Kaleigh Kurtz Cleaning Up On and Off the Pitch

Days after winning the 2018 NWSL Championship, defender Kaleigh Kurtz sat down with NC Courage head coach Paul Riley for their end of season coach/player meeting. It marked the completion of Kurtz’s first season in the NWSL. Up to that point, her 2019 fate was unsure. The meeting went well and she knew she would be back training and playing with the Courage come 2019. It set in motion a motivating offseason setting her up for what she hopes will be a bigger role in the 2019 Courage campaign.


Kurtz stayed busy in the off-season, spending time with family and pets.

The quality time with family included a new baby nephew.

“My sister lives back at home now, and she just had a baby so I got to hang out with her a lot — and him, my little nephew,” she said.

“Seeing him grow just in those seven months was crazy. So that was really good family time that I didn’t really expect.”

Trash Talk

The South Carolina native started a personal campaign to clean up litter on the trails in her neighborhood. Kurtz has a pair of dogs — an Australian Shepherd, and a Border Collie. She said taking the dogs out on long walks was the catalyst for wanting to clean up the outdoors.

“Every time I’d walk I would see all this trash,” Kurtz said.

She said within a few walks, she started to bring a bag to grab trash on subsequent walks.

“Then I was like what if I posted and maybe go city wide or viral,” she said.

“That’s the end goal. I would love that it would be a known thing that if you see trash on the side of the road, just pick it up.”

Kurtz also plays disc golf with her best friend and the cleanup continued.

“We decided to bring a big trash bag to the park,” she said.

“We filled it four times and emptied it into a trash can. It was insane.”

The defender said she met people who were grateful for the effort.

“I’ve had so many people as I’m walking, and see that I have a bag, say, ‘Thank you so much for helping pick up trash.’ It’s been really cool to get those responses from people I don’t know.”

Rookie Reflection

Kaleigh Kurtz interviewAs a defender, cleanup is something Kurtz on the pitch as well. Kurtz, now in her second year on the back line of the NC Courage said her first season was a really big learning period. Just over a year ago, Kurtz was coming into Courage training for the first time.

“I was the baby and became the little minnow again,” she said.

“I had to figure out what worked the best for my body nutritionally and everything.”

“Coming into preseason was terrifying because I was competing for a roster spot and there were only one or two roster spots available and they were probably twelve of us competing for that one spot,” she said.

She said it was stressful, but even after securing a spot, she never really felt like she could relax fully.

“I just had to figure out where my place was, what my role was on the team and then from there, work on individual stuff that I needed to work on, while still being a part of the team and helping them prepare for games,” Kurtz said.

“It was a different role than what I was used to from college or when I played in Sweden, but definitely necessary to learn more about myself, learn more about where I need to improve, especially compared to some of these ladies that I’m playing with and against.”

Sophomore Season

Kaleigh Kurtz signing autographs 2018Kurtz looks forward to her second season and the possibility of expanding her role on the back line. With it being a World Cup year, both Abby Erceg and Abby Dahlkemper will both be absent at times during the season as they spend time with their national teams.

“I might be the most experienced in the center of the back,” she said.

“Knowing that my role might change a little bit. Last year, it was Abby Erceg who was constantly making sure I knew where I was supposed to be and really talking to me. Now it’s going to be my job to talk to the other players.”

Kurtz said the center back is a leadership role, and while it’s not a definite she has that spot, she recognizes her role is different in 2019.

“I know my role is to be more of a voice and to be a vocal and physical presence than it was last year.”

“I know my role is to be more of a voice and to be a vocal and physical presence than it was last year.”

She added she will want and need to have a higher confidence level in herself and in what she’s telling the players in front of her.

“Because I worked in the system of Paul’s box, I know more than some of these other players coming in how that system works and how they need to rotate,” she said.

“Then I think with Abby Erceg gone, I may slide into the left. I played in the left in college. It might change my role in that situation where I just have to be confident in using my left foot, and changing and switching the point of attack a lot and just be confident. I think that’s the biggest thing. That’s what I had to work on in the off-season.

Opening Day 2019

Kurtz and the rest of the NC Courage open their 2019 regular season campaign, Saturday, April 13 at 7:00 pm, facing the Chicago Red Stars at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.

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