As the nickname suggests, The Buehldozer aka Rachel Van Hollebeke (maiden name Buehler), is a force to be reckoned on the soccer pitch. Her successful soccer career started at a young age. Rachel grew up in Del Mar, California, a 7 minute walk away from the beach, in a neighborhood full of mostly boys a few years older than her. A lover of outdoor activities, she’d always follow the boys around and do whatever they did, which was how she was first introduced to soccer. Coaches took notice of Rachel’s feisty demeanor and she was called into the youth national teams. Rachel continued her soccer dominance while playing at Stanford University, where she also majored in biology with dreams of becoming a doctor. In college she met her now husband, Bobby (they are one of the cutest, nicest, happiest, and most loving couples I’ve ever witnessed). Once Rachel graduated, she received a call-up with the full national team. However, she was not asked back afterwards. At this point in her life, Rachel assumed the coach wasn’t interested. With no professional league in place, Rachel diverted her attention to pursuing her passion of becoming a doctor. She applied to medical school and was ready to take her MCAT, when she received an unexpected call from the full team coach asking her to attend national camp again. She seized the opportunity and a year later she was on the Olympic podium with a gold medal around her neck. Eight years later, Rachel has had to defer medical school numerous times in order to fully commit to her soccer obligations. As an NWSL champion, 2 time Olympic gold medalist, a World Cup silver medalist, and with over 100 caps for the U.S national team, it’s safe to say putting medical school on hold was a solid choice.
Off the field, Rachel’s personality is significantly different than her hard-nosed, no-nonsense style of defending. She’s a family girl, loves to learn, and is genuinely attentive to every person she meets. Rachel’s authentic positivity makes her a joy to be around and this attribute has played a large role in her ability to overcome any obstacle that comes her way.
Rachel has had an undoubtedly successful career, but sh intends to take her accomplishments beyond the soccer field. After Rachel hangs up the boots, she still plans on becoming a doctor and starting a family of her own. With massive dreams and an even larger heart, the best is yet to come.
Rachel is an Arrow Liver.
Name: Rachel Van Hollebeke
Age: 29 (30 in August)
Hometown: Del Mar, California
Profession: professional soccer player (future doctor)
Years playing: 22 years (8 professionally)
What was your first thought when you woke up this morning?
(Waking up in the Sheraton, following a long day of travel): Where am I? I wonder what hotel breakfast is like.
What is your morning routine?
Bobby (her husband) gets up 5:30-6:15, so I try to wake up not too long after between 6:45-7:15. I usually tidy the house-do the dishes, laundry. clean up the house-then, I eat breakfast, usually steel cut oats I’ve prepared the night before or eggs and toast. Afterwards, I do some sort of work in the am. Sometimes I answer a few emails, I’ll study spanish or biology, or do some sort of project I am working on. And then I usually do a little bit of stretching on my slant board before I leave for practice.
What did you love most about where you grew up?
Well gosh. A lot of different things. Del Mar is just a really gorgeous place. My house was a 7 minute walk from the beach. I’d do a lot of hiking and outdoor stuff that made me fall in love with nature. I grew up in a neighborhood with four families with kids around my age. We’d roam from yard to yard playing tag, soccer, and all different sports. It was such an awesome way to grow up. I also loved living so close to my relatives.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
A sports psychologist I saw years ago, who was my mentor at the time, told me to think rationally and not emotionally. This helped me to not be so hard on myself. If I made a mistake in a game, I’d have a strong emotional response to it after the game. This advice helped me quiet my immediate response, think about the mistake in a more logical way.
Who is your definition of successful?
My grandma. I ultimately define success as happiness. I felt like my grandma was very content with her life. The best part was she was surrounded by people that she loved. No matter what my grandma had, she lived modestly and felt like everything was special. We’d go to Rubio’s and she’d order the “gourmet shrimp tacos” and she’d think that they were the best tacos ever. That’s how she approached everything. Her grateful perspective had a lot of influence on me. I want to be like that.
Why do you do what you do?
Because I love playing soccer. As I’ve gotten older, I think more about why I continue to play. It’s because there’s a feeling of freedom I get when I’m in the moment. I love those moments whenyou’re not thinking and playing on instinct. And I love being on a team. It’s very unique and I really value the strong special bonds I’ve formed.
Is this where you thought you’d end up?
Not really. I really thought I was going to go straight to med school after college. I hadn’t made the National Team at that point, I kind of thought it was over. There wasn’t a league, so I took my MCAT and was preparing for more schooling. Then I got the call-up and kept having to postpone my MCAT.
How are you different than the average?
I think I am naturally a positive person. I wouldn’t say that’s everyone’s natural disposition. I feel like I’m pretty lucky. I also have this need to be very prepared. That’s part of my drive and how I get confidence; knowing I’ve done everything in my power to prepare for for the task at hand.
How do you spend your free time?
Bobby and I will hike and get outdoors as much as possible. We love hiking, camping, and we’ve even done a bit of mountain biking. I’m also always studying something, whether it’s Spanish or biology. I like to keep my brain active. I love reading for pleasure, especially nonfiction, sci-fi and fantasy.
What has been your biggest challenge and how have you managed this challenge?
Not making the World Cup Team was tough. I had an accumulation of injuries this past year that set me back a bit, but I wouldn’t say it was a failure at all. I feel like I did everything I could to get back and healthy and make the roster. I feel so fortunate to even have that opportunity.
What has been your most rewarding accomplishment?
Getting Married to Bobby.
What do you wish you knew as a kid?
I’m not sure I wish I knew anything different. I feel like I’m glad certain things went wrong so that I could learn from them. However, I do wish I wasn’t so intense in school, and loosened up at times.
What’s your dream meal?
I love artichokes. They are by far my favorite food. The journey of getting to the heart of the artichoke is the best thing ever. I’ll put a little butter on the heart. I also really like halibut and rice pilaf.
Who are three people you’d ask to dine with you?
I’d ask for four people. And choose my mom, dad, sister and Bobby. They are the people I have the most fun with and it’s not very often we are all together.
What is the weirdest scar you have and how did you get it?
I got in a bike crash when I was kid and the chainring stuck into my inner thigh. It looked as if I was attacked by an animal. I always told people I got bit by a shark and the kids actually believed me.
If you could trade lives with one person for an entire day who would it be?
Obama. I would never ever ever want to be a president, but they have so much responsibility and I’m curious about what crazy secret stuff goes on in our country that we don’t know about. Hopefully it would be a day where nothing really bad or serious happened.
If you could only keep five possessions what would they be?
My wedding ring, my medals, photo album, Vitamix, my computer.
What skill would you like to learn and why?
I would love to be able to play the guitar really well.
What is your favorite mobile app?
Duolingo- It’s an app that helps you learn a language. It’s simple, but great for helping me brush up on my Spanish.