Kathleen McNamee January 22, 2021
Trinity Rodman became the youngest player ever to be drafted into the National Women’s Soccer League, and the 18-year-old is busy packing up her college dorm room at Washington State University in Pullman.
An avid painter in her spare time, her artwork still hangs on the walls behind her, and her mother, Michelle Moyer, flits in and out of view, picking things up. After the whirlwind announcement of her participation in the Jan. 13 draft and then being picked No. 2 overall, it all feels weirdly normal. Such is the prolific nature of her father’s NBA career, the news that “Dennis Rodman’s daughter” was entering the 2021 NWSL draft spread like wildfire across social media. Even the most inattentive sports fans took notice, and as a result, much of Trinity’s own story was overlooked as people reminisced on the elder Rodman’s antics on and off the court.
While she understands the hype and says there are similarities in how they approach sport — their competitiveness, aggressiveness and drive are characteristics she picks out — he is also just her dad. When ESPN aired “The Last Dance,” a series that focused on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls’ 1997-98 season (Dennis Rodman’s final year with the Bulls), Trinity says she didn’t watch much of it because she kept falling asleep.
“I don’t think it is even comprehensible to have someone as well known and to see them on a TV and to be so successful and speak to so many people,” she tells ESPN regarding her father, a five-time NBA champion. “Obviously, he was a really good athlete and I think he has inspired so many people. He was an awesome player on the court, and just to know that I have a dad that can speak to so many people and have a story that maybe not a lot of people expected is a great thing.”
On Feb. 1, Trinity Rodman will enter the Washington Spirit preseason camp and, she hopes, start a new legacy for the Rodman name in professional sports. “I think the hardest thing is just to always be compared and to be expected to be this legend like he was,” Rodman says. “Moving forward, it’s going to be nice not to separate ourselves, but be able to distinguish that yes, he was a successful NBA player, but I am going to be a successful NWSL player.”
Trinity Rodman’s love of soccer began when she was just 4 years old, and while she threw herself into every sport imaginable — even tackle football, which brother DJ begged her to play — she always came back to soccer. “Honestly, I noticed from a really young age that I was going to stick with it for a while, just because if my team wasn’t really trying — like if there was one person on my team who wasn’t trying — I’d get super annoyed and I would be like, ‘C’mon, c’mon, c’mon,'” she says. “Even when I was like 7 years old, I would get annoyed by [people not trying].”
Rodman’s early fixation on soccer led her to join the Southern California Blues, where she met coach Greg Baker. He was the man, Rodman says, whom she could go to with a problem in her game and who’d give her truthful and sometimes hard-to-hear advice about how she could fix it. Over the past eight years, the two built up a strong relationship, and Rodman says she wouldn’t be the player she is today without him.
“I think the massive thing for me was to take his criticism and not take it personal,” she says. “Take it as, he is trying to make us better. He has really helped me become the player that I am.”
Baker tells ESPN that early on, Rodman was a shy and respectful child who had a tough shell. From conversations with her mother and interactions with Trinity herself, Baker said he knew he was going to have to work to earn her trust. As their player-coach relationship grew, so did her confidence. Quickly he saw her creativity — a word that comes up a lot when you talk to people about Rodman — on the pitch. He knew she needed to be challenged if she was to reach her full potential.
Washington State coach Todd Shulenberger was equally as impressed. The coronavirus pandemic meant that Rodman never played a game for the college side, as their 2020 season was canceled, but through recruiting and training, Shulenberger enjoyed a front-row seat to see her potential. One of his first interactions with Trinity was when she was called in for a trial with the side after they’d just reached the final four of the NCAA Women’s College Cup. As part of the trial, he made her do a beep test — a multistage fitness test designed to use increasing shuttle runs to gauge a player’s fitness limit — against the rest of the squad, and she came out on top by far. Baker says she could have performed a lot better that day. “She took care of the beep test one day against everyone here,” Shulenberger says. “So as a 17-, 18-year-old then, and our whole team had been playing at a high level, that’s pretty impressive. She has a ‘I win every time’ mentality. Super competitive.
Despite the hype that follows her, Rodman is grounded about her career. When questioned on whether she prefers goals or assists, she chooses the latter and laughs: She knows it’s a surprising choice for an attacker, but she sees it as an asset of her game. On joining the pro ranks, she realizes she isn’t going to just waltz onto her new team. “I’m definitely expecting a completely different level. My first practice, I will really understand, especially the first game that I step into,” she says.
While a senior USWNT cap and an Olympic medal are on her to-do list, for now she is focusing on adjusting to her new reality and writing some history of her own.