Tuesday, July 2, 2019

US Women's Soccer: Strong Women, Women of Strength

Society's interest in women's team sports does not garner the same attention as it does for individual ones, such as tennis, swimming, gymnastics and golf. I've never been able to figure out why. So many men and women grew up playing (traditional) team sports like basketball and soccer, volleyball and baseball/softball—so we certainly understand the game(s). I am comfortable that there are differences in the way men and women play the game and understand we may have our own preferences. However, when I look at the 2019 Women's World Cup Soccer team: all I see is strong women, women of strength.
On Friday, June 28, 2019 the US Women's Soccer team defeated France in what was the most anticipated World Cup game in 20 years. The defending champions, the United States punched their ticket to the semi-finals against the host nation with an emphatic 2-1 win in Paris! They will play against England in the semi-final match. I have loved the hype, conversations, and energy around these strong women, women of strength. 

I realized that morning, my tee time commenced at game time, and 90% of the time, I do not play golf with my cell phone. I cannot handle the distraction. That being said, most people I play with can and do. Four holes in, I noticed one man was checking his phone regularly. When the US women scored, he announced the feat and everyone in our group cheered. Two men wanted to know more. What minute? Who made the goal? Who had the assist? As our round progressed—this makeshift, spirited group of four male golfers and I discussed the tournament, and the team. John continued to relay updates and the score in real time. I couldn't help but savor this moment: enthusiasm and appreciation for a women's sports team. We've come a long way baby. Men, women and children were following and excited about Women's World Cup and Team USA in 2015 as well, but I wish an instance like this didn't happen once every four years. I'll take what we can get.
After the round, I asked one of the men a leading question. I said "Do you think Megan Rappinoe is good for women's soccer?" His response was as emphatic as the women's win. "She is outstanding. What a great player. Her fitness level is remarkable. She doesn't stop. She's strong, too. I want to be sure I see the two goals she scored in today's match. Yes, I think that's an asset to the team and to the game."

His response could have gone in any number of directions. Some have applauded the team captain for her outspoken political remarks—they have certainly drawn attention to her and to the game. I know others who are refusing to watch because of them. He kept his response to her athleticism and talent on the pitch. He said nothing about her hair color, her appearance, sexual orientation or even her hometown. I have to say—I savored this moment as well. Athletes are always more than just how fast they run, jump, swim and execute....but that's certainly why we know who they are.

I thought I would conclude with this poem? prayer? that I found while cleaning out to my classroom. A former student or athlete gave it to me. I think it profiles who and what I see on Team USA. Enjoy the rest of the World Cup!

A strong woman works out every day to keep her body in shape.
But a woman of strength kneels in prayer to keep her soul in shape.

A strong woman isn't afraid of anything,
But a woman of strength shows courage in the midst of her fear.

A strong woman won't let anyone get the best of her,
But a woman of strength gives the best of herself to everyone

A strong woman makes mistakes and avoids the same in the future,
But a woman of strength realizes life's mistakes can also be God's blessings and capitalizes on them.

A strong woman walks sure-footedly,
But a woman of strength knows God will catch her when she falls.

A strong woman wears the look of confidence on her face,
But a woman of strength wears grace

A strong woman has faith that she is strong enough for the journey,
But a woman of strength has faith that it is in the journey that she will become strong.

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