have the opportunity to play for a national championship in spring. And then also in the fall to play for 2021. That’d be pretty cool.

What have the last 6 months been like for you in terms of Covid, the season being cancelled, and the protests against social injustice? What’s changed in your perspective both as a person and as an athlete? 

It’s definitely changed. I would say I feel more empowered to use my platform as an athlete and to use my voice in ways that I didn’t feel like I could before. I think seeing the impact athletes can have on these issues has definitely inspired me and has caused me to start speaking out more. And I think it’s also great that our team is super open and willing to have those conversations, which has helped me feel more supported in speaking out and stuff.

You’ve talked before about the importance of having Black role models when you were younger in a sport that’s historically white. Your own platform is growing as we speak. How has your sense of yourself as a role model changed over the last few months? 

I think I just realized how special this opportunity that I have is, because obviously I know playing for Stanford soccer and getting to be in this environment is such a privilege. And I’m obviously grateful for it every day, but I think I realized the impact that it can have on other people who are younger than me. And I didn’t necessarily think about that before, that as a first generation American, I can have an impact by showing younger kids that you can do anything you set out for. And I think I realized the people that I looked up to inspired me and I can be that for younger kids as well.

What would “success” mean for you in camp?

Honestly, I think growing and learning as much as I can and going into that environment with an open mind and just being exposed to the faster pace, their style of play, and just retaining as much as I can. That is my goal going into this. And obviously, I want to perform and play my best as well.

What are your goals for the next 12 months? I mean, you’ll have camp, you’ll have more training, you’ll potentially have a spring season. What does all of that kind of look like on your radar? 

I think the coming months are really exciting, especially compared to what’s been happening. I think right now I’m continuing to build my base, making sure I’m ready for a spring season, and then hopefully in that spring season, competing for a national championship. And then I want to continue to perform in camps, whether it be at the senior level or at the U20 level if those happen. After all the work that’s been put in this year during this prolonged offseason, we should finally have a chance to perform and show out. I think it’s time for the fun part.