Q&A: Jimmy Conrad
CARSON, Calif. (Thursday, August 18, 2011) - In a Thursday afternoon press conference at The Home Depot Center, veteran defender Jimmy Conrad announced his retirement from the game. The Southern California native enjoyed an extremely successful career complete with a long list of accomplishments. Conrad played in MLS for 13 seasons, made 28 United States National Team appearances, played in a World Cup (2006), and scored 20 MLS goals (as a center defender!) – and that’s just a few of the highlights. For full details on Conrad’s retirement, see the official press release.
However, when Jimmy Conrad is remembered by teammates, coaches, media and fans, it will likely be his infectious personality and enthusiasm that comes to mind, even before his numerous on field achievements. We sat down with Conrad to talk about his decision to retire and his future plans. Here are some of the highlights.
cdchivasusa.com: How tough is it to have this retirement sort of forced upon you prematurely, without warning?
Jimmy Conrad: As an athlete you have this picture of how your career is going to end. Mainly it’s a red carpet that’s been rolled out, there’s fireworks and standing ovations, and everybody loves you. The reality is that probably doesn’t happen for 95% of athletes. But that’s what you have in your head. So to not be able to go out on my own terms, to say that my last game was a borefest against the boring Colorado Rapids was probably not ideal, not the way I wanted it to go. But I’m going to leave the game with my health intact for the most part, I hope. I don’t know if I’m going to have dementia at age 50 [laughs], but I guess we’ll wait and see what happens.
cdchivasusa.com: We’ve seen other prominent players forced to step away with concussions, some of whom still have head-injury-related problems in their daily lives, what role did that have in your decision?
Jimmy Conrad: I talk to those guys, those guys are my friends- Taylor Twellman, Alecko Eskandarian, Bryan Namoff. I’ve had conversations with those guys, what they’re going through, what they face on a daily basis. And they all encouraged me to just stop before I got to their point. Right now I’m not near where those guys are, but I don’t think I’m far off either, and maybe that next [concussion] would be the one. So you have to take that into consideration. Obviously it makes the decision easier to swallow when you still have a headache and some symptoms that are real.
cdchivasusa.com: How important has your family been during this process?
Jimmy Conrad: My family is super supportive… There was a time when I was feeling a little better, and as an athlete you just want to get back on the field and help, even if you have an injury. But my family was always my common sense, and obviously the coaches as well. I have a new baby. I go home to her every day. I could either remember what’s going on with her, or try to chance it and risk missing out on some things down the line.
cdchivasusa.com: You’re going to play a prominent role with the Chivas USA youth academy, but you obviously want to stay close to your teammates and the coaches- what type of things can you do to help the first team?
Jimmy Conrad: Being in the middle of the season we’re trying to find ways to win, the coaches are concentrating on the team as a whole. So I go in almost as a faux assistant coach, breaking down the game for some of the young guys that need a little more fine-tuning. I’m kind of in this weird gray area where I just graduated as a player, but I’m also an outlet for the coaches. So I can try to help the coaches get a better idea of what a player is thinking, or vice versa, help players see how the coaches see things. I just want us to win and get in the playoffs. If I can’t do it on the field, I’ll do everything I can off the field to make that happen.
cdchivasusa.com: Do you have any long term goals now that you’re retired as a player?
Jimmy Conrad: Of course! Total world domination [Laughs]. I’m gonna explore all of my options, I want to be sure I make an educated decision about what’s next and what’s best for my family. I’ve moved them a few times, so it’d be nice to settle down, especially as my girls start school. LA seems like as good of an area as any- I grew up here, so it’d be nice to stay. I want to stay in the game. I want to make the game better. Whether that’s with U.S. Soccer, MLS, Chivas, or whatever, I’ll do whatever I can to use my experience to help better the next generation.
cdchivasusa.com: How will you remember your time with Chivas USA, and what positives can take from the way things ended?
Jimmy Conrad: I wanted to bring some stability to this team, help them get back on track and be one of the top teams in the league. To only have played two games is very disappointing. If I was going to suffer a concussion, I wish it was at least fifteen games in, so I could have put a stamp on things. But maybe it was for the best that it was only two games. I was expected to come in a be a leader, but to not have my voice on the field has forced other guys- Heath Pearce, Michael Umana, Dan Kennedy – to step up and be the guys they didn’t they think they had to be when they came in. So I think ultimately that’s best for the team moving forward. We might have some growing pains along the way, but in hindsight, it’s probably not the worst thing that I stepped away early.