With Father’s Day just around the corner, I thought I’d reflect for a few moments on a few of the dozens of stories of National Teamers and their fathers that we heard in our interviews for our book, Raising Tomorrow’s Champions.
Briana Scurry’s father, Ernest, told her to race to the bus stop every morning and, in general, “Always be first.” Lori Lindsey’s Dad, meanwhile, demanded that she prioritize practicing soccer, stating: “The homework can wait ’til later.” The man once known as “Crazy Larry” Lindsey also punted the ball toward his 8-year-old daughter’s face from 10 feet away to try to teach her to be unafraid of the ball.
We heard how Alex Morgan's Dad, Mike, got out of bed each day at 4 a.m. to get his workday started so that he’d have time to drive his daughter and her teammates to his practices in the afternoon. Midge Purce told us how her father, James, raised her and her brother all by himself, and April Heinrichs told us how her stepfather, Mel, stood by her when her mother walked away when April was just 15.
Shannon MacMillan explained why she didn’t talk to her father for years, but does now that she has a son of her own. Joanna Lohman shared the memory of her father coming to her in tears after she came “out” as a lesbian. “There’s no sugar-coating it when you shatter your parents’ dreams; those conversations — the ones where you establish your true identity as gay or straight, man or woman, athlete or not — can send mothers and fathers into a painful process of mourning the person they thought they had created,” wrote Joanna on Page 24.
In all, the book features the phrases “father” or “Dad” nearly 200 times and sometimes the references are flattering; other times they’re not. Jessica McDonald’s father spent his life in prison. Mallory Pugh’s Dad is often the first person she calls, whether the news is good, or not. It’s clear that children can, in fact, overcome poor parenting — or a father or mother being gone altogether — and still succeed in sports and life. But the data shows that fathers like Horace Pugh who get it right, by supporting their children through the wins AND the losses, the times of stardom AND the moments on the bench, are far more likely to produce successful, happy players and people.
That’s why, as a soccer Dad myself, I helped Joanna write this book. Champions are not always the ones holding the trophies . . . and the more Dads who understand that, the better. Happy Father’s Day everyone.
BOOK EXCERPT: The 12 Most Socially Significant National Teamers of All-Time
When Joanna Lohman and Paul Tukey started conceiving of a soccer book, they never envisioned writing about the Xs and Os of playing the game, or who scored the winning goals and made the greatest saves. From the beginning, they were focused on the impact the women have had on society, as well as the lives of girls and boys. The authors’ thesis was simple: The U.S. Women’s National Team has become the most socially significant sports team in American history.
For the Prologue, the authors kicked off their book with the selection of the 12 most socially impactful players of all-time. Some of the most iconic names and faces are a given: Mia Hamm was women soccer’s first superstar; Abby Wambach became America’s greatest scorer; and out-and-proud Megan Rapinoe may be the most recognizable female athlete on the planet today who’s not named Serena.
Some of the names, however, are much lesser known. With 241 all-time National Teamers to choose from (at the time of the book’s publication), did the authors get their list right? Here’s an exclusive excerpt from Raising Tomorrow’s Champions:
11 Plus 1 Who Changed the Rules
At the end of 2020, a total of 241 women had appeared in at least one game for the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, aka the National Team, since its inception in 1985. In addition to winning more World Cups and Olympic gold medals than any other team in the world during that period, the USWNT and its members have recrafted the very definition of what it means to be female in the 21st century. Few have made more of a collective difference than these trendsetters whose successes and challenges are reflected in the pages that follow. And, we submit, every good team needs a captain. We picked one for the ages.
Michelle Akers — Appearing in the National Team’s second-ever international women’s soccer game and its most famous game 14 years later, she quickly became America’s first dominant player, proving we could compete without embarrassment on the world stage.
April Heinrichs — Ferociously and unapologetically competing on the soccer field like no woman before her, she infused the team with a DNA that would span generations, and she later became the National Team’s first full-time female coach.
Mia Hamm — Discovered as a high school freshman and placed on the national team a year later at age 15, she would become America’s first female sports superstar and the reluctant face of soccer the world over.
Brandi Chastain — Others scored more goals and drew more fanfare until the instant in 1999 when she became forever known as “the one who took her shirt off” and landed women’s soccer on nearly every front page in America.
Briana Scurry — The first truly transformative yet misunderstood minority player, the self-described “fly in the milk” led the National Team as goalie through some of its greatest triumphs and most controversial moment.
Abby Wambach — A reluctant youth soccer player who dominated on the field despite her lifestyle and inner demons, she became the first Generation X and out team superstar as the sport entered a new century.
Hope Solo — The girl from the wrong side of the tracks parlayed scholarships and the generosity of strangers into a singularly dominant, yet controversial career as the nation’s female anti-hero.
Carli Lloyd — Originally derided as lazy and unfit, then cut from the National Team with unnerving regularity, the Jersey girl doubled down on effort every single time and became the proverbial lunch pail hero in the process.
Alex Morgan — Late to the pay-to-play soccer culture by modern standards, her knack for scoring big goals in huge games and girl-next-door smile made her the first-ever soccer pin-up model and Generation Y superstar.
Megan Rapinoe — Once known in soccer’s inner circle as a dependable player who showed up most in the biggest games, she emerged in the past decade as the out-and-proud voice of an entire generation of women in their fight for gender and wage equality.
Mallory Pugh — Still in high school when she scored a goal in her first-ever National Team appearance in 2017, she set what some see as a new example by walking away from a full scholarship at UCLA and turning professional at age 18.
Julie Foudy (captain) — Taking the lead from her mentor, Billie Jean King, the first female recipient of a soccer scholarship at Stanford led her fellow National Teamers on the field, and has remained one of the world’s most important voices in sports and gender equality.
Pioneers: Kim Wyant, Still Making History
INTRODUCING: Kim Wyant
COLLEGE: The University of Central Florida
DON’T MESS WITH MOM: Growing up in Miami, Kim was often the best athlete playing whatever sport was in season, even though everyone else participating was a boy. For many years, her favorite pastimes were BMX bike racing, also against boys, and baseball — from which the male administrators attempted to ban her due to her gender. Faith Wyant, a single Mom, wasn’t having any part of that decision. “She threatened to sue them for all they were worth,” said Kim. “My Mom always fought. Hard.”
NOTEWORTHY: Kim continued with BMX racing, against men and women, well into her adulthood and is considered one of the sport’s significant pioneers who helped bring BMX racing to the Olympics in 2008.
MAKING COLLEGIATE HISTORY: When the NCAA staged the first-ever women’s national championship in soccer in 1982, Kim was the starting freshman goalie for UCF. Even though her team lost to North Carolina, she was named the tournament’s first most valuable player.
NATIONAL TEAM: When Kim traveled to the 1985 Olympic Sports Festival in Baton Rouge, La., none of the players had any idea that coach Mike Ryan would be picking the first U.S. Women’s National Team at the end of the 10-day, four-team tournament. “When I look back on that now, I’m kind of in awe that it all actually happened,” said Kim. “It strikes me that, unlike today where kids have internships and real jobs, we were hanging out at a festival for 10 days. Then we get picked for the National Team and they tell us, ‘Oh, by the way, we’re going to Italy in a couple of weeks, so you need to go home and get your passport and then be up in New York to train.’ When you look back on that, even though we lived it, you think, ‘Wow! What a beginning.” Kim was the starting goaltender in the first-ever National Team game on Aug. 18 that summer.
HANGING ON: With no women’s professional soccer leagues, staying in game shape for whenever the National Team might call, at a moment’s notice, was a challenge — especially after Kim tore her anterior cruciate ligament in 1986. An industrious leader, even back then, she often formed her own teams for the U.S. Women’s Open Cup each summer just so she’d have games to play.
A HAUNTING MEMORY: Throughout her decade-long National Team career that included nine game appearances, Kim figures her best chance of playing in the World Cup would have come in 1995, but feels a single moment in 1994 might have derailed her chances. Playing in a scrimmage that January in California, she allowed a relatively easy shot — a “soft goal” — to slip through her hands and into the net. “The stakes were higher by then because we knew the World Cup was around the corner and the Olympics were coming,” she said. “That was so deflating, to me and the team. I remember being at the airport and the assistant coach, Lauren Gregg, came over to me and put her hand on my back and said, ‘Hang in there.’ But I can’t help but feel like that sealed my fate. At that level, the line between playing, sitting on the bench, or getting cut, is just so razor thin.” Kim’s final opportunity to prove herself would come in the fall of 1995 as the National Team gathered in Chula Vista, Calif., to begin preparations for the 1996 Olympics, which was the first time women’s soccer would be contested in the Games. By then, future legend Briana Scurry, backed up by Saskia Webber and Mary Harvey, had a lock on the goaltending position. “I never actually retired from the National Team,” said Kim. “I eventually just stopped getting invited into their camps.”
INSPIRATIONAL STORY: “One of the things I took away from that last camp in Chula Vista, and I continue to tell young players about today, was the story of Brandi Chastain,” said Kim. “She was cut after the 1991 World Cup. She had some injuries. But she loved the game and eventually went to Japan and joined a professional team over there to get playing time. Tony DiCicco was National Team coach by then and Brandi would call Tony every single week to remind him that she wanted to play for him and that she was ready. When we get to camp that October, Mia Hamm is there. Julie Foudy. Kristine Lilly. And Brandi is the best player in camp, by far, in the best shape, running circles around people. But Tony meets with her and says, ‘You’re a forward. I don’t need a forward . . . but I do need an outside defensive back.’ Some people might have been crushed or insulted by that. Brandi says, ‘Tony, I’ll carry the water bottles if it means I can be on the team.’”
THE PLAYER-COACH: Kim began coaching the Florida Atlantic University women in 1995, but traveled to New York in the summers to participate in the W-League, a semiprofessional network of teams that included many National Teamers and collegiate players. By 2001, after many years as the league’s best goaltender for the Long Island Lady Riders, she also began coaching the team and continued as head coach for three years after she retired as a player in 2003. At that point, she began coaching at Dowling College on Long Island in New York before eventually agreeing to help out at New York University as a part-time assistant with the women’s team.
MORE HISTORY: In 2015, when the men’s coach at NYU resigned suddenly for family health reasons after just one game that season, the university immediately turned to Kim to pick up the pieces. Some on-line sources still call Kim the first woman to ever coach an NCAA men’s team, but that distinction appears to belong to Liz Belyea who, way back in 1980, became the men's coach at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Amy Machin-Ward, a former North Carolina standout, also became men’s soccer coach at Regis College in Massachusetts in 1992.
BATTLES OF THE SEXES: Kim, who is profiled and offers her views on gender differences in Chapter 1 of our book, "Raising Tomorrow’s Champions," doesn’t subscribe to the theory that coaching men and women is substantially different, nor does she believe needs to behave any differently with her current team than she did with her past women’s teams. “If I even tried to be someone I’m not, by yelling more, being louder, that wouldn’t be me and the players would see through that in a second,” said Kim. “The key to success in anything you do is to be authentic.”