tim howard usa tease
Howard on beard, retirement and fatherhood
00:59 - Source: CNN

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Story highlights

Tim Howard says the best thing about being Tim Howard is having his family

Howard has two young children and they both play football in the U.S.

Howard is divorced and called his marriage a "failure"

He looks forward to retiring before 40 and spending more time with his kids

CNN  — 

It’s a neurological disorder that causes involuntary movements and noises – known as tics – but for leading goalkeeper Tim Howard, Tourette’s syndrome was the making of him.

As revealed in his autobiography, “The Keeper,” symptoms began to appear when he was 10, and not long after that, the American was diagnosed and told he also suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder.

But Tourette’s didn’t derail his career.

Indeed, he said it made him “hyperfocus” and theorized that it helps him to anticipate in penalty shootouts.

Anyone who watched last year’s World Cup in Brazil wouldn’t doubt Howard’s ability.

He became a household name in his homeland as well as in other parts of the globe following his stellar display for the U.S. against Belgium in the round of 16.

His performance in South America even earned him a place in the top 10 – a rarity for a U.S. footballer – in the Associated Press voting for 2014 male athlete of the year. He tied for sixth with Lionel Messi.

The longtime Everton custodian sat down with CNN.com at the club’s training ground last week to discuss family life, relationships and living with Tourette’s.

Howard didn’t mince words when he called his marriage a “failure,” waxed lyrical about his children, nine-year-old Jacob – who is a keeper, too – and seven-year-old Alivia, and said if he had a choice, he probably wouldn’t live his life without Tourette’s.

Q: Tim, let’s talk about your life away from football. How happy are you at the moment?

A: I’m lucky. I’m very fortunate. I’ve got great friends, great family. I throw everything into football and so it’s nice to kind of have that escape. I’m happy by nature, and the greatest thing in the world is that I could want for nothing else. I appreciate what I’ve been given.

Q: You mentioned you are lucky and very fortunate. What’s the best thing about being Tim Howard?

A: (Laughs.) I think the best part is my family. I think everyone would appreciate having a healthy family, having a good strong circle around them – and I do. I don’t take that for granted, I feel fortunate.

Q: What’s the most difficult aspect about being Tim Howard?

A: At the moment it’s being away from my kids. I think any parent would agree that is difficult. But it’s a sacrifice on the front end so I can retire before I am 40 and be home every day.

Q: You discussed in the book the trips you made from England to Memphis to see your kids and how accommodating (former Everton manager) David Moyes was. This season we know you’re taking time out from the national team to have a bit more time with your children. How often are you going back now?

A: I’m getting more opportunities because obviously there are longer international breaks; I am not playing, so I’ve been able to get back and see my kids a lot more often, which has been a godsend really.

Q: But you are not going every week?

A: No, gosh no. I wish. I got a generous manager (Roberto Martinez,) but not that generous (smiles.) He gives me time off when there are little pockets.

Obviously football is the utmost importance for this club and when he has the opportunity to give me a leave of absence, he does – and which again, I am thankful for because that is not something that is guaranteed. That’s out of the goodness of his heart.

Q: People often rate you as a goalkeeper, but how does Tim Howard rate himself as a father?

A: Good question. I’d like to say 10, but hey, you know (laughs.) I look forward to getting home, being closer to my children and retiring, really, being able to do the day-to-day things – going to school, picking them up from baseball practice and soccer practice. I think my daughter asked me to coach her soccer team, so I don’t know how that’s going to work out, but we’ll see.

Q: What if Jacob and Ali say, “Dad, I want to be a pro athlete?!” You’ve experienced the highs but have also paid the price personally.

A: I would certainly guide them in that direction and help them through it. I think you learn from your failures in life more. I don’t think you learn from success.

Any parent knows you want to shelter your child from hurt and disappointment and failure, but at the same time you know they have to go through that to learn and to grow. It’s been great for me, the highs and the lows. So I would push them in that direction. I think Jacob would like to be a goalkeeper, so we’ll see.

We don’t push our children to be incredible athletes. We give them the platform to go have fun.

Ali is a striker and she’s doing really well and Jacob plays in goal and mimics everything I do, which makes me beam and sometimes cringe, but it’s one of those things where I get so much pride watching him try to emulate some of the things I have done.

Q: Like Daddy, does he yell in goal?

A: (Smiles.) Yeah, we have had to have that conversation a few times. Ninety percent of what I do in the game is praise and to give direction.

But every now and then I have to get on one of the guys, as they have to get on me. I think that gets highlighted, so I have to tell him most of the time its praise.

Q: Tim, you were talking about failure. How would you classify your marriage with Laura? Was your marriage a failure?

A: We got divorced so I think ultimately the marriage side of it is a failure. But in life and in parenting that’s been a huge success. I think that’s been part of the story and that’s been a great part of the story.

Q: In the book you mention how it may be difficult for you to ever get married again because of the sort of extended family you have. How much has your view changed since then?

A: It has to be a very special dynamic, yeah. There is always hope for my personal life, but I think that my children are my No. 1 priority so everything else has to kind of fall into place in regards to them.

Q: But are you ready for another long-term relationship if you found that right person?

A: (Laughs). Oh, I don’t know about that. That’s something I’ll let fall into place if it does.

Q: Concerning life on the pitch, you talked about Tourette’s syndrome helping you in aspects of goalkeeping. How different of a goalkeeper would you be if you didn’t have Tourette’s?

A: It’s a tough question to answer in terms of what my life would be like without it. I have no idea. I found a way to cope with it and succeed and so it’s hard for me to say exactly who I would be or what type of goalkeeper I would be. I hope physically I would have the same attributes so I would hope that a certain time in my career I would figure out the mental approach to my game, but it’s certainly helped me.

Q: If someone said, “Tim, you could live your life without Tourette’s syndrome,” what would you say?

A: It’s hard for me to imagine what a day would be like without Tourette’s syndrome because I am so content and happy with who I am. (Pauses.) I would probably say, “No.”

Read: Howard can’t wait to return to national team