How Soccer Pro Rodney Wallace Optimizes His Mind & Body For Peak Performance

In 2016, I took a hiatus to work on my mental health. For the first time ever, I put my needs first. I fully committed myself with therapy, meditation, manifesting, and gratitude practices. I became a much better version of myself, and learned how to truly make the most of my capabilities. It changed my perception in every aspect of my life. My mind was clearer than it had ever been, and I made smarter decisions for my well-being.

Asa part of our series about “How Athletes Optimize Their Mind & Body For Peak Performance”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rodney Wallace.

Rodney Wallace is a world class athlete who has played domestically, internationally, and on the largest stage of world soccer, the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Born in Costa Rica, Rodney moved to the United States when he was nine. Rodney quickly took the soccer world by storm, and won a NCAA Championship with the University of Maryland. Soon after, he was drafted by DC United in the 2009 Major League Soccer Draft. During this time, he was called up by the Costa Rica National Team and was vital in many major tournaments including Gold Cups and CONCACAF. He continued his career for the Portland Timbers, and became the 2014 Comeback Player of the Year after suffering an ACL tear and missing the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The following year, he scored the goal that ended up winning the 2015 MLS Championship. From there, he signed overseas in Portugal Primeira Liga, then Brazil Seria A where he quickly became the best left back in the league. After a successful year, he moved his family back to the United States and signed for New York City Football Club. While there, he achieved his ultimate dream of playing in the 2018 FIFA World Cup for Costa Rica. After New York, Rodney signed with Sporting Kansas City where he underwent two major hip surgeries. He is currently rehabbing, focusing on his family, and running his premium CBD brand, Rewind by Rodney Wallace.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is a great honor. Our readers would love to learn more about your personal background. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

It’s a pleasure to be doing this with you all, I really appreciate the opportunity. I was born in San Jose, Costa Rica, and moved to Maryland when I was 9. My earliest memories include soccer, school, more soccer, friends and family. The first thing we would do after school is set up our field, which was the street and the goal posts were two rocks, about 5 feet apart. We idolized the pro players, and on Sundays our family would gather together to BBQ and watch games. When I moved to the US, everything was completely different from my home country, but I quickly adjusted to the cultural change and language barriers. My sister Wendy played a huge role in making this transition easier and we leaned on each other for support when we were homesick and faced various challenges

What or who inspired you to pursue your career as a high-level professional athlete? We’d love to hear the story.

Growing up my idol was my cousin, who played professional soccer for the Costa Rican National team. There were other players, such as Patrick Viera, who later became my coach during my career. I have always been competitive and imagined playing in packed stadiums and visualized scoring the game winning goal. I believe this is why I demand a lot from myself, and a reason why I was successful in the MLS. I never put limits on myself and stayed true to my passion. After moving to Maryland, my mother came across an ad in the local newspaper for soccer tryouts. It was pouring down rain and I had nothing but my sneakers on. I was slipping all over the field, but I wasn’t concerned with the muddy and unstable surface. The other players had the latest cleats and proper gear and I was just a kid from Costa Rica that wanted to ball, and with that mentality I impressed the head coach Arnold Tarzy and the entire team. I was selected for a second tryout and the coach suggested I bring the proper footwear. My mom came through with a vital cleat purchase that set the tone for my future. That pair of black Nikes with the lime green bottom symbolized hard work, sacrifice, and belief, as it was not an easy purchase at the time. I made the team and my first trophy was the Walt Disney International Cup. Through all the adversities, challenges, setbacks, and injuries, I made it to the world’s biggest stage in soccer — the 2018 FIFA World Cup. My imagination allowed me to take chances and play with joy!

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

I have many people in my life that I am thankful for. My academic dean and head coach at Bullis High School, George Moore, alongside Robert Pollicino, were pillars during a crucial stage in my life. In college, I was fortunate enough to be coached by Sasha Cirosvki at the University of Maryland. He pushed me to be great in all aspects, including winning a NCAA National Title and ACC Tournament Title the same year. He demanded a base of hard work, and then talent, which helped me take my game to the next level. In 2009, I was drafted 6th overall pick in Major League Soccer to DC United. Legend Ben Olsen become my teammate, and then my head coach. He ended up trading me to Portland as the Timbers number one pick during the expansion draft. Although I was devastated, Benny sat me down and told me, “I am doing this because this is the best decision for you, you need to get out of this comfortable hometown environment and start fresh”. He knew I had too many distractions that could be detrimental to my growth. John Spencer, my head coach in Portland, gave me valuable advice as well. I didn’t greet him with a proper good morning like I always did because I was upset, I was not starting in our upcoming game. He said, “just because you are upset with your coach, does not mean you have to be disrespectful. In the end we are all human and we respect each other”. From then on, I started putting my team first. Lastly, I have been given life lessons that I respect and hold close to my heart, from long time agent and friend Richard Motzkin, to Claudio Reyna, Caleb Porter, Patrick Vieira, and Peter Vermes to name a few. I also have received terrible advice from people who didn’t have my best interest at heart — this forced me to trust my intuition. In the end, all of it made me who I am today.