Wearing the number 26 on her new blue and red patterned jersey during her first match playing for the United States Women’s National Soccer Team, Carson Pickett helped her teammates earn a 2-0 win over Colombia (on June 28, 2022). Joining the lineup as a defender, Pickett is the first U.S. player with limb difference to compete on the national team.
Pickett was born without a left forearm and hand. But her disability hasn’t stopped her from proving her abilities again and again. In fact, the 5’8” tall star seems to be scoring big time as of late. She made her 100th National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) appearance earlier this summer, and she was also featured in the division’s Best XI for June.
“I’m happy that she was able to perform well for 90 minutes,” U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski shared after Pickett’s first national team appearance. The performance is likely a kickstart to a lengthy career on the U.S. national team.
Kicking Stereotypes Out of Bounds
About 1 in every 1,900 babies is born with a limb reduction defect in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some of these babies will have both upper and lower limb reduction defects. “Limb reduction,” as it is known, occurs when part of or the entire arm (upper limb) or leg (lower limb) of a baby fails to develop fully in-utero.
Pickett grew up in Fleming Island, just outside of Jacksonville, Florida. Thanks to the influence of her athletic mother and father, Treasure and Mike, she started playing soccer at age five. “I was raised by two amazing parents who always told me that I could do anything that I dreamed of,” Pickett told AmeriDisability during our first interview with her back in 2019.
Now 29 years old, so many of those aspirations have already come true. Her limb difference never impeded her determination. And AmeriDisability has a feeling it never will. However, because people often have misconceptions about disabilities, including limb differences, Pickett’s not a fan of the term ‘disability.’ She explains, “I prefer using the word ‘unique.’ Everyone is unique in their own way. Just because someone is missing an arm, doesn’t mean she can’t do something that someone with two arms can do.”
Pickett first dominated at the collegiate level playing for Florida State University. Then, in 2016, she was drafted into the NWSL by Seattle Reign, where she performed for two years alongside league icons, including Megan Rapinoe, who recently was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Joe Biden.
In 2018, Pickett was thrilled to return to the Sunshine State in a trade to the Orlando Pride. Most recently, in 2021, she joined the North Carolina Courage.
In 2019, Pickett unexpectedly found herself in the throes of the spotlight after a photo of her with her number one fan went viral. The candid snapshot captured a post-game celebratory moment of Pickett “fist-bumping” with a then two-year-old Joseph who, like Pickett, was born without his left forearm and hand. Joseph’s mom, Colleen Tidd, shared the heartfelt image on Instagram and it’s racked up more than 16K likes.
“The picture is authentic. It wasn’t a set-up photo opp. It was a moment when we saw each other and we had true emotions,” Pickett attests. “And despite our age difference, we have a connection and understanding that we’re so similar. It’s special.” The pair first meet months prior to that famed moment and built a sweet, empowering friendship.
Pickett has since embraced the opportunity to encourage youth with limb differences (and their parents) to combat stereotypes and set lofty goals. She urges: “Don’t let anyone tell you that you are not good enough, because you are able no matter what. I am good enough!”
In the Right Position
Humor, especially surrounding her “uniqueness,” is a powerful asset that Pickett uses to connect with teammates, coaches and fans. There are even lighthearted jokes about handballs and throw-ins, along with serious accolades about her superior soccer skills. Pickett’s been described as one of the smartest left-backs in the league because she has the ability to read the game differently and anticipate how to effectively “body up” to competitors.
Pickett believes participation in a collaborative environment helped build her confidence. “If I was playing tennis or golf or another individualized sport, it would be harder [to combat diversity] because I’d be out there on my own. Being part of a team sport has allowed me to be with people who always had my back,” she shared. She’s expressed that her teammates and coaches believe she is fully capable of making positive strides… on and off the field.
Pickett will continue to play for her home club, NWSL’s North Carolina Courage, in addition to her new role on the U.S. national team. The U.S. will try for a third straight World Cup title next summer (2023) in Australia and New Zealand. And, despite having just one complete upper limb, Pickett wholeheartedly believes she can help make that title win happen!