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Power People: Najell X Almuth Schult "I see myself as a pioneer and I am proud of myself and my family"

Power People: Najell x Almuth Schult "I see myself as a pioneer and I am proud of myself and my family"

For a long time, motherhood and professional sport did not seem compatible. Female athletes like Almuth Schult prove that this is changing. She re-entered professional football after both of her pregnancies. In 2020, she became a mother of twins and in August 2023, she gave birth to her third child. At Najell, we want to encourage parents to live their lives according to their own rules. In our Power People series, we want to showcase inspiring people like Almuth. We spoke to the mother of three about the compatibility of family and career, her plans for the future, and women's football in the USA and Germany. 

Not many professional female athletes in Germany start a family during their career in sports. In an exclusive survey conducted by the German public broadcasting corporation SWR, half of the respondents stated that their sporting career influenced their family planning. Do you see yourself as a pioneer in showing that it is possible to combine professional soccer and motherhood? 

Family planning definitely influences your sporting career. I’ve experienced it myself. Talking to my teammates, many postponed their motherhood until later because of sport. And those who become mothers have not been able to actively pursue part of their careers because of the inevitable break they’ve needed to take due to pregnancy. Yes, in a way I see myself as a pioneer. I am proud of myself and my family. 

Many parents, especially women, feel that they must choose between their careers and a family. Did you ever have doubts? And if so, what have you done to overcome them? 

I can completely understand having doubts. There is no guarantee that you will be able to continue your career the same as before. I discussed this decision in detail with my husband and family and was told from the beginning that we would stick together as a family and make everything possible. That gave all of us confidence to make the decision. When the children arrived, we felt no doubt at all that this was the right decision for us! 

photo credit: VfL Wolfsburg

Professional sport is not a classic nine-to-five job. How do you balance your career and family life? And do you have any advice you can give to others in similar situations?

Organization is everything! The children have added more responsibility, but you don't have to realign your life, you just need to think and organize. Of course, it is sometimes exhausting, but the children give you so much back and remind you that there are more important things than sporting success. My advice is: Always stay calm! You can always find a solution that feels good. My children often accompany me to jobs and training, and people are becoming more tolerant and enthusiastic about them coming along. Confidence and laughter are the most important things. Most of the players love my children and are happy to see them. Obviously, there are also players who are not interested, but that’s perfectly fine. 

You have been signed with HSV (Hamburg sports club) since April meaning you are returning to your first professional club. This makes you the first player in the world to benefit from the new regulation allowing new mothers to transfer outside of normal transfer windows. What else could FIFA and the DFB do to make it easier for mothers to return to professional football?

I wasn't aware that I was the first in the world, but it makes me proud. I was a part of the process of recommending that rule to FIFA by FIFPRO (International Federation of Professional Footballers) and, at the time, I never thought I would benefit from it myself. The regulations are good, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.  For example, research on training during pregnancy or on the optimal way to return to work after childbirth. Improvement is also needed in regulations managing mothers and children in the clubs during matches or what happens to pregnant women when their contract expires. I am still involved in these conversations and curious to see what will happen in the coming years. The USA, for example, is already very progressive at the league level. They have mandatory rules for all clubs regarding mothers. 

You mentioned the USA. After your first pregnancy in 2021, you played for Angel City in Los Angeles. Is there a difference in maternal awareness in professional sports in the USA or your club compared to Germany?

Absolutely. Germany is getting better and better, but in the USA it is the norm. For example, I was the only mother in the entire German League. At Angel City, we had three mothers in one club alone and many more in the league. Americans have been aware of the importance of women's football for 20-30 years, and that's why they're world leaders in this regard. 

photo credit: Angel City Football Club

You have already celebrated many sporting successes, for example you were voted World Goalkeeper in 2014, won Olympic gold with the German team in 2016 and are a European champion. What else do you want to achieve?

I am incredibly grateful for what I was able to achieve. It's not just about titles, but also about experiences, countries visited or the many friendships I've made through sport. The world championship title is "only" in the junior sector, staying humble! I have a great husband, three healthy and happy children, a wonderful family and a job that I enjoy. What more can there be?