It was 1999. My best friend and I had just taken a break from swimming to watch the Women’s World Cup Finals where the US played China on our home soil. I was 17—a young soccer player myself. It was at that moment Brandi Chastain scored on a penalty kick and the US won the World Cup, an event that quite literally changed my life. In that memorable play where Chastain ripped her shirt off, flexing for the world, I felt the adrenaline pumping through her. Goosebumps popped up all over my arms and legs. A surge of energy took over me like I’d never felt before.
Could I play college soccer? I thought. I practiced harder. I put in more hours. I was fueled with determination. Those US women empowered me to believe in me. Sure, I ended up playing Division III soccer (no World Cup was in my future), but regardless of what level I played, those women on that soccer field gave me the ability to feel the energy that they felt on that summer day in 1999.
And today, 20 years later, a new team is doing that for my daughter—and my son.
You see, my son sat glued in front of the TV watching the US Women’s National Soccer Team kill it versus the Netherlands in the 2019 World Cup.
He cheered. He cupped his hands to his mouth and gasped after every close call. He stood on his feet and clapped his heart out for that team—those women. To me, this looks like progress.
The US Women’s National Soccer Team is the REPEAT World Cup champions after defeating the Netherlands 2-0. The game was physical, demanding, and exhausting from both sides. But in the end, it was American grit that shined through. As star Megan Rapinoe said after the game, “We just have no quit in us.” And that’s exactly what my son saw. After the game, my family watched tears flow from the US players’ eyes as they hugged one another and raised the World Cup high into the air. These were tears of sweat, determination, and of course, victory.
Throughout the game, my son wasn’t wishing he was watching the men’s team. Nope. He was elated watching the women persevere on that hot field in Paris, France. He shouted, “Go Rapinoe!” “Nice try, Morgan!” and “What a save, Naeher!” To hear my son applaud for these strong women brought back memories of what it was like for me when I watched the 1999 squad dominate, too. But you know who else was looking, not at the TV, but at her big brother? My daughter.
At the age of five, she doesn’t really have the stamina to watch a 90-minute soccer game. But what she did see and hear was her big brother rooting for women—rooting for her. Yes, this looks like progress. After the game, my son chugged some water and slid out our back door. He got the soccer ball out and started dribbling on this humid, summer day. He set up a few cones and made a little dribbling course for himself, too. And you know what he did after that?
He cracked the sliding door open and shouted into the house, “Hey sis! Want to come play soccer with me?”
She put her book down and yelled back, “Sure!” She went outside barefoot and began to dribble with her big brother—her big brother who was just inspired by the US Women’s National Soccer Team.
Will today’s game have as large of an impact on my son as the 1999 game did on me? Not sure. But what I do know is that I am thankful for the US Women’s National Soccer Team because my son and daughter have exceptional female athletes to look up to—and, quite possibly, impact them forever.