Perseverance and a Dream

Rachel, thank you for the gift of hope you gave my daughter, Kendall.  Every person in life needs a mentor and you gave her that gift.  We wish you well.  There is no doubt that you will succeed!
Rachel, thank you for the gift of hope you gave my daughter, Kendall. Every person in life needs a mentor and you gave her that gift. We wish you well. There is no doubt that you will succeed!

Rachel Wood, a Laguna Niguel resident has overcome a setback to accomplish her dream as a professional soccer player.  With the help of her parents, Ted and Cynthia Wood who are Laguna Niguel residents, and a stray dog, she has overcome her challenges.

Rachel is back on her feet and ready to embark on a new journey to accomplish her lifelong dream. To be a professional soccer player again!  Rachel’s has had many building blocks and setbacks to get her to where she is today.

Rachel has played soccer since she was 6 years old for AYSO and then moved to a club team. She  played for the Aliso Niguel High School team and made the Varsity team as a freshman.  She played for the Youth National Team, landed a scholarship to the University of North Carolina where she won a national championship while playing as the teams center back.  After a setback in health, she returned home to play soccer for UCI and graduated with a psychology degree.  After college, Rachel moved to Iceland to play for Icelandic club HK Kopavogur / Vikingur Reykjavik.


With all of Rachel’s progression and success to achieve her dream, she faced challenges that attempted to bring doubt to her dream.  In 2009, she learned she had an debilitating auto-immune disease. Ulcerative Colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that commonly leads to heavy exhaustion, dehydration, and weight loss. It can also potentially cause joint pain, nausea and vomiting. The effects of having ulcerative colitis can possibly hinder your ability of ever doing the thing you’ve loved all your life, and question that invincibility factor that a lot of athletes subconsciously have.

This was the case for Rachel Wood. She was a standout soccer player at the time a starter for the University of North Carolina. Rachel committed to UNC with the aspirations of attaining the dream of a college athlete, a national championship. And in her freshmen season, playing as a midfielder, she helped the Tar Heels capture the 2008 NCAA Women’s National Championship, even scoring twice in post-season play.  “At the beginning it was all up in the air, I didn’t know how to control the disease,” said Rachel. “I ended up seeing a specialist at Cedar Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles , and he was very optimistic that with the help of medication, I would return to my same form, if not better.”  Rachel returned after many months of fear of her soccer career and dream ending. 

Rachel has been in remission for 5 years and have continued to play soccer at a very high level, She leaves today, March 7, 2014 to travel to Boston where she will spend the next 6 months training with the Boston Breakers. “Each year, each month, each week is always the same...my parents laugh and celebrate with me when I'm feeling up about soccer and where my career is going, and are there to give me comfort and hope when I've had a bad day or have doubts as to whether or not I'm making the right decision by pursuing my dream. Through their example of the way they lead their lives I have learned to be fiercely resilient. I attribute all of my success to my resiliency because I have had many roadblocks along the way. I was cut from the first club team I ever played on, have suffered countless injuries and was diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder. It is because of them and their ambition for life that has helped me to achieve my goals.”

The other "person" who has emotionally supported me on this roller coaster of life, health and elite athletics is my dog, Mara.
I adopted her in July of 2009- 5 months after my diagnosis. When I adopted her she had been found running on the 710 freeway. She was 12 lbs underweight, her fur was matted and she was infested with fleas. She was 18 months old and had had a liter of puppies and know one knew there whereabouts. About a month after mar mar moved in, she started having stomach problems and was throwing up on a consistent basis. I took her to the vet and she was diagnosed with "doggy crohn's." It is essentially the same disease I have. I think it was fate that brought the two of us together, we needed each other. The year we were sick we helped heal one another physically and emotionally. On days where I couldn't get out of bed, she would lay with me all day. She was completely content to lay around and be petted and to make sure that I was feeling okay. On days where she gets sick, I lay around with her, make sure she has taken all of the proper medication and try to help her relax. Not only has she been a great companion and "sick-buddy", she is also quite the athlete. I take her to the field with me and let her run while I do ball work and technical work. When it is time to do fitness, she sits on the line with me and runs right next to me. Its hard to truly explain the bond a human and an animal can have, but my bond with mara is something special. We some how seem to get each other and feed off each other's moods. She has helped me achieve my soccer dream because she provides me with constant companionship. I know that when I have to go out and train, or go out and run fitness she's there. There is something so motivating yet so comforting about knowing that I don't ever have to do it alone.”

During Rachel’s time home healing, she spent her time mentoring many youth soccer players.  One player in particular named Kendall, a 9 year old from Aliso Viejo who plays for AYSO. Kendall took a liking to Rachel one day after meeting her in the community when she learned Rachel had played soccer AYSO and at her sister’s high school,  and had become a professional soccer player.  Kendall also chose Rachel to mentor her after learning Rachel played her two favorite positions, center back and forward., She asked if Rachel could help her improve.  Rachel kindly met with Kendall to help improve her ball control and skill.  Kendall to date, has improved  and she attributes it to the help she received from Rachel.  She talks about Rachel as her mentor and hero. She now says she wants to be a professional soccer player just like Rachel.  She said, “Mom, I even have long blond hair just like her”.


My parents helped me stay strong in a time when I had lost not only my physical strength, but when I had lost my hope of ever being an athlete again. They told me that if, when I got healthy, I wanted to play soccer again they would help me achieve that dream. They also told me that if, when I got healthy, I didn't want to play soccer again that they would love me all the same and help me find a new path.

To date, Rachel’s dream to accomplish include: playing on the ANHS Varsity team as a freshman, becoming a member of the youth national team, earning a soccer scholarship to play at the University North Carolina, winning a national championship, :and becoming a Professional Soccer Player:

Today Rachel’s goals and aspirations are to play on the US Women's National Team, to play in a world cup and to play in the Olympics.

Best of luck to you Rachel Wood!  You are an inspiration to the all and you represent leadership in never giving up on your dream. 

As a community, we all send Rachel with encouragement and support for her new journey to go after her dream.

To get a full bio of Rachel Wood http://www.goheels.com/ViewArticle.dbml?ATCLID=205672459&DB_OEM_ID=3350

Rene Rioux March 07, 2014 at 02:41 PM
Best of luck to you Rachel. Enjoy your dream, and enjoy the amazing city of Boston.


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