The powerful impact for young girls to watch their heroes achieve the pinnacle in sport can be immeasurable.
It is estimated that there are between 5-8 million young girls between the ages of 8-18 participating in youth soccer in America.
Certainly for these girls, watching the United States Women's National Team (USWNT) find success among the best in the world encourages them to find their own personal bests. I believe that this impact extends well beyond the soccer community, however.
The quarterfinal match against Brazil became an instant classic, which has rallied the entire nationIt was not only the outcome of this game, but the “never quit” attitude that caught the nation’s attention. Before and after the final game winning penalty kick in 1999, I understood that as a role model to young girls across the country I could bridge the gap between dreams and reality, by being a living example.
So in 2005, I cofounded a non-profit for young girls in San Jose, California, along with Marlene Bjornsrud and Julie Foudy, called BAWSI (Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative/bawsi.org). BAWSI brings the mentorship of female collegiate student-athletes into economically challenged grade schools. I’ve seen firsthand how mentorship can change these girls’ lives.
In 2010, I extended this vision to co-found the ReachuP Foundation, along with Dr. Joan Oloff. The goal is to inspire girls outside of my immediate community in the Bay Area. The ReachuP! Foundation hopes to provide these girls with the resources necessary to develop skills to become true champions in life. We have created a website, www.brandisworld.com, to try to expand our reach with these girls.
As I spend time with young girls in the Bay Area or around the country, one of the greatest challenges I see is to build confidence, identity and self esteem while faced with adversity. As in parenting, it is not by preaching, but rather, by living through example that these life lessons are best taught. Every young girl in the United States watching that quarterfinal match could see the belief and determination within each individual player on the field .
The impact of this lesson transcends soccer or sport in general, and impacts all aspects of their lives. They see what can happen when you seed a dream, develop a work ethic that gives you the skills and resiliency to make mistakes but keep moving forward, and never, never give up. With these skills, these girls will be able to achieve anything for themselves that they are courageous enough to imagine.
As we enter the final game of this 2011 Women’s World Cup, all of America is now sharing this dream along with the players on the field. In 1999, I had the privilege of experiencing firsthand, the excitement of participating in such a monumental, historic game. In 2011, I now have the privilege of witnessing the game as an analyst for ESPN. At the end of the day, our teams will be eternally linked together in US Soccer history.
Many of the current players have been kind enough to mention that the 1999 team were their heroes growing up. The 2011 team have now become heroes in their own right to young girls across America. The one thing that I am certain of is that the world needs more heroes for young girls. I can’t wait to see what these girls achieve in the years to come!
“Dreams Do Come True”
Brandi Chastain is best known for her game winning penalty kick, sealing the gold medal for the USA in the 1999 Women’sWorld Cup. She is currently an analyst for ESPN during the 2011 Women’s World Cup. The final game will be broadcast on ESPN at 2pm, (est). Her ReachuP! Foundation website is www.reachupworld.com and her website for girls is www.brandisworld.com.