Brandi Chastain on Why Soccer Needs Women & Girls Need Soccer
Brandi Chastain entered the American soccer consciousness with her famous celebration in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup; today as always, she remains committed to the sport she loves and believes women need to give back. As a famous female soccer player, Chastain works as hard off the field now as she did years ago on the pitch.
While there have been many great players in U.S. women’s soccer – Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Abby Wambach and more recently Alex Morgan – just to name a few – perhaps no one has captured the American imagination in quite the same way as Brandi Chastain.
From her success leading the Santa Clara University Broncos to a pair of NCAA Division I quarterfinal appearances to her accomplishments on the field with the U.S. Women’s National Team, Chastain has been a trailblazer in the world of soccer. The photo of her celebrating her game-winning penalty kick against China in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup by ripping off her soccer jersey to reveal her sports bra top has become one of the most iconic images in sports.
While soccer has always been important to Chastain, family has also taken an important role in her life. She admits that being a mother can make it harder to find time for coaching yet part of the challenge is that society still steers men toward jobs and women more towards the responsibility of family with an eye on balancing that with a career.
Admitting that it’s a juggling act, balancing work, family and coaching, Brandi says, “Socially the norm is that the men coach. We just need more of us to say ‘yes’ to coaching.”
According to Chastain, things are changing for the better, and it is important that women give back to the game they love by participating in youth sports. That is why she continues her involvement in youth soccer. She loves the essence of sports and the opportunity it gives players for self-expression, fun and learning.
“It’s sad that sports are undervalued in today’s society,” Brandi says. “Sports today are more about winning and losing than about participation and the lessons we can learn working together.”
“It’s our obligation to give back and to coach young kids,” Chastain explains. “It’s a gift we’ve been given and one we love to share. Soccer needs women to be role models.”
Juggling notwithstanding, Chastain frequently asks herself, “Why does everyone expect the dads to step up when it comes time for young kids to play soccer?”
Traditionally parents become involved in organized youth sports when their children reach kindergarten age and they are asked to volunteer to help. Chastain believes that more women need to step up and say “yes” to coaching and let the world know they truly understand how to play the beautiful game of soccer. Many women have had the luxury of being on teams, and it is important to be role models. This changes how young people look at women.
When asked how playing soccer helps today’s youth, Brandi explained that good communication skills and the ability to make decisions under pressure cross all social and economic boundaries. For decades boys have had this luxury and training. Sports can arm young women with a foundation to stand on and guidelines for making a difference.
“Prior to 1972 when Title IX was enacted, there was not a lot of support for women’s sports,” Chastain points out. “We have made huge progress since then. We have a sports culture developed around men’s sports. I watch men’s sports on television, and for women’s sports to break in it requires people with deep pockets who have the courage to lose money for the success of the bigger picture. U.S. Soccer has made a huge difference with the new women’s league, and everyone should remember how tough it was when the MLS fist started. Now it’s highly successful and expanding.”
“Sports teaches lessons you do not learn elsewhere, and I’ve learned so much through my time playing soccer,” Chastain says. “I started my career because I loved playing, not because I knew I was going to be a professional.”
Since her retirement from playing the game of soccer, Chastain has actively continued to support and promote her favorite sport. Always an advocate of women’s sports, she has been a strong supporter of Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972 that provided equal support for girls’ and women’s sports in schools. In 2012, Chastain was a vocal critic of California Assemblyman Chris Norby whose negative comments during what was supposed to be a celebration of the law’s 40th anniversary created a firestorm of controversy.
More recently, Brandi has taken on the role of Soccer Ambassador and Advisory Board Member for the Capitol One Cup, which celebrates both men’s and women’s college sports. Each year the Capitol One Cup awards points to NCAA Division I college athletic programs based on final standings in competition and final official coaches’ polls. One men’s program and one women’s program will be honored, with a combined $400,000 in student-athlete scholarships awarded.