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Motherhood and matches: My Story with Almuth Schult

Germany goalkeeper Almuth Schult is the only mother playing in Germany’s Women’s Bundesliga. This summer, she will combine parenting duties with chasing European football’s biggest prize.

Almuth Schult is a UEFA Women’s EURO and UEFA Women’s Champions League winner who with her club VfL Wolfsburg, has lifted the German Women’s Bundesliga six times. She is also the mother of two-year-old twins.

After giving birth in April 2020, she worked her way back to fitness and regained her place in the national team, juggling motherhood with being an elite-level goalkeeper. Part of the Germany squad at this summer’s tournament in England, she has her children with her and is aiming to make them proud as she pursues more silverware.

Here, she shares her story.

Almuth Schult on… becoming a footballing mother

We knew beforehand that it might be difficult to plan life with children. I really wanted to keep on playing, but I also wanted to be a mother. My decision was not to stop my career and with all the support that we have, it’s possible.

I can’t imagine doing this just with my husband and me. I have my family around, of course my husband but also my parents, my parents in-law and my siblings. They all help us and we’re really thankful for this. I was born on a farm so it always worked having kids around, 24 hours a day, seven days a week working with all the animals and all the work on the fields. That’s how my family is, always working together and having childcare side by side. I was used to this, so that was a good thing to start.

I was just happy and thankful with my career that I already had – if I would quit at this position it was fine because I managed to win the gold medal at the Olympic Games, I’d won the Women’s EURO, all the titles in Germany, the Women’s Champions League and I was just satisfied.

Play football where you are
Schult celebrates Women's EURO 2013 success with her Germany team-mates
Schult celebrates Women's EURO 2013 success with her Germany team-matesGetty Images

Almuth Schult on… returning to action

Getting back to the top level was hard, especially at the beginning. You have much less sleep with two children who are still little ones, so no time to recover. Sometimes I was so tired when I went to training that I had to stop and sleep for five minutes in the car and then go again. Then, you’re not ‘off’ when you have a day off, you have to care for your kids. You have to do the housework or go grocery shopping. But I don’t want to complain. I love my life and the hard work - I know I’ve reached my goal to be back in shape and to perform.

At first, it was difficult for my club and the national team - they had no experience with handling a playing mother. They were a little scared and unsure, they didn’t know how to support this in real life. But they did care a lot, which was a good thing for me. They were saying, “If you need something, you have to tell us because we don’t know how to handle it.” The first season, I was allowed to do strength training at home, I didn’t have to go to the club. So I had one more day where I didn’t have to go by car anywhere and I could do it at the time that I decided so that was a big deal for me. They were open-minded enough to say, “If you want to take your kids to training camp, you can, we support this.” This was also a big step in Germany, that you could have your kids with you.

The kids have been in the stadium and watched my games before, but this is the first time I’ve had them at a tournament - I think it will be perfect. It’s so fun and so nice when I have them around me. Hopefully they will be proud and, in a few years, when we tell them where they’ve been during the Women’s EURO, it will be special.

Setting a world-record attendance in the UEFA Women's Champions League against Barcelona
Setting a world-record attendance in the UEFA Women's Champions League against BarcelonaGetty Images

Almuth Schult on… work-life balance

Football is the most important thing besides family but it’s not the first priority. Life with kids is so different but so beautiful. When you see them growing and developing every day it opens your heart. You just have to enjoy every moment you have. Life is there to enjoy and I recognise that I’ve changed in that I’m more calm with myself.

Balancing family life with commitments as a professional footballer can be hard. I can’t decide when I have to train, when I have to be at the training ground, it’s the coach that decides. I have to plan everything according to that schedule. It’s sometimes a little difficult when there’s a short-term change. I can’t call the coach and say, “I’m not coming today because my daughter is sick, she’s got a fever and I have to stay home.” They’d say, “Yes but tomorrow we have a big game so you have to come.” This is the only thing that’s hard, leaving your kids and having to stay focussed. You want to win everything and every single game.

Did you know?

Among the regulations for last season’s new UEFA Women’s Champions League format was a new rule that allowed clubs to temporarily replace pregnant players or new mothers on their squad lists? This provides both clubs and players with more protection, ensuring more career security for the player and sufficient on-field resource for the clubs.

Almuth Schult on… time away from the children

I don’t usually find it hard to focus on a game when I am away. I know they’re happy where they are. Happy people and lovely people are caring for them and that makes me calm. But if I know they’re sick it’s like I have to concentrate for 90 minutes and then I’m back as a mummy. Then, it’s much harder to leave.

If it’s just an away game for one or two days, it’s fine because I know I’m coming back and the children have a lot of people around who care for them and who they really love. But if I’m away for 10 days at a training camp and I can’t take my kids with me then it’s hard. It gets harder after three days because I’m used to being away for maybe one, two or three days with away games and so on.

When you say goodbye to the kids, you’re thinking about how you’re not going to see them for 10 days. And what do they learn in 10 days? Do they miss their mummy? How are things at home? Is everything working? Is there any trouble? All of these thoughts are in your mind and you don’t want to leave. But that’s football and I love football and that’s how it is. Life isn’t always easy.

Celebrating club success with former team-mate Sara Björk Gunnarsdottir in 2018
Celebrating club success with former team-mate Sara Björk Gunnarsdottir in 2018Bongarts/Getty Images

Almuth Schult on… being a role model for more mothers in the game

I’m the only mother actively playing in the Women’s Bundesliga in Germany. A lot of players ask, “how do you handle this?” and they’re thinking about doing it themselves. Maybe now, there’s one more door open for them. There are more players in Europe getting pregnant and who aren’t talking about retiring. When I talked to Kristine Minde from Norway, and Sara Björk Gunnarsdottir from Iceland, they said they felt a little bit inspired by me to do this. That is the best compliment that you can get. Also, in the German national team, there’s Melanie Leupolz who is now pregnant. I don’t know if she chose this before or if she was also inspired, I don’t know.

The best advice I can give is just to feel comfortable with your decision. If you don’t feel comfortable, make it comfortable. Go to people, ask, and fight for your rights and fight for everything. Then it’ll be much better. Try to get your support – that is is the most important thing needed to come back to football and to perform. If you have the feeling that you’re starting alone, you can’t do it. It’s good that this is changing in Europe, maybe all over the world, that they recognise that women can be pregnant during their careers.