I grew up in the Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, World Cup ’99 era of women’s soccer. Mia Hamm went to UNC. I wanted to go to UNC. So did every other 13-year-old girl playing competitive soccer in America. My parents took me to that 1999 World Cup Final and I saw Brandi Chastain celebrate by taking her shirt off and YES, I asked for a black sports bra later that week. Also, my grandma had a near heat stroke right at the end of that game; it had nothing to do with the bra incident…
Rewind back a few years. I asked my parents to play soccer at age five because I loved it! NOT because I was good. I had a lot of energy and loved to kick stuff around the house, so soccer was a great outlet for me. For the record, my other hobbies growing up included (in no particular order): putting on skits for my family (inspiration via MMC, the All New Mickey Mouse Club), Ninja Rurtles, painting and making up any game involving a sprinkler and a trampoline. I did start to get pretty decent at soccer, luckily. Eventually, I tried out and made a competitive team that trained 45 minutes from my house. From age 11 to 19, I played on this team made up of girls from all different schools and suburbs (of Tulsa, OK, and no we don’t ride horses to work/school).
When you think of an athlete or a girl that likes sports, do you think of a specific type? We had rough girls, private school girls, country girls, popular girls, part-time cheerleader girls, crafty girls, tomboy girls and just your regular girl-girls. I have to say – nowhere else in my life did I have a more diverse group of friends. Sure, you get along with some more than others, but overall you were there to win games and learn to play soccer! We had a common goal that made us able to relate to each other.
We played cards, made friendship bracelets, traded t-shirts, debated N*SYNC vs. Backstreet Boys (N*SYNC all the way), talked boys, had many sleepovers, played capture the flag, had our first boy/girl dance, birthday party, etc. Growing up, these were some of my greatest friends. I didn’t go to school with any of them but we did spend a whole lot of time together – about 4 days a week. We grew up together. Our dream was to play Division 1 College Soccer, which was the highest level at that time, and I’m proud to say that over ten of us did! Soccer taught us how to win (7 state championships) and how to lose (every regional championship we played in). It taught us how to adapt to new people, how to lead and the value of hard work. Oh, and that there’s more music than just Top 40 radio out there!
It’s possible that girls can like sports, right?
by Gentry Stafford
Featured image via NYDailyNews.com.
Gentry Stafford manages the heck out of the marketing for 23 paint stores in the Midwest. She enjoys soccer, color trends, Parks and Rec, and working out with her husband of four months. Follow her on Twitter @GStentry.