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kelley ohara her conference 2024
kelley ohara her conference 2024
Erika Kapin
Culture > Entertainment

Soccer Star Kelley O’Hara Wants You To Cherish The Little Moments

Kelley O’Hara had the Her Conference 2024 audience giggling through her keynote as she mixed witty humor with heartfelt advice. Speaking to a packed house on June 22 in New York, the soccer star got real about her biggest career achievements and how she stays grounded, speaking with moderator and U.S. Soccer’s Chief Advancement Officer Leah Heister Burton as well as answering candid questions from college students in the audience.

As a member of the ​​National Women’s Soccer League club Gotham FC and the United States Women’s National Soccer Team, O’Hara has earned some of the biggest accomplishments an athlete can achieve, including an Olympic gold medal and two World Cup championship wins. She also played a vital role in the highly publicized and celebrated fight for equal pay in women’s sports

While these were all huge moments worth celebrating, O’Hara made it clear in her keynote that they’re not the only moments she cherishes.

“The journey to get to those moments are just as important as that big moment,” she told the Her Conference crowd. “It sounds cliché, and I know it, but something that has really stuck with me as I have gone later into my career is that the journey is so important, the little moments are so important.”

kelley ohara her conference
Erika Kapin

This has especially become the case since O’Hara announced on May 2 that she’ll be retiring from professional soccer at the end of the 2024 season. “As I have known my career is coming to the end, I’m like, ‘Guys, these are the good old days,’” she said. “We will look back and wish that we could still be in these moments, and it’s not even the big ones.” 

Just moments before taking to the Her Conference stage, O’Hara sat down with Her Campus for an exclusive interview to talk more about some of those moments that bring her joy, as well as her upcoming pursuits post-retirement.

These responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Congratulations on announcing your retirement from professional soccer. How did you know this was the right time for you to retire? 

I’ve always said I’m going to play as long as I can physically still do it the way I want to do it. I realized I’m probably going to love the sport forever, so it was the physical piece that was the determining factor. Unfortunately, I have some major injuries that I’ve had to go through, and things that I want for my quality of life post-soccer, and that kind of determined it. I’ve done everything I can to retire at peace, be happy, and hopefully enjoy all the things that I’ve wanted to do post-retirement.

What are you looking forward to most in your retirement?

I feel like my schedule has been dictated by soccer since I was 8, and being able to go and do all the things that I’ve looked forward to — go on adventures around the world, go skiing, go somewhere to go surfing — all of these things that I love I’m most excited for.

Looking back on your soccer career, what’s your favorite memory?

I went to three Olympics and won gold my first time — that was London 2012. And that, I think I will always take with me, the memories of post-gold in London, the partying, the celebrations. That was my first major tournament win with the Women’s National Team, and it was just so much fun. It was like what you imagine it to be, and then we got to do it. On top of all that, the moment of having the presenters put the gold medal around my neck and being on the podium, it was a dream from when I was a kid. So yeah, I would say receiving my gold medal is a top moment of my career, and especially of my Olympic career. 

Would you say it’s a top moment of your whole life?

I mean, obviously sports and soccer have been a huge part of my life, and these big wins have been big milestones and accomplishments. But there are many: Getting engaged was so exciting. Graduating from college was so exciting. Winning my high school state championship was so exciting.

kelley ohara her conference
Erika Kapin

Another recent moment that I’m sure you’re proud of is the release of Ripe!, a queer short film you served as executive producer on. Can you talk a bit about that?

The reason why I wanted to be involved in this is because I was given the opportunity to be in the decision-making position. And with the platform that I have, I want to be able to elevate underrepresented groups and their stories. I don’t think that people in positions of power or decision-making positions do that enough. Given that opportunity, I jumped on board and fell in love with it immediately. And then on top of all that, the group of people that we brought together, or who were already working on the project, are just awesome. So all of the factors created this lovely combination of story, people, purpose.

Do you see yourself in a specific character in the film?

It’s funny. So my fiancée — Kameryn Stanhouse, who is an executive producer with me, alongside my good friend Luke Anderson — when we heard the creative and read the script, we both felt kind of represented by one of the characters. I’m probably more like Gloria. She’s a little bit outgoing and brash and energetic about everything. Whereas Sophie’s a little bit more reserved and sorting through things, so I think Kameryn saw herself in that.

It’s June, which means it’s Pride Month. What does Pride mean to you?

Pride is this celebration of embracing who you are and who you love and having a lot of other people do that with you. I just feel like it’s a celebration, and it makes me happy. I love that.

What do you hope college students take away from your Her Conference keynote? 

When I’ve been a part of other events, listening to people speak, I walk away and I just feel this sense of empowerment. I’m inspired, uplifted. I hope that people will walk away with that. Maybe they hear one thing that really resonates with them. If I can impact one person, it’s worth it.

Julia is a national writer for Her Campus. While she writes for all verticals, her focus is the wellness section, bringing you everything you need to know about relationships, astrology, and the best ways to get down and dirty. Julia is a grad student at Syracuse University where she studies communications. She is a graduate of Stony Brook University, where she studied journalism with a minor in women's studies. During her time at SBU, she was a VS PINK campus rep, and an active member of Her Campus @ SBU. When she isn't writing, you can find Julia reading a smutty romance novel, hitting up her local crystal shop, or thrifting with an iced oat milk latte in hand. She's a Capricorn (but you probably already knew that) and a practicing yogi.