Take your best shot: Life Lessons with soccer star Alex Morgan

 (The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed
are his own.)
    By Chris Taylor
    NEW YORK, March 27 (Reuters) - Everyone has a dream of
making it to the top, but what happens when you actually get
there? Only a handful of people even know what that is like.
    One of them is Alex Morgan, the soccer phenom and forward
for the U.S. women's national soccer team - ranked #1 on the
planet, by the way - heading into the World Cup in France
starting this June.
    For the latest in Reuters' "Life Lessons" series, the
29-year-old idol for young girls worldwide reminisces about how
she dribbled her way to global stardom - and talks about what
will come after the final whistle.
    Q: Did you have a backup career in mind, in case soccer
didn't work out?
    A: I had a dream that I wrote down on a yellow sticky note
when I was seven years old. It said, 'Dear mom, my dream is to
be a professional soccer player. Love, Ali.' My mom kept that
for years.
    At the time there wasn't even a professional league, and I
had never even seen the women’s national team play. So I never
even thought about a Plan B, even though I went on to study
political economy in college.
    Q: When you did make it as a pro, how did you handle fame
and wealth?
    A: For two years after I started on the national team, I
couldn't receive any checks because I was playing for the NCAA.
They have very strict rules about that. So my bank account in
college was pretty grim, and my diet involved ramen noodles or
finding the cheapest takeout.
    Since I was a student-athlete, they did let me eat at the
university cafes, so I would usually be there for breakfast,
lunch and dinner. A lot of times I would be down to a few bucks,
wondering how to get through the next couple of days before my
food card was replenished.
    So when I did become a professional player and started
getting paid, that was a nice change. Nowadays I manage to save
around 70 percent of what I make.
    Q: What have you learned about managing money?
    A: As a professional athlete, your income isn’t steady.
Sometimes you get big checks and then sometimes you don’t get
much for a couple of months. Lump sums come in randomly, since a
lot of what I make is through partnerships with sponsors. So
it’s been a learning curve for me to navigate that.

    Q: You have started numerous side ventures, so what lessons
about entrepreneurship can you share?
    A: For me, with my book series and the movie I did for
Nickelodeon, I like to take chances when the pressure is on.
When I control things as much as possible, that is when I want
to bet big, because I have a good sense of what I am able to do.
So how I act in the business world is quite similar to how I act
on the soccer pitch. I am happy betting on myself, and I tend to
achieve more when my back is against the wall.
    Q: Where do you spend your philanthropic time and money?
    A: The main focus is kids and animals. I do a lot of work
with Boys & Girls Clubs, and I’m an ambassador for UNICEF. I
also support the ASPCA, because I am passionate about giving
animals a voice. I even adopted a vegan diet, because it didn’t
feel fair to have a dog I adore, and yet eat meat all the time.
    Q: Have you envisioned what your retirement from soccer is
going to look like?
    A: I would love to start a family, and live in southern
California, maybe in San Diego. My husband (LA Galaxy midfielder
Servando Carrasco) definitely wants to stay in the soccer world,
and I am enjoying dipping my toes into new areas, like books and
movies. It is an exciting time.
    Q: For that future family, what life lessons would you like
to pass along?
    A: Something I would want for my kids is to be confident and
dream big, regardless of what obstacles are in the way. That is
what I did when I was seven, not even knowing that professional
soccer was a possibility. I would love for that message to hit
home with them.

 (Editing by Beth Pinsker and G Crosse)