Libby Stout is an American goalkeeper who most recently played for Apollon Limassol in Cyprus, before quietly announcing her retirement. Stout graduated from Western Kentucky University then traveled to France in 2012 to start her career in Europe. After five seasons in Europe and another two years in the NWSL, Stout is stepping away from the game.
You’ve recently decided to hang up your cleats after a positive Champions League run with Apollon Limassol. This seems fairly abrupt as you returned to action from an injury not too long ago. How long had you been weighing retirement?
I started my professional career knowing a few things. I wanted to play out my season in France, play in Germany, England if possible, finish my career in America, and win a championship somewhere along the way. That was a rough outline, but I clearly remember thinking this exact thought when I was sitting in my small 6th-floor apartment in Yzeure, France. I look back on it now and sometimes cannot believe all of that fell into place, not to mention gaining lifelong friends, memories, Cyprus, Champions League and, fortunately, the list goes on and on.
Retiring was always something I contemplated. I’m a planner. Not a diligent planner, but a rough idea planner. So I always thought of life after soccer, wondering what I would do (now leaning towards coaching and/or sales) and the circumstances around that inevitable time.
I came to Boston having recently dislocated my collarbone in England. I had muscle strains throughout that first Breakers season. I came back for the second season as strong and fit as ever but messed up my ankle in a training session. Mentally I was done. Truthfully, each injury mentally chipped away at me, but, selfishly perhaps, I couldn’t muster up the courage to give it up. Someone had to muster the courage for me. And I, from the bottom of my heart, am grateful for Matt Beard knowing me like he does and knowing I wasn’t myself. He did the hard part for me, which seems to be a theme for many coaches: having to do the hard part. It’s not an easy job and the amount of respect I have for my own coaches and teachers, and all those I never had, is immense.
So, in short, I knew I wanted to hang it up after the ankle injury. Matt sat me down and let me go. I was crying tears of rejection and sadness, but surprisingly more so, of relief and freedom. I felt I regained some control over my destiny at that point. Be done for good or give it a short last go. Cogs started turning and I had the opportunity to go on a 3-month retirement trip to Cyprus. And a lovely one it was.
After the 2015 season you left Liverpool to join the Breakers but, like you said, were plagued with injuries in 2016. You made ten starts for the Breakers before being released going into the 2017 season. With so many ups and downs, how do you look back on your move to Boston? Is there any regret in making the move away from Liverpool?
I absolutely do not regret leaving Liverpool. I made that decision with 100% clarity and surety. And that is NO slight to Liverpool and my experiences there in any way. That club and my friends I left behind know how much I love them, and if they don’t know they should know how much gratitude and love I have for them.
Boston gave me a new professional and personal challenge. Realistically, I’m a little disappointed I never really got the chance to play my best there but that experience is one I feel extremely fortunate to have had.
With Cyprus’ top club, Apollon Limassol, you finished top of the group stage in the Champions League, qualifying for the round of 32. How did you rebound from the setbacks in 2015-16? What advice would you give a young player who is recovering from an injury?
In Cyprus, I felt like myself for the first time in a long time on and off the field. I was training and playing well and genuinely happy. It was a similar feeling to when I first acquainted myself with Europe in 2012, so it was fitting to rediscover that feeling where it started. It was calming to go into that knowing I was giving myself the opportunity to close my career on my own note. All I ever wanted to get back to was the opportunity to do my job to the best of my ability and contribute to the team through my play. I hadn’t done that since my first year at Liverpool in 2014, so three years was a long time coming.
My advice would be not to quit based on just an injury. Use an injury as motivation to come back stronger, smarter, and wiser. Use that off time during an injury to learn and take notes. But, don’t forget to take care of and listen to yourself. If your ultimate goal is to come back stronger and fitter, DO IT. If you feel it’s time to move on to your next chapter, DO IT. You are the only one who knows what you really want and what’s ultimately best for you. And don’t be afraid to seek help.
It’s unfortunately much more common for players to retire before 30 on the women’s side than the men’s. As you’re stepping away from the game and looking back, where is the biggest need for the game to grow? And what’s something fans on the outside don’t get a clear picture of?
Sustainability-wise I always felt more stable as a pro player in Europe. My contract was guaranteed and the possibilities felt endless. I never really had that feeling in the States and I’m not really sure how to create that feeling. But if there were a goal in mind for the league here I’d make that it, security and stability.
Fans don’t get a clear picture of how important their presence and passion is and how much it’s appreciated. We live and breathe by your cheers and self-motivate and grind by your jeers. May they never stop. And may that little girl on the sideline continue to burst with inspiration.
Your career has taken you all over the world, playing in France, Germany, England, and Cyprus. How does a goalkeeper from Louisville, Kentucky reflect on such an illustrious career?
In short, my dreams wouldn’t have formed without the fierce Brianna Scurry, my competitive spirit without my older brother, self-motivation without my competition, championships without my teammates, leadership without my coaches, good looks without my parents. No, but seriously, I’m proud and I’m grateful and I want to say thank you.
Can you give fans an update on what's next for you? As you said you're a planner so I assume you have something already lined up?
I'm feeling out my future. Currently, I'm working at the top beer distribution company in Boston, but during my last year of playing, I started to think more seriously about coaching. Ideally I'd love to coach college or professional. I also have my own keeper training platform, Stout Goalkeeping, which provides personalized one-on-one training. I have a vision in mind to provide some type of mentorship and help shed light on the possibilities for women to play professionally abroad, even flirting with the idea of becoming an agent. So we will see. Right now I'm just trying to be patient and enjoy what I'm doing every day, whilst working my way up through the coaching licenses and keeping an ear out for opportunities.
Lastly, what’s a moment from your career that you'll never forget?
My lasting memory is parading the FAWSL Champions trophy with my Liverpool Ladies team before a sold-out crowd, standing ovation applause at Anfield. Unforgettable.