Carli Lloyd brings CL10 soccer clinic to Flathead Valley

Carli Lloyd held court Saturday at Flip Darling Memorial Field in Columbia Falls for the first-ever CL10 Soccer Clinic to be held in Montana.

Yes, that Carli Lloyd. Two-time Olympic gold medalist, two-time FIFA Women’s World Champion, two-time FIFA Player of the Year and four-time Olympian Carli Lloyd.

O’Brien Byrd, Columbia Falls boys’ soccer coach, struck up a friendship with Lloyd at the 2015 World Cup and for years asked her when she would have a clinic in western Montana.

But the timing had to be right. Try as she might, with her game schedule and other commitments as a professional footballer, Lloyd couldn’t make it work, but Byrd continued to give her the hard sell of coming to Montana.

And then things finally fell into place.

Arguably the most influential big game player in national team history and certainly one of the most decorated, Lloyd played her final game for the USWNT on October 26, 2021.

“I’ve told him over and over again [Byrd]”Look, I’m getting out of here. I’ll make it happen But I want to be able to enjoy myself. So I want to come here when I retire.’ And that’s what I’m doing,” Lloyd said. “I eat some barbecue, drink some nice cocktails and do things I couldn’t do because I don’t want to risk injury.”

Byrd wasn’t sure how it would happen, but Lloyd kept her word.

“She reached out to me in December and said, ‘Hey, we booked a VRBO. Let’s do July 2nd, 2022.” I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ So honestly, once she said yes, the rest was pretty easy.”

Lloyd and her staff trained a total of 360 players aged 8 to 18 over three sessions on Saturday.

Participants were divided into groups by age and rotated through the different elements, with Lloyd occasionally demonstrating some skills as an example.

During the lunch session, Lloyd reached out to the players’ parents and guardians and outlined some things she hoped to accomplish during the camp and thanked everyone who came.

“My goal is to guide them through skills and drills that I’ve done while playing and training,” she said.

At the end of the session, Lloyd shared what she had learned during her years as a top-flight player, then took questions from attendees, all eager to probe the American football legend’s brain.

A brave young man asked, “Who is better? you or [Lionel] Messi?”

Lloyd giggled but took it easy and replied that Messi was better and that there was nobody else who came close to his level.

Montana is not a pro sports hotspot, and school-age athletes don’t have the same opportunities as athletes in larger cities. The CL10 Clinic offers that and more for soccer players across the state.

“It’s a really special opportunity, especially for Montana kids, not just Flathead Valley kids,” Byrd said, noting that kids from Billings, Great Falls, Bozeman, Helena and Missoula were in attendance. “It’s special for these kids because we all live in small town Montana. And they certainly watch these amazing athletes on TV and at World Cups and Olympics just like everyone else. But here we have a great chance to be with someone like that. It’s pretty epic.”

Soccer is growing in popularity in the valley for high school and club teams. Whitefish has won its fourth straight State A title for boys, and the Glacier girls won their first state championship in 2020. Byrd’s Wildcats have been runners-up to Whitefish in championship play for the last two years and still have the horses to make another run at the Chopper.

“One of the great things that O’Brien said is that this is a great opportunity for all these kids here,” Lloyd said. “And that’s what I said – I want to come and do a great clinic, and you know, just help inspire.”

A visit from someone of Lloyd’s caliber benefits all and is a mark of progress in Montana’s football culture.

“I need to hook up Columbia Falls,” Byrd said. “It’s pretty cool that it was here when she finally got out of here. She looked around our facility yesterday and said, as far as the high school facilities go, it’s really, really great.”

The CL10 Clinic has previously been held in Lloyd’s home state of New Jersey and in Dallas. Her game schedule made it difficult to make time for the clinics more often, but Lloyd says that now that she’s retired, she’s using her touchpoints in different places and turning her clinic visits into road trips.

That’s what Lloyd and her crew did on their way to Montana. They loaded into a coach and made stops along the way.

“It was great,” Lloyd said. “Honestly, I love it here. We’ve toured South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and it was spectacular.”

Speaking of retirement, Lloyd is looking forward to coming home after her next clinic in New Jersey and relaxing by the pool.

“Retirement has been great,” Lloyd said. “I’m fine with the decision. The crazy thing is that I’ve been busier since I retired. I really haven’t stopped since I retired in November 2021. I’ve been able to spend more time with my husband, my friends, my family, travel, do things and it’s been great.”

And maybe next year she’ll be there again.

Leave a Comment