When Orlando Pride forward Sydney Leroux gave birth to her daughter Roux at the end of June, she made it known that she would be back on the field this season. Two Sundays ago in New Jersey, she did just that.
Just three months and one day after welcoming her second child into the world, Leroux entered the pitch in the 86th minute of the Pride’s September 29 matchup against Sky Blue FC. This past Saturday, she made her 2019 home debut against the Washington Spirit at Exploria Stadium, entering the match in the 75th minute. For the now mother of two, those moments had been over a year in the making.
“I think I just wanted to get it over with because it felt like such a long time coming,” Leroux said of her return to the pitch. “It was super emotional. It was a hard journey, so I think just being able to be like ‘Okay, I’m here now, this is what I want to do, this is what I set out to do,’ and being able to do that was really special for me.”
While Leroux’s recovery has been just over three months, her journey back to the pitch began long before that. At the earlier stages of her pregnancy, she continued to train with the team in non-contact drills while also focusing on her conditioning in order to maintain her fitness as much as possible. The 29-year-old never wavered in her commitment to get back onto the pitch in 2019.
“There were definitely sleepless nights where I was like ‘I don’t know if I can do this,’ but you do. You get up and you go again,” Leroux said. “When I set my mind to something, I need to go through with that so I felt like it was good to get on the field, but I want more for myself.”
Since returning to the team, Leroux has helped to add another veteran presence amongst a team that has seen many of its veteran leaders away on international duty for large portions of the season. She has recorded 89 appearances in the National Women’s Soccer League, scoring 29 goals and adding six assists in nearly seven seasons. In her first season with the Pride, in 2018, she led the team with six goals through 20 appearances.
For Orlando Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner, Leroux’s journey back to the pitch exemplifies her character and commitment to her craft that he looks forward to unleashing when she returns to peak fitness.
“It’s inspirational to have strong, strong women that lead in different ways,” Skinner said of Leroux’s comeback. “When you come back from a pregnancy early, to do that, that’s true leadership because it’s territory that’s not tread quite often. True leaders come back in those moments and show their true spirits.”
Now with one match remaining in the season, Leroux is steadfast on finishing the year on a high before entering into a grueling offseason. While we won’t see the best of her this year, she is clearly on her way to returning to full fitness ahead of 2020.
“This offseason will be really hard and it’ll be me really pushing myself and hopefully getting exactly where I want to be next year and being ready for that,” Leroux added. “I think just feeling good, I think that’s the big thing.
“Now people are like ‘How do you do it?’ and you just do because it’s what you want to do and it’s your dream and there’s no reason for you to stop that. You can have kids and have that amazing life on top of your career.