2. CARSON PICKETT
By Sam Squiers
Being born without a left hand and forearm never stood in the way of Brisbane Roar defender Carson Pickett pursuing her dream of playing professional soccer. Carson joins host & sports journalist Sam Squiers to discuss growing up with a “uniqueness”, how she splits her time between Brisbane Roar and Orlando Pride and the heart-warming photo of her and a young fan that went viral.
Hey, I’m Sports Journalist Sam Squiers, welcome to “On Her Game”.
I started following Carson Pickett after a photo went viral of her bumping arms with a two-year-old boy across the boundary at a National Women’s Soccer League game in the U.S. His name is Joseph Tidd and like Carson he was born without a left hand and forearm. It’s this powerful image that just warmed my heart, it’s the way Joseph looks at Carson, it’s Carson’s face seeing him and it’s just this beautiful moment captured between them. Carson has never let anyone’s perception of what she could do limit what she’s capable of, that’s given her a platform to inspire others. Carson plays in the elite Women’s Football League both in the United States for the Orlando Pride and in Australia for the Brisbane Roar. After three seasons in the W League, Carson’s basically an adopted Aussie at this point. But she actually grew up in the United States.
PICKETT: So, I was born in South Carolina and I moved when I was two to Jacksonville Florida and I’ve spent the rest of my life there so far, so, I pretty much say, I’m from Jacksonville Florida.
SQUIERS: So, what was it like then growing up in Florida?
PICKETT: Um, hot (laughs) but, um, very, very similar to, um, Australia actually, so, I pretty much say I live in Summer all year round.
SQUIERS: You were born without a left forearm and a hand, ah, tell me what was life growing up with one arm back then?
PICKETT: Yeah, um, so I went to a really small private school growing up from Kindergarten to Twelfth Grade and, you know, at the time it was nice to have a small family that, you know, that you knew everyone, um, all the kids even in the other grades, you knew exactly who they were and, so, I felt like it was, um, sort of a security blanket, um, as far as school goes. And I was really appreciative of that just because, you know, I never really got bullied or made fun just because everybody knew everyone and we were all friends for the most, for the most part but, um, I think obviously playing sports was something that helped me in the long run.
Um, obviously it’s so hard, I think now when I think about it, it would have been so hard for people to always be staring at me and, and, I think it would be really hard for my parents (Squiers: mmm) just because they’d always see people staring or talking about my arm and for me when I was younger, obviously as kids you don’t, you don’t know that, you don’t realise that (Squiers: mmm). So, I think that it was easier for me growing up than my parents, um, but now that I’m getting older it’s definitely, there’s challenges to it, again now that I’m old enough to see people staring at me, I used to get so angry about it (Squiers: mmm). But now I just realise that like a lot of people haven’t seen people with an arm like mine and it’s okay for them to be curious. So, you know, when I was growing up it was, it was decently easy I didn’t get bullied or anything but, you know, but when I went to college it was definitely a little bit harder just because I didn’t have that security blanket.
SQUIERS: Your parents, did they, did that happen, and they shielded you from that a little bit?
PICKETT: Um, I just think they would always reinforce that I was just like everyone else and even though I did look different, all that sort of mattered was, was my heart and just to be a good person. So, I think I was really lucky to have the parents that I have because they didn’t shield it from happening, because they knew that I wouldn’t grow as a person like that, but (Squiers: mmm) they definitely, um, showed me and reinforced that I was just like everyone else and that I can do everything that everyone else does.
SQUIERS: So, they didn’t have any restrictions on you back then with?
PICKETT: No, no not at all, if anything I got pushed more especially in sports, um, I remember going out for tennis the first time and I was young and, but my friend wanted to do it and I was like ‘oh gosh, like can I do this? I don’t know’ and my parents pushed me, and they were like ‘of course you can do it’. So, I think if anything they probably pushed, um, me into those situations that I had to grow.
SQUIERS: I heard as well that they still pushed you on the monkey bars and things like that (laughs) and even going like further back than from when you started sport, they were, even when you were in the playground they, they pushed you pretty hard with that stuff?
PICKETT: Yeah absolutely I, the story that I remember and I will always remember for the rest of my life, is just going to the playground and looking at the monkey bars and seeing everyone else do it and I would just stare at them and I’m like, could, my dad just saw the fear in my eyes but, you know, I’m, I’m a kid so I wanted to do it and I wanted to be like everyone else.
So, he’s like ‘alright, c’mon’ like I didn’t even, I don’t think I even asked him like ‘can you help me?’ I think he’s like ‘alright, you’re going to get up there and I know you want to do it’. And I definitely fell, multiple times, but he was always there to push me and, and he, and he never, um, he never backed down to the challenge of, of helping me get through that.
SQUIERS: How did he do it? How did you do it back then?
PICKETT: Yeah, so, (laughs) he would just sort of like hold, hold my legs so I was a little bit stable but I had to do every upper arm, um, thing possible, so I just sort of like wrapped my arm, my left arm around it and actually to be honest, now that I’ve gotten older, my left arm’s pretty strong and I tend to do a lot more (Squiers: yeah) with my left arm than I do with my right hand because it’s actually.
SQUIERS: Is that right?
PICKETT: Yeah, like if I go to the grocery store, I’ll carry bags with my arm instead of my right hand and my hand, my hand will be completely free. So, some will be like ‘do you need help?’, ‘no I have an extra hand’ (laughs). But obviously, I don’t know I just always reach for my, um, left arm, so I don’t know. So, I put my left arm around this thing and hold with my right and just literally hang on with my left arm and just go with my right and hope that I made it (laughs).
SQUIERS: That’s so cool, that’s really cool (Pickett: yeah). Did you have any idols, or did you see anyone that you looked up to who was, who had one arm like you did, or?
PICKETT: You know actually that’s a really good question because back then I, I actually didn’t really know, I didn’t even know anyone that had a similar arm to me, um, I think it was more because my parents wanted me to, to think that I was a normal kid (Squiers: mmm) and so I think that, you know, it wasn’t like we reached out to people and wondered how they did things. It was sort of like just hoping that I would figure it out on my own and they knew that I would figure out because of, I didn’t have another option. So, they, they didn’t, they didn’t push, um, trying to. find different people that were in the same situation as me, which actually now I, I’m pretty glad about.
SQUIERS: Yeah really, why is that?
PICKETT: I just think if I saw someone else do it, that I would think I would have to do it that way because that’s the only way to succeed (Squiers: yeah) and if I didn’t then I had to figure it out myself and I could find my own little, um, way to figure things out where, you know, it wasn’t so by the books.
SQUIERS: Mmm, you’re really close aren’t. you, I saw your parents were over here in Australia just, just recently and you went travelling around with them, you’re still really close to mum and dad?
PICKETT: Yes, um, they’re my best friends I, I used to, in high school I used to on Saturday nights I would want to hang out with them more than my friends (laughs), so that actually says a lot, you know, about the high school (Squiers: yeah).
SQUIERS: And still really close today even though you’re far away from them (Pickett: yeah). Let’s talk about football or soccer, um, in America you call it soccer as well, don’t you?
PICKETT: Yes, yeah, we do, that’s weird coming over here, because when you say football I think of American Football, but yeah.
SQUIERS: Yeah, so how did you get into, um, to soccer?
PICKETT: Again, when I was younger my parents pushed to do a lot of different sports. My parents both played College athletics, my mom played basketball, my dad played soccer, so I did play basketball, I played tennis, obviously soccer, I, I swam, I did a lot of different sports, just because, you know, when you’re younger that’s just what you do. And I don’t know I, I just fell in love with soccer, mainly because I found a lot of really good friends that I knew I wanted to spend, you know, the rest, the rest of my, um, childhood with and I think the biggest part of it is definitely my dad. Um, I knew that it was a bonding time with my dad, and he could help me so much, grow my game whenever I needed that and I think that, that was definitely a deciding factor, um, it’s something I love, but definitely having him always there with me and I know, I knew he was going to coach me for my whole life, he still coaches me even though he’s not my coach (laughs), I think.
SQUIERS: (laughs) I think every parent suffers from that a little bit, from an athlete as well (Pickett: yeah), but he is an actual soccer coach isn’t he, he still coaches?
PICKETT: Yeah, he does, he’s a high school soccer coach and a club soccer coach so he does a lot.
SQUIERS: How long was your dad, was he your original coach, your first coach?
PICKETT: Yeah, he was, he was my coach since I was five (Squiers: wow), so, he has been, he definitely has been with me the longest.
SQUIERS: Were you good at the other sports as well?
PICKETT: Um, I actually was really, pretty good at tennis, that was probably the other sport I would have chosen (Squiers: cool) if I didn’t choose soccer. I loved swimming but I don’t know, I didn’t love going to the pool and it was cold out and I don’t know (laughs) it just wasn’t my favourite thing. I want to go to the pool to have fun not to swim laps, so. (Squiers: Fair enough, fair enough). Um, so I didn’t, I didn’t, I liked it, but I (Squiers: mmm) definitely loved tennis, um, I didn’t, I loved basketball, that was actually really fun for me because I know, I think like, ah, with soccer and basketball has a lot of similarities with defending and body shape and all that (Squiers: mmm), so I actually really, really did like basketball, but I don’t know, yeah soccer was just something that I fell in love with very early.
SQUIERS: I guess the obvious question is because with soccer you can’t use your hands (Pickett: yeah), or you get penalised for that, did that influence you going into soccer?
PICKETT: Yeah I mean I think probably deep down I realised that soccer was the best sport for my, um, situation and, um, you know, because you, you have to throw in a ball, but each player doesn’t have to, you can get someone else to throw in a ball for you. So, it’s not like every single player has to throw in a ball (Squiers: mmm) and has to be good at it, so, yeah, I think deep down, um, I definitely realised it was, it was probably the best sport for, for having one arm. I don’t take throw ins and it’s just, ah, something I haven’t done since I was about thirteen when I went to take a throw in, and the ref said that it was illegal (laughs), so.
SQUIERS: Wow, is that right?
PICKETT: Yeah and I just (laughs), I was like in so much shock and I think it embarrassed me so much, because I’m like surely, first off at thirteen it’s not that serious (Squiers: yeah). And, um, yeah, I think it just sort of scarred me like I just did not want to (Squiers: because you can’t have two hands on the ball behind your head). Because, yeah, because technically like I don’t have two hands and I guess I didn’t bring it all the way over my head but I’m like (Squiers: that’s crazy). I know and it just, it actually really upset me, so I think I sort have just been scarred from that, so I just have never done.
And Sydney Leroux, she’s probably the most amazing about it and obviously she plays for the National team and stuff so, so she’s awesome but she has an amazing personality and she came in and she’s like ‘why don’t you do throw ins?’ And I’m like ‘what?’ I’m like ‘obviously because I don’t have another hand’ and she goes ‘no’, she goes ‘we’re going to sit here after practice’ and I’m not kidding for probably two weeks we sat there after practice and she made me do throw ins (laughs)and she goes ‘you’re going to do a throw in one day and it’s going to be the most amazing thing in the world’.
And just having like my teammates back, I mean them (Squiers: yeah) having my back was just like an amazing feeling and I’m like ‘oh my gosh, maybe I can do it’ and she goes ‘Carson’ she goes ‘if you do this you’re like the only girl in the Pro League with one arm’ she goes ’do you know how big of an impact you’ll make, um, on people who might not want to do things because they have, um, a limited difference?’ (Squiers: mmm). You know, they don’t have a leg or they don’t have an arm, like if you do this, they’ll obviously see how much confidence you have in, um, yourself and I haven’t done it yet, I’m still sort of nervous’.
SQUIERS: I was about to say, yeah.
PICKETT: Yeah I know, I haven’t done it because, um, she.
SQUIERS: Isn’t that a boundary you want to break down though?
PICKETT: Yeah it is and my dad, my dad pushes it all the time, he’s like ‘Carson, you, you realise how, how big of an impact this will have if you do it?’ (Squiers: yeah). And I, I feel it deep down, I know that it will have a big impact, but I’m also putting myself in a really vulnerable spot that, you know, I could get called for an illegal handball and I think that although that would embarrass me, at this point in my life. Like Sydney Leroux at the end of, um, training one day when we were doing throw ins and I was like ‘I’m just so nervous, that they’re going to tell me it was, it was illegal’, she goes ‘Carson if they tell you it’s illegal, you’re going to have twenty-three girls on this roster going at them’ (laughs). She’s like so, ‘it’s’, she’s like ‘it’s a win-win’, she’s like.
SQUIERS: Millions around the world.
PICKETT: (laughs) Yeah, exactly and I think that was the coolest part. I’m like ‘oh my gosh, so if they call it illegal, it’ll be a massive story about how they said. that it was, you know (Squiers: yeah), it was legal, it was illegal or wasn’t fair and then it would be obviously talked about and, (Squiers: mmm) or if I do, if I do it and they don’t call it, then you know I’ve overcome my fears and showed so much confidence in myself (Squiers: yeah). So, it, it is a win-win, but I’m just, I’m just, I’m very nervous.
SQUIERS: Impressive, when can we expect this to happen, will it be in the W League or will we have to wait until you go back over to the US, when is this happening?
PICKETT: Well, I know my teammates are here are just as amazing, but I do feel really, um, a lot of confidence from Sydney and a lot of my teammates in America, so unfortunately, I did have an excuse though. Um, she was pregnant this year, so I was like ‘oh well technically I can’t do it, because if you, you can’t have my back from the stands (laughs), so when you get back on the field this year, then, then I will do it’. So, she was like ‘oh my gosh, okay, whatever’. So, I think it will happen this year, I know it will happen this year, I’m just not sure when.
SQUIERS: Awesome, watch this space. Very cool I can’t wait for that, um, I didn’t realise it was, I know you didn’t take throw ins, I just didn’t realise the reason behind it, but yeah this is cool Carson (laughs). Another boundary, another something hurdle (Pickett: yeah) to overcome and, um, another wall to knockdown along your way. Because the other question I want to talk to you about is about, um, perception (Pickett: mmm). Because it’s a big thing that can ultimately shape us, the perception of how people perceive of what you can, and you can’t do (Pickett: mmm). If your dad was a coach, I’m thinking it might have been different, but how did perception affect you as a soccer player?
PICKETT: Um, I think, yeah like you said, it was easy when my dad was around, but when there is, um, I had to go something called ODP, where it was completely different coaches who had never seen me before (Squiers: mmm), so I think definitely I was worried that when I went to these other coaches that they weren’t going to understand my situation and they were just going to sort of write me off. And I think that was definitely hard, um, for the longest time I struggled with not knowing if I was going to make teams because of my arm (Squiers: mmm). And luckily I mean no other, no girl has ever said anything to me or anything like that, so, you know, the perception from the people around me, playing on the field with me was never, um, much of anything, but I, I did think a lot about, um, you know, if coaches were going to think that I couldn’t be a better defender than someone who had two hands (Squiers: mmm), um, it was definitely hard when I was growing up.
SQUIERS: Did you ever experience that? Or did you ever learn of, um, you know of people having those perceptions that you wouldn’t be as good just because of what they were seeing in front of them.
PICKETT: Yeah, you know what it’s interesting, um, I thought of it as such of a bad thing because like I said I was so nervous that the coaches weren’t, weren’t going to choose me because of my arm and then I just remember one day my parents were like ‘you know what you do have’. Because in, with this thing called ODP there’s like a million girls out there, you have numbers, so it’s, it’s hard to get (Squiers: is it like a talent camp in America? Like a). Yeah, it’s like an, um, ID camp (Squiers: ID camp). Yeah, yeah, so, um, I, I mean there’s so many girls out there, so you have to be really good to, you know, catch a coach’s eye (Squiers: mmm) and I thought of it as like I was so nervous about it and my parents one time just sat me down and they’re like, ‘you do realise you have one hand, right?’ I’m like ‘yeah’ and they were like ‘okay, well then they’re going to remember you’ (laughs).
So, I think that, for the longest time it was such like, not a negative thing for me but I was so nervous I wasn’t going to make a team because of the way, um, (Squiers: mmm) that I looked or because coaches didn’t think I was capable enough but then, you know, having so many girls out there, you have to show something, you have to be good at something (Squiers: mmm). I mean I was good at other things, but I did have one arm, so I was always able to stand out which obviously that turned into a positive.
SQUIERS: Yeah, because you were good at what, what you did. Um, you mentioned it before about being a defender and having to fend off, does one arm change the way you play your football and is it, ah, is that to your benefit?
PICKETT: Um, you know what, being left footed, I actually play obviously on the left side, so actually when I’m defending, I’m usually defending towards my goal which turns me around and I actually use my right arm a lot (Squiers: mmm). So, I think if I was on the right side it would definitely be harder, but like it just somehow worked out that obviously I’m missing my left hand and I’m left footed and for defending it actually worked out to be exactly what I needed it to be and I use my right arm a lot more than my left.
But, I mean it definitely is hard sometimes when, um, I push someone inside and I have to get in my, my arm into them and, um, it’s definitely harder (Squiers: mmm), but, um, I remember one of my coaches actually at the Orlando Pride, they were like ‘you know what’, they pulled me aside one day because I was working on being more fit, more physical (Squiers: mmm). And they pulled me aside one day and he’s like ‘I’ve played with this guy who had the same arm as you’ and he goes ‘do you know how bad?’ because my arm is sort of like pointy and bony (laughs). And he goes ‘do you know that hurts when you just, when he would like stick his arm into my ribs?’ I’m like ‘no’. He’s like, he’s like ‘honestly it hurts so much worse than someone with like just using their, um, elbows or something’. He was like ‘a spear going into my ribs’ (laughs). So, he’s like ‘actually you can use it for a really positive and just sort of like get your arm in there and it’ll definitely make them to go away from you’. So, I was like ‘ah, good’ and it definitely changed that mindset.
SQUIERS: You never realised that?
PICKETT: No, I don’t, I don’t know why, I just, I felt like that I just wanted to be like everybody else, so I’m like I’m not going to use it to my advantage when it’s something that I obviously could use to my advantage (Squiers: yeah) and definitely push some people in the ribs (laughs). So, now it’s a little bit easier and now it’s in my mind.
SQUIERS: I’ll watch out when you’re playing for Orlando Pride and the Brisbane Roar (laughs). Um, that’s awesome, well living in the US you mentioned about Orlando Pride and, and that is, um, in the US Professional Women’s League over there, but when was it when you started taking soccer seriously?
PICKETT: Growing up I guess I played so many sports that it was just like it another sport for me until I was able to get letters from Colleges and recruiting (Squiers: mmm) and, um, at that point obviously you play High School soccer and club soccer which is pretty much similar to here, but, um, obviously you get four years in College to play soccer and get your education (Squiers: mmm). And when you turn, I want to say like fifteen or when you’re in Ninth or Tenth Grade, Colleges can start, um, sending you letters and calling you in a roundabout way. There’s a lot of rules, but this is pretty much how it works (Squiers: mmm). Um, they can pretty much show interest in you (Squiers: mmm) and as an athlete when someone shows interest in you it boosts your confidence. So, so yeah so at that point they can send letters and when you’re a Junior you can start going on College campuses and, and check out the College itself, the education, the Soccer program, which is pretty cool (Squiers: mmm) that you can obviously make a decision, um, after you’ve completely gone and really checked it out and if it really feels like home then that’s something obviously (Squiers: mmm) that you can, um, you can accept and commit to.
SQUIERS: It’s such an early age though isn’t it, fifteen, Year Nine, Ten, to, to be thinking like that.
PICKETT: Yes, one hundred percent, I think that, that was hard for a lot of parents because they wanted to be involved because I mean how does a fifteen-year-old commit to going to a school that (Squiers: mmm). Because, you don’t know, you’re still in High School and you don’t even think about College (Squiers: mmm), but obviously as athletics goes (Squiers: mmm), it starts so early that you have about two years before, I mean fifteen, sixteen before you have to decide where you want to go and I mean you still have two more years of High School before you even go to that College.
So, so many things can change in two years (Squiers: mmm) that, um, it’s obviously very tough and it is a very hard decision and, um, luckily mine worked out for me, but a lot of girls don’t, um, it doesn’t work out for a lot of girls and they have to transfer and things like that (Squiers: mmm). So, yeah, it’s like you said at fifteen it’s, it’s a tough decision to realise where you want to go for the next four years of your life.
SQUIERS: Did you start getting those interests when, from Colleges when you were fifteen as well?
PICKETT: Yeah, so there’s a certain day when you turn fifteen or sixteen or again Year Nine or Ten that, um, they can send you, start sending you emails. I just remember, um, waiting up that night and just hoping that emails and emails and emails came in (laughs) from different Colleges and, and they did. Um, I had a lot of interest, which obviously helps as an athlete, I guess that it boosts your confidence (Squiers: mmm). So, um, I did get a lot of interest and then at that point once. you see who’s interested in you, then you can start, you know, putting a list, um, together, pros and cons of places, um, you want to go, how far away from home, do you want to stay close or do you want to go far (Squiers: mmm). There are so many things to it, but at that point, yeah, I definitely realised that, that, this is definitely something that I wanted to do (Squiers: mmm).
Um, but the struggle was when I was in High School, we didn’t have a Pro League, so (Squiers: mmm). Um, it was sort of like ‘yes I want to be serious about this, yes I want to go College and play College soccer but what am I going to do after?’ (Squiers: mmm) Because there’s nothing to look forward to because we didn’t have a league at all.
SQUIERS: Because the Women’s League over there, the Professional Women’s League has been on and off (Pickett: mmm) for so many years hasn’t it? But it’s been strong, like in the last few years?
PICKETT: Yeah exactly, um, yeah it was a bit touch and go in the beginning (Squiers: yeah), but now it’s definitely much better.
SQUIERS: How long ago are we talking, when this was all happening? How many years ago?
PICKETT: Oh man, um, I was fifteen, maybe like ten years ago.
PICKETT: So, it was definitely early, um, in the Professional Leagues (Squiers: mmm), so it was like I, I do want to be serious about soccer, I do want to play in College, I want to represent a College and, um, but it’s just like ‘what do you do now when you’re done with that, because you have to get a real job, you know, (Squiers: mmm), can you take your talents of soccer somewhere else?’ And there were just not that many options for me in High School so, although I knew I wanted to do that, I just wasn’t sure what I was fully looking forward to in the future (Squiers: mmm) besides National, National team and obviously that’s still a goal of mine to be on the National team, but, um, when I got to College then the Pro League started becoming very permanent.
SQUIERS: When you got to College it started?
PICKETT: Yes, when I got to College it started (Squiers: yeah, cool), yeah exactly. So, when I had gotten into College, um, I just remember the first draft class that got drafted and I just remember seeing my teammates faces, all the Seniors’ faces that got drafted and they were just, it was just pure joy (Squiers: mmm)and I knew that, that is something that I wanted to pursue. Luckily for us, we can get an education while we’re pursuing our dreams, dreams (Squiers: mmm). So, I was like ‘this is something that I want to do, I want to play in the Pro Leagues and I’m going to do it’. So, I chose a College, you know, just in case there was a Pro League, I chose a College that would put me in the Pros (Squiers: mmm). I had to look to keep, like I had a lot of options.
SQUIERS: What College was that?
PICKETT: It was Florida State University.
SQUIERS: And that’s of course close to home as well, was that big consideration?
PICKETT: Yes. Oh yeah for sure, um, there’s so many amazing Colleges out there that, um, I was thinking about going to and the final, honestly the final thing that it came down to was being close to family (Squiers: mmm). Um, I wanted my grandparents and my parents to always be able to come to games and not have to catch a flight. But again, like I said I chose it mainly, also because I knew I wanted to play in the Pro League (Squiers: yes) and the coach of Florida State I knew he was going to get me there. So, that’s actually another big reason why I chose Florida State, but yeah, I mean then when the Pro Leagues were more permanent, I knew that was something I wanted to do, and I wanted to be like the other girls in my class.
SQUIERS: So, where did you get drafted?
PICKETT: Oh, I got drafted to the Seattle Reign. So, definitely, um, very far from home, but it was a, a new adventure for me.
SQUIERS: Were you the Fourth draft in that year or?
PICKETT: Yep, exactly I was the Fourth overall, um, Draft Pick in my year.
SQUIERS: That’s pretty impressive isn’t it, out of how many girls get drafted?
PICKETT: (laughs) Yeah, actually only forty got drafted. So, there’s four rounds of ten (Squiers: mmm), um, which again is so, so small.
SQUIERS: That’s like forty but that’s like in the whole of America, the best of the best, are graduating for that, for that year, that’s pretty impressive.
PICKETT: Yeah, yeah exactly, I mean forty is ridiculous with how, with such a small number compared to how many girls, um, entered the Draft (Squiers: mmm), so I definitely was very lucky, to be honest I didn’t think I would even get drafted, I didn’t go to the Draft cause, you know, we weren’t sure (Squiers: mmm) if that’s something that, I don’t know, I just didn’t think I would and not many coaches were reaching out to me. And the night before the Draft, um, Laura Harvey my first coach in Seattle called me and was like ‘I’ve been trying to call you for a couple of days, has your number changed?’ and I’m like ‘are you kidding me?’ I was like I could have, if it, you know, if she, if her calls were coming through, I could have gone to the Draft and been there, but it all worked out in the end. She called me and she said, ‘we have a lot of interest in you and if everything works out, we’re going to be drafting you’. So, I did.
SQUIERS: (amazed) Yeah, right.
PICKETT: Yeah, so it was, I mean, like complete chills down my spine (laughs), like it was amazing, and I got that news the night before, so, so yeah.
SQUIERS: Wow cool, and then how did you get, because soon after you moved to Orlando Pride.
PICKETT: Yes, after two years, I was in Seattle for two years and then (Squiers: mmm) I, um, got traded actually, which in this League (Squiers: mmm) it’s, it’s definitely hard, um, because you know you can get traded at any moment in the off-season and during season (Squiers: mmm), so I think it’s hard to, you know, fully, you can just completely uproot, uproot your life (Squiers: mmm) and you really have no choice, so I actually didn’t know I was going to be traded. So, I just got, I got the news one night that I was going to be in a trade, um, to Orlando and obviously I’m from Florida so it worked out to be the best trade in the world. I loved my time in Seattle but obviously being close to home is, is something I cherish.
SQUIERS: For sure. Well talking about close to home, one thing that isn’t close to home is Australia and the Brisbane Roar (laughs), so tell me how is then that you ended up in Brisbane playing in our W League?
PICKETT: Yeah, so, um, I had an agent when I was a rookie and I spent my, um, my first off season as a rookie just training at home. I, I didn’t want to be, I was already so far away from my parents that I didn’t want to go any further and I just wanted to be at home with them and my dad, have my dad train me but it did get a little bit boring having to train on your own (Squiers: mmm).
So, I reached out to my agent and I’m like, ‘is there any opportunity to play overseas just, you know, during this off season?’ and he goes ‘actually yes, Brisbane Roar’. Um, Mel, it was my coach Mel at the time, she’s reached out about needing a left back and that’s what I am. So, I was like ‘oh my gosh’ and she’s like ‘do you want me to follow it through?’ and I was like ‘yes please.’
So, she just showed interest and my agent made it happen, so ever since then I have love with everything over here.
SQUIERS: Before we get back to the episode, I want to take a moment to talk to you about the Suncorp Team Girls initiative.
Earlier I mentioned that fifty percent of young girls stop playing sport before the age of seventeen, that’s why Suncorp created their Team Girls initiative, to encourage young girls to stay active, to increase confidence and resilience.
I’m here with author and motivational speaker, Bec Sparrow to chat about. It.
Bec can you tell us how long have you been working with Suncorp Team Girls and tell us a little bit more about what the program’s about?
Sparrow: Okay, well I’ve been with them since it started in 2017 and Team Girls is an initiative dedicated to fostering and promoting girls’ participation in sport.
Squiers: So, tell us why do some girls drop out of sport during those teenage years?
Sparrow: often when you’re a teenager, life gets busy and I think when life gets jammed pack the first thing that tends to get dropped is dropped. I also think for some girls, as you’re going through puberty and adolescence and your body is changing, they can feel really uncomfortable wearing, um, sometimes the sporting uniforms, so I think all of that plays into it.
So, there’s not really one reason why they’re dropping out, but usually they’re reasons that we can answer, and kind of problem solve to sort of encourage them to keep going.
Squiers: So, what are some of the negative consequences of girls stopping sports or physical activity so early on?
Sparrow: Look the biggest problem I would say is that we know overall, we’re not moving as much so that’s, that’s going to be a problem for our health, that we need to be moving, we want to encourage our kids to be moving. But also know that we’re seeing this really big rise, particularly with teenagers with mental issues and again we know being active is so good for our mental health and I think once you stop playing sport, you lose that confidence in what your body has the ability to do and I think that’s a really big problem.
Squiers: The big question, what can parents do to encourage their girls to continue through into sport?
Sparrow: Okay the first thing that I would say to parents is we set the tone, right? So, I think modelling is massive. We can’t be sitting around all the time going why aren’t you playing basketball, why aren’t you playing netball, why aren’t you playing soccer? If they’re not seeing us modelling, being active and health, what’s better is if we go and say, ‘what can I do this week to help you make time, so that you can get swimming training in?’ or ‘what can I do this week so you can fit in some exercise?’ So, I think coming from a more positive problem-solving point of view is good for parents and I think the other thing is it’s meant to be fun (laughs). I think sometimes parents, sorry parents we suck for fun, as long as, um, out of sport and putting the emphasis back on that this is meant to be something that’s enjoyable, they are far more likely to stay at it if they’re enjoying themselves.
Squiers: So, let’s build a nation of confident girls, for more information visit suncorp.com.au/teamgirls or simply search for Suncorp Team Girls.
SQUIERS: I want to talk about that photo (Pickett: mmm) because, uh, I just, it just brings a smile to my face actually and then it just almost brings a tear to my eye it makes me so emotional every time I look at that photo and I’ve looked at it so much that it’s the photo of you and little Joseph Tidd, locking arms, um, can I say locking (Pickett: yes), stump punching would you, would you say?
PICKETT: Yeah, my dad, my dad calls it, like a nub so whatever, whatever works (laughs), it doesn’t offend me.
SQUIERS: Nub punching at all (laughs) and that was when you were playing, um, in the U.S. for the Orlando Pride, it of course went viral across the globe, can you take me back, tell me how that photo came about?
PICKETT: Um, yeah, so they had reached out to Orlando and my media director and they.
SQUIERS: Joseph’s parents?
PICKETT: Yeah, sorry, Joseph’s parents (Squiers: mmm), um, yeah, so his parents reached out to my media director and he, I don’t know, I guess he just so me on TV or saw a picture of me or something and his parents were like, ‘we have to, we have to get them to meet each other (Squiers: mmm), it, it just will be the most amazing thing’. And although he’s so young, um, I think it was, it was just something his parents, you know, wanted to do for the future (Squiers: mmm), that he could look back on, um, even if he only remembers by pictures and things like that.
So, yeah, they reached out and they were like ‘can we meet after a game?’ And my media director obviously talked, spoke to me about it and I was like ‘yes, of course, absolutely, because I never want to miss an opportunity to meet someone else like me’.
SQUIERS: Because Joseph of course if you haven’t seen the photo, he is missing his left arm, forearm and, and hand as well, exactly the same.
PICKETT: Yes, exactly the same, which, um, you know, obviously you don’t see a lot of people like ourselves (Squiers: mmm) so it was nice to, um, meet people like me and even, no matter the age (Squiers: mmm), so, it was really special to definitely, um, meet someone that looked like me.
But, um, yeah so they just reached out and we, we met for the first time and it was amazing, I, I didn’t think, when I first saw him I was like ‘he’s so young’ (laughs), but I just was like ‘I did not think he’s going to even realise that we have the same arm or anything’ (Squiers: mmm). Um, because I just didn’t know him and the first time I like just got down on my knees and I just stuck my arm out towards him he, his eyes like lit up and he started just smiling and laughing and I was like ‘oh my gosh, I can’t, I did not expect him to actually know that we had the same arm and things like that’ (Squiers: mmm).
Um, the first time we met was definitely really special for me just because I just, it blew me away, I never expected him to know, um, that we were so similar. I would put my arm in my jacket and then pull it out (laughs), so I was playing with him a little bit and I, he just thought it was the greatest thing ever, it was so, you know (laughs), and obviously it’s crazy that, you know, a two-year-old can bring so much time to your life. But that first meeting definitely, um, brought so much joy into my life and to my parents’ life and to his parents because they able to speak about different things and, um, (Squiers: mmm), you know, the similarities of what their children go through.
SQUIERS: Then, was the photo that went viral was that later on, that he was at a game, one of your games and after the game he came up to you?
PICKETT: Yeah, yeah, definitely, um, so he kind, he came to most of my games and, um, his whole family would come and I did become super close with them which is awesome, but yeah that was just honestly it was so real, like it was not setup we weren’t like ‘okay, get the camera out’. Like literally his dad just put him towards me and I just put out my arm and he put out his arm and it was just exactly, I mean, it is exactly what it looks like, it was purely joy from both of us (Squiers: mmm) and it was such a real emotion that I just love that it was so authentic and it wasn’t fake or set up (Squiers: mmm) and we didn’t know how he’d react or I didn’t know how I’d react just because it was a normal day after a game.
SQUIERS: Amazing, it makes me so emotional just thinking about that photo because it was just so beautiful and just such a great moment between both of you, um, I mentioned it went viral (laughs) were you surprised about the response or how did you react when you saw it just go nuts online?
PICKETT: Yeah, I just, I remember waking up one day and, um, his mom had sent me a picture of Reddit, um, and she was like ‘oh my gosh, like the story’s on Reddit, the picture is on Reddit’ and I was like ‘oh it’s amazing’. Um, so, I, you know, went on there and I checked it out (laughs) and actually being a millennial what I looked at the most, the most (laughs) I saw my Instagram and I was like ‘oh my gosh, I have so many more followers now’ and I’m like and that’s how I realised like ‘of course she realised through Reddit and I realised through Instagram just because that’s just how it is’ (laughs).
SQUIERS: How much did they go up?
PICKETT: Oh my gosh, I think I started with, at, in the very beginning I think I honestly started with maybe twelve and now I’m up to fifty-two k (thousand), so, (laughs), in that moment I just, it was just going nuts and, and I was like, it sort of like weird I don’t know, I was getting so many followers and they obviously all came around in a circle and I’m like ‘oh my gosh, that picture has really gone viral and it’s gone to different countries and things like that’. So, yeah, I mean it is special, you know, the followers and stuff, yeah, that’s great, but I think the biggest part of it is just, um, being so excited that it’s reached so many different people in the world that have reached out to me (Squiers: mmm) that have the same arm as us and I think that was the coolest part about it.
SQUIERS: What does that tell you about the society that we now living in when a photo like that, that is so special just receives so much love all over the world?
PICKETT: Yeah, I mean it’s so special just because, you know, there is a lot of cruelty in the world and there’s some things that obviously we don’t like to see on the news and I think just, um, seeing stories like mine and even stories that have nothing to do with, um, missing an arm, it’s just when there’s just pure joy in a photo I think a photo obviously just says a million words. You know, you don’t need any words when you have a photo (Squiers: mmm) and I think things like that can change the world just a little bit.
SQUIERS: You mention a lot about, um, Joseph’s parents, and I know we talk about a lot about what, ah, you know, Joseph being exposed to you can, can, um, do for little Joseph, but I can’t help to think what it means to his parents seeing you out there on that sporting stage, ah, they’re trying to show him and, and really prove to him that nothing can hold him back and having you on that platform does that. Is, do you think about what that does for his parents, seeing you there?
PICKETT: Yeah, I mean it definitely, um, runs through my mind and I think obviously I can get so consumed with how Joseph feels and, um, making him smile and laugh that yeah. I mean sometimes I do forget that it is just as special for the parents if not more special, because they’re actually realising that there’s someone out there that can do exactly, um, what anyone else with two arms can do. And I think that I personally, I know that, um, I can inspire them to a certain degree but I think the biggest part of, um, becoming friends with the family is that they can talk to my parents about it (Squiers: mmm) and I think that’s what makes me feel the most happy about the situation is that they can actually have someone who has been through everything (Squiers: mmm). Obviously I’m much older, to be able to tell them, you know, how, how I did certain things and how I was perceived in certain situations (Squiers: mmm), so they can sort of have, you know, a mindset going into situations of how, of how it’s going to go or how it can go (Squiers: mmm) and I think that, that’s really special for the parents.
SQUIERS: You talk about other little kids, other little kids have reached out to you who have one arm (Pickett: mmm) in, um, through social media as well.
PICKETT: Yeah, yeah absolutely, um, a lot of people just mainly obviously through Instagram have reached out and they’ll, you know, they’ll say ‘I have a similar arm as you and I’m from this country or that country’. And I think that’s been the coolest part (Squiers: mmm) is, um, obviously talking to people that is similar to me is great but just hearing the different countries that, um, they come from and how it’s reached those countries is like the most amazing part for me (Squiers: mmm), I’m just, I’m glad it’s gotten that far.
SQUIERS: Because you took up soccer because you loved it (Pickett: oh yeah), because you loved this sport, but did you ever have a sense of the impact that you would have on people’s lives just by doing something that you love?
PICKETT: No, I’m going to be honest (laughs), absolutely not I did not think that I would have any certain impact besides wanting to be the left, the best left back in the world (laughs). Um, you know, for me it was all soccer, soccer, soccer and now that I’m older and having the parents that I have, um, they’ve taught me so much about how it’s way more than the game and I’m impacting people, um, off the field (Squiers: mmm) just as much as I am on the field.
SQUIERS: So, you get a sense of that now.
PICKETT: So, yes, I fully understand that now and I hope there’s more to come with just reaching people.
SQUIERS: Tell me, when we talk about disability is that a term that, that you like, do you like that word?
PICKETT: I hate that word (laughs) and often I’ll say I hate things but that is just something I don’t know it just, it irks me (Squiers: mmm), because I just think the word disability means like it, it can hold you back (Squiers: mmm) and I am different but nothing about my arm holds me back. And so yeah when people say that obviously, um, I have realise that they don’t fully understand sometimes how much it makes, how much it makes me mad but, um, again like I’m understanding to it but it is something that if I have the choice to answer (Squiers: mmm) if I like it or not then that’s something I definitely, um, irks me a lot just because I just think that again it’s something that, um, holds someone back or limits them (Squiers: mmm) and, and I just don’t feel limited at all.
SQUIERS: Do you have a preferred word or just not to use that at all?
PICKETT: I just, I mean to be honest I just say unique, but that’s.
SQUIERS: That’s cool, that’s awesome.
PICKETT: Yeah, I really like that word just because, um, saying unique to me doesn’t, um, single anyone out because everyone’s different (Squiers: mmm) and everyone’s unique in their own way (Squiers: mmm) so I think that it’s a word that is, um, really inclusive and everyone can be a part of it (laughs).
SQUIERS: You mention this before as well, ah, early on in the podcast and I wanted to pick up on it now. We had actually Paralympian Elie Cole on this podcast not long ago and, um, after the show we were chatting and she was telling me that she still gets people, like adults, coming up to her asking her, you know, ‘oh what happened? What happened to your leg?’ (Pickett: mmm) You know, she’s, um, she only has one leg, does that happen to you still and how do you, does it frustrate you?
PICKETT: Yeah, so, it definitely does happen to me, um, not, not a ton, but it definitely happens (Squiers: mmm) and it’s more people sort of staring at my arm and it’s like they think I can’t see them or something (laughs) and it’s just like that part of it just makes me mad (Squiers: yeah). I, I, I’ve actually, I’ve come to the point in my life where I’d rather people just ask me than just stare, because it’s, if they ask me then I can, you know, talk to them about it and I think it will open their, um, their mind to a whole new, um, life and a whole new attitude or, you know, maybe it won’t make them stare as much next time.
So, it, I mean, it used to really bother me (Squiers: mmm) but I think now, um, like I said, they just, they just aren’t exposed maybe to anyone in their life that has one arm, but I mean I think it would be really cool if someone stopped me and said ‘oh, what happened to your arm, I’d love to hear your story’ (Squiers: mmm). I would be so open to that and I’d just, I would love it because I could actually sit there and tell my story and they can just hear the different things that I’ve been through rather than just sort of staring at me (Squiers: mmm) and wondering what happened. I mean it definitely sort of irked me and upset me (Squiers: mmm) but I think now it’s just something that I’m like used to and whatever happens, happens and if they want to ask, they’ll ask, but if not, they’ll stare (laughs). So, you know, you’ve just got to roll with the punches.
SQUIERS: Um, and that’s what’s so good about having you on such a great stage worldwide and the platform is normalising difference and normalising uniqueness as well.
PICKETT: Thank you, I appreciate that.
SQUIERS: So, um, and talking about playing on that stage, you’re playing on that professional stage in both Australia and the U.S., ah, twenty-six, you’re twenty-six if I’ve gotten that right?
PICKETT: Yes, yes, twenty-six.
SQUIERS: Only twenty-six (laughs), what is next for Carson Pickett?
PICKETT: Oh man, um, so obviously I still have a dream to make the National Team (Squiers: mmm) because that’s just something that I want to, um, to achieve since I was young, um, because when I started playing soccer, so that is something that I still want to achieve. And I do want to play soccer for as, for as long as my body will let me and as long as I can, but, you know, going to College and getting an education is something else that I’m, um, excited about is probably a really good thing that happened to me. (Squiers: mmm)
Just because, you know, you can grow up and be a soccer player and that’s all you can think about, but you don’t think about when you’re done because you think ‘oh you’re going to play forever, my body’s great’, but I mean even at twenty-six I’m like ‘oh my gosh, my body’s not great anymore’ (laughs). Like there’s definitely sometimes I’m like ‘woah (laughs), I felt like the bus hit me but, um,’ (Squiers: wait for the next ten years for you).
Yeah, exactly so, you know, going to College and getting my education in something that excites me (Squiers: mmm), is probably the most thrilling part of my life after soccer. But I think, um, like I said I want to be a Sports Reporter, it’s like my second dream and I think that, that’s something that, um, I’m really looking forward to and I think I’ll have to go back to school for that so I’ll, I’ll, I would love to go back and be a Graduate Assistant at a spare(?) soccer program and get my education that way.
SQUIERS: I think you can go straight into commentary, just go straight on, I think you’ll be fine (laughs), I don’t think you need to go back to, I mean as a Sports Reporter I can say that.
PICKETT: (laughs) Well thank you.
SQUIERS: Yeah, I think, I think you should, you should just get straight into it.
PICKETT: Yeah, I would love that.
SQUIERS: What’s the, the, um, the landscape for women’s football, how has that changed because in, in the U.S., because you have just such a, like an, an incredible, incredible team over there and I know it’s changed a lot over the last, well since you’ve been playing professional sport as well.
PICKETT: Yeah absolutely, um, it’s definitely changed like I said since I was young, I mean we didn’t even have a Pro League, so I think that that’s just a major step in Women’s Soccer and just the simple fact that our National Team is so dominant. I think obviously it does turn heads (Squiers: mmm) and it makes people want to watch soccer because they see, you know, they’re winning by a certain amount of goals and that’s thrilling to watch, everybody wants to see people score goals. So, I think they’re definitely paving a way, um, for the future especially girls that are way younger than me that are coming up, I think that they’re going to have a major platform for Women’s Soccer, um, when they get a little bit older and they’re going to have so many opportunities.
SQUIERS: I would love to see you wearing the blue, white and red. Um, we finish off this podcast by asking our guests what advice they would give to your ten-year-old self, what would you tell that little Carson Pickett?
PICKETT: Um, I would tell little Carson Pickett, um, to not worry about what anyone thinks, to just continue to be yourself and be true to yourself because in the end you can be the best soccer player in the world, the best athlete in the world, but people are going to remember how you made them feel and for me that, um, is such a big thing for me in my life right now (Squiers: mmm). Um, I think that yes, I am meeting so many people through soccer, but I’m meeting so many more friends through life and so I think that I would just tell myself to continue to be true to myself and don’t let athletics or soccer change who you are deep down and just like my dad says ‘never, um, allow anyone to turn your scar into a ceiling’. So, that is so that’s what I tell my, my little self. (laughs)
SQUIERS: Mmm. I love that, that is awesome, Mr. Pickett you’re coming up like, as an incredible man and, and your mum as well as an incredible woman. You are an incredible person as well Carson I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed this chat it’s been awesome. I don’t want it to end but we have to make it end unfortunately. But thank you so much for sharing your story with ‘On Her Game’.
PICKETT: Yeah absolutely, thank you so much for having me it’s been an absolute honour.
SQUIERS: On her game is presented by me, Sam Squiers and produced in collaboration with Podcast One Australia, Producer Lindsey Pickett, Audio Producer Darcy Thompson, Executive Producer, Jennifer Goggin. For more episodes, head to podcastoneaustralia.com.au download the free Podcast One Australia app or search on On Her Game podcasts.
Transcribed by Nadine Maraldo www.gossipcom.com