Dennis Rodman taught his daughter, Trinity, how to hunt. No, the NBA Hall of Famer did not put a cap on young Trinity’s head, dress her in camouflage, and head out into the woods. But Trinity Rodman has spent hours watching clips of her famous father—one of the greatest rebounders of all time—positioning his body under the basket, anticipating where the missed shot will bounce off the rim based on the flight of the ball. Trinity calls it “hunting.” And like dad, she scours for chances to make her mark on a game. “It’s hunting in front of the goal,” says Rodman, 20, a forward for the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT). “It’s hunting when you lose the ball. A huge part of my game is regains. Tracking back and being the first person to get a foot, a head, a knee, a shin on something.”
While Rodman’s older brother, DJ, has taken particular interest in viewing film of their father—DJ will end his college-basketball career at USC next season—Trinity has studied him more than most people might imagine given their different sports. “Even if he wasn’t the first guy under the basket, or he was next to Shaq, who was way bigger, way taller, he was going to get the rebound,” she says. “It was timing, it was anticipation. It was body movement. It was positioning. It was everything. He was so intelligent.”
Rodman displayed her hunting instincts on July 9, during the 2-0 USWNT win over Wales in the World Cup send-off game in San Jose, Calif., in which she scored both U.S. goals. About 10 minutes after Rodman capitalized on an efficient cross from Sophia Smith to break the scoreless tie, Lynn Williams fired a shot in the 18-yard box that bounced off the head of a Wales defender. Rodman read the flight of the rebound, stepped right in front of a Wales player near the top of the box to win the possession, took a helpful dribble forward, and chipped a shot in the top corner that Superman couldn’t save.
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The score sealed the victory, while making a very solid case that Rodman, who came into the game as a second-half sub, should join the starting XI for USWNT’s World Cup opener, Friday at 9 p.m. E.T., against Vietnam.
Whether she starts or comes off the bench for a scoring spark, Rodman is sure to play a key role in the USWNT’s attempt to become the first team to win three straight World Cups—women’s or men’s. She rose up the competitive southern California youth-soccer ranks and was the youngest player ever drafted into the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). The Washington Spirit took her second overall in 2021, when Rodman was just 18. She signed the NWSL’s first million-dollar contract and won 2021 NWSL Rookie of the Year with the Spirit, who also took the championship that season.
Rodman has managed to live up to hype brought on by her talent and famous last name. She’s the future of women’s soccer in the U.S. But on an American team rattled by injuries to key veteran players, and featuring star goal scorers like Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe who are in the back ends of their careers, the three-peat may just hinge on whether Rodman—again, all of 20—is ready for her moment right now.
Rodman joined SoCal Blues, a top youth club team, when she was 9, and credits Michelle Rodman, her mother and Dennis Rodman’s ex-wife, with sacrificing time and financial resources for the athletic careers of her and her brother. She was a scholarship athlete, meaning the few thousand dollars per year in dues and fees were covered. (Rodman grew up with a limited relationship with her father, who has been open about his struggles with alcohol and whose child-support payments were often unreliable; at one point Trinity spent a year living at a discount hotel with her mother, brother, and sister Teyana Lima, Michelle’s daughter from a previous relationship.)
“She was one of the most athletic kids in Southern California since the day she stepped on the field,” says Greg Baker, her SoCal Blues coach, who continues to train Rodman in the offseason. “There were times when Trin was late, and maybe she didn’t have the right uniform. But Michelle got her there and made sure that Trin was working her butt off.”
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Rodman could juggle the soccer ball on her foot at a rate of 120 beats per minute on a metronome, says Baker, who would also incorporate other sports into team training. For example, in warm-ups the girls would run routes and chase down Baker’s passes, like wide receivers, to sharpen lateral movement and visualize where balls in the air will land, a useful skill for a soccer player. Rodman’s ability stood out. “If I’m telling her to run a fade route, and I’m throwing one 40 yards down field, she can easily run the route, spot the ball in the air, and catch it, while the other ones have no chance,” says Baker.
According to Baker, Rodman did have a habit of giving up possessions, leading him to nickname her “Turnover Trinity” when she was around 12 or 13. Rodman despised the name, naturally, and worked to shed it by watching film and practicing her passes. The moniker lasted about six months.
Rodman didn’t play college soccer. She attended Washington State University for a few months in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the season that fall. The Cougars played an abbreviated season in the spring of 2021, but Rodman had left campus by then—for the pros.
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During her time with the Spirit, Rodman has learned techniques to cope with pressure. “Having those people you can vent to—even if they don’t know how to give you advice—just having the outlet is really important,” she says. Her main confidantes are her mother and brother, who form a close-knit unit. She’s also faced her shortcomings head on, just as she did during the Turnover Trinity era.
“I’ve learned that it’s not about thinking only about your good performances,” says Rodman. “Before, I got so caught up in, ‘I only want to think about the good ones. I don’t want to watch the bad ones because it makes me feel worse about it.’ But being able to reflect and improve on the things you didn’t do so well is really important. Game to game, if you don’t watch yourself fail, you’re never going to be able to fix those things. You’re going to keep repeating the same mistakes.”
In late June, Rodman said she hadn’t heard from her father since she was named to the World Cup roster earlier in the month. “I haven’t been in communication with him for months now,” she said. “But at the end of the day, I’ve gotten closure with it all. I know he’s proud of me. I truly do.” (Representatives for Dennis Rodman did not respond to an interview request.)
Rodman’s leaned on the USWNT vets for advice about the tournament. “I’ve been talking to Pinoe [Megan Rapinoe] a lot,” she says. “She’s just very open and not sugarcoating anything with me. She says it’s a test. The biggest thing she kind of told me is, ‘You’re here for a reason. Do you. If you stray away from that, you’re not going to perform the way you want to.’” Rapinoe and other experienced players have also encouraged her to shield herself from social media as much as possible and find ways to relax and distract herself in her hotel room. In Australia and New Zealand, the World Cup host countries, she may turn to Fortnite, and coloring, to tune out the noise (she prefers an app, Color by Number, for her crayon fix).
We’ll soon find out if her methods work. Restless soccer fans will be watching come Friday—Baker among them. “With the head that is on her shoulders, and with the athleticism where it is, she is upper echelon,” he says. “She has creativity on her side. She has work ethic on her side. Trin has a lot of upside. And she won’t even be able to taste it until she is scoring goals in the World Cup. And the second she does that, we’re going to see her elevate even more. When an athlete like her gets a taste of that glory, they don’t ever want to let it go.”
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