Stephanie Renee Cox, an American soccer defender and member of the United States women’s national soccer team, sounds energized as she discusses her impressive career on the field. And she has every reason to feel this way.
The 27-year-old player, who first planted her boots in California Youth Soccer Association’s Elk Grove Youth Soccer League, is on the brink of delivering her first baby girl with Portland baseball player Brian Cox. No doubt, Cox says nonchalantly, that her daughter will be an athlete.
The former Elk Grove United player also just added another accolade to her many already existing highlights – this year’s inductee to CYSA’s Hall of Fame.
“I’m honored to be recognized by CYSA. It makes me reflect on the beginning of my youth career,” Cox says. “I’m so grateful to the club coach and ODP (Olympic Development Player) coaches who taught me a lot and gave me so much that helped me to realize my dream.”
Recognized for her achievements and contribution to women’s soccer, Cox began her career playing in the EGYSL, quickly moving to the competitive side by age 12.
She tried out for ODP as a U14 player and credits coach Danny Cruz for his encouragement and his belief in her. From there, she was invited to the State tryouts where, she admits, her career took flight. But the process didn’t come easy.
“It’s intimidating to go out to tryouts. You get a number on your back and do different drills with other girls. Even at the district level, they had us split up; I was center mid on my team and everyone who I played against in the league was also center mid. So I scooted over to the defender position and that’s how I got my start,” she says. “It was intimidating but I thought I’d have a better shot. I can definitely sympathize to making it up the ladder. The process is difficult but I’m fortunate the coaches saw something in me and believed in me.”
Parallel to her time in the club, Cox attended Elk Grove High School where she led her team to garner two league championships.
She won the youth All-American award from NSCAA and was named a Parade Magazine All-American. While at the University of Portland, she started in 23 matches of her freshman year and by 2005, helped her team garner an undefeated record of 23-0-2 and an NCAA Championship.
By 2007, Cox became the youngest player on the U.S. Women’s World Cup team and started every game in China.
“That was pretty amazing. The feeling of getting chosen and picked is pretty cool. You’re competing, it’s not nameless, and you’re focused on becoming a team for the team’s success. It’s a different clarity,” she recalls. “It was definitely awesome when they announced the roster to the World Cup, to know all those years paid off to represent your country.”
Cox, whose favorite women’s soccer player is Japan’s Aya Miyama, is two-footed and known for having a calm demeanor when under pressure. She admits that her strength as a defender set her apart from other players. It was the task of making those around her look good, she said, a skill that coaches prefer to see in a player.
“I think they look at a player who can move up and be an asset, work with different players, and who can set themselves apart from others,” she states confidently. Cox then adds advice for up and coming defenders. “Be patient. The faster you can read the game the quicker you don’t have to deal with situations.”
Cox now lives in Washington State and plans to return to the fields after the birth of her daughter with the help of her friends, family, and husband. When asked what message she would send to the girls playing soccer today, Cox doesn’t hesitate to answer.
“I think it takes a lot of time and sacrifice to be proud of who you are as a player. They should put themselves in situations that are challenging, one that will help them grow, and not take the easy way out,” she states. “If they’re failing, that means they have an opportunity to grow. Most of all, keep their love and passion for the game. That will sustain them throughout their career.”
Cox’s parents, Robin and Cindy Lopez, attended the Hall of Fame dinner in her place.
“On behalf of Stephanie, we’d like to thank all the coaches, parents and volunteers who pour their lives into soccer, Robin Lopez said. “They made it into a wonderful game to watch. She wants to say thank you to everyone.”