Julie Ertz has barely had time to breathe since the Women's World Cup ended a week and a half ago.
After winning her second career title, her schedule has included parties, a long flight home from France, the parade in New York and a slew of media appearances. Up next is a charity fundraiser Tuesday with husband, Eagles two-time Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz, for the foundation they run together.
“I finally got a [good night’s] sleep, so that’s good enough,” she told the Inquirer from northern California, where the fundraiser is being held.
It’s hard enough for outsiders to believe that so little time has passed since the last game in Lyon, since so much has happened since then. But there has been plenty to remember, including Ertz bringing the World Cup trophy down the steps from the U.S. team’s charter flight home.
That was, she revealed, something of a fluke.
“I was just sitting by the door, [that was] where my seat was — they just kind of handed it to me," she said. "It probably shouldn’t have been me holding it out there, now looking back on it. I honestly didn’t realize [it]. I was just kind of going out holding it, and we were just going to pass it back. I’m very thankful that my team didn’t scream at me for taking it, but it was not planned, so, whoops.”
Ertz was one of the U.S. team’s best players at the World Cup. Her work as a defensive midfielder was so important that there were calls for her to receive the Golden Ball award given to the tournament’s most outstanding player.
“In 2015, I was just grateful to be a part of the team and didn’t know how much I’d be able to play," she said. "This time around, I really took it all in and tried to soak in the moment and be there for the team. I definitely felt like I had a different leadership role, which I was very grateful for.”
There were plenty of moments to remember, and not just because the U.S. went all the way. The tens of thousands of Americans who filled stadiums in Paris, Lyon and elsewhere formed a story unto themselves.
“From Game 1, it was unbelievable to see how many fans came all that way to watch us and support us,” she said. “I’m speechless, because it was so cool to see all the support there, and I felt that energy.”
While Ertz was abroad, a children’s book that she wrote hit the market on July 2. It’s titled “Chase Your Dreams: How Soccer Taught Me Strength, Perseverance, and Leadership." She spent around a year working on it.
“To be able to give knowledge on what I’ve learned that has gotten me through things, and sharing those times, meant the world to me,” she said. “To win a World Cup is absolutely amazing, and to have a book for kids, I didn’t even think that was possible. Now it’s really cool, and I’m excited to share that with them.”
The book is marketed alongside a similar one from her husband that will be published in September: “Focus and Finish: How Football Taught Me Grit, Teamwork, and Integrity.” Julie said the titles can also stand on their own.
“It depends on what kind of story you’re looking for, or who you’re a fan of,” she said. “Where we were in our time of life together, we just kind of felt like, OK, we have a good idea of who we are, our careers and our beliefs, and we just felt like it would be a great way to share [that] to kids that we can’t just reach on a daily basis around us.”
There is a religious theme to both books, and the publishing house that produced them. It isn’t overemphasized, but she and Zach have never hidden their deeply held faith.
“Zach and I are Christians, and it for sure is the underlying message,” Julie said.
Next up is Julie’s return to the NWSL. Her Chicago Red Stars host the reigning champion North Carolina Courage at 6 p.m. Sunday in a nationally televised showcase on ESPN2. The game will feature eight of the 23 U.S. World Cup players, five major international names, and a slew of Americans who missed the cut or might make a future squad.
There has been a spike in interest in the NWSL since the World Cup ended, leading to a major sponsorship deal with Budweiser and a TV deal with ESPN. Sunday’s game will set an attendance record for a club women’s soccer game in the Chicago area.
Ertz, like so many others, is thrilled to see the progress.
“There’s so many young girls that want to play, and want to be on the national team, and want to play professionally. To be able to have a league for them is huge," she said. “To be able to dream, to be able to play in a possible market that you’re from, or in the country that you’re from, is huge. … I’m so excited to go back to Chicago and see that support and continue to grow that, especially for the girls that while we were gone have been working their butts off to keep the NWSL going, to get points, to make it what it is.”