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.
Our Book's Goal: To Give Back
Generosity, in the form of gifts, donations or scholarships, helped launch the careers of numerous National Teamers. Giving back is also the core spirit that drives our book project.
“At the time, I didn’t even realize (the financial assistance) was happening,” said 2019 World Cup champion Jessica McDonald, who was discovered at age 12 by the Sereno Soccer Club of Phoenix. As detailed in the pages of Raising Tomorrow’s Champions, Jessica’s family didn’t have the money for dues and travel for tournaments, but the community always stepped up with support. “As I got older, everything hit me: ‘Oh, my gosh, no wonder why I was always at my teammates’ houses.’ It was as if I had 18 other parents! I’m very grateful that people were willing to pay for my brother and me to play club soccer because we wouldn’t be where we are today without it.”
National Teamer Danesha Adams, likewise, was already on U.S. Soccer’s youth team radar at age 15 when her family dynamics changed suddenly. While Danesha was away at an international tournament in Chicago, her mother moved from southern California all the way to Ohio — but Danesha didn’t want to leave her club team behind. For most of her high school career, the friends and families of the FC Slammers of Newport Beach purchased first-class roundtrip plane tickets. Danesha boarded the 5:05 p.m. flight west on Friday evenings, and took the red-eye back to Ohio at 11:58 p.m. on Sundays, then lived with various families during summers and other extended periods for tournaments. “That’s what got me into UCLA, being a part of that club and the support of all those Moms and Dads. I’m still close to many of them today.”
Believing that the benefits of playing soccer ought to be available to everyone, regardless of their social or economic situation, we have pledged a portion of the proceeds from the sale of each book to numerous non-profit causes. We are also making the book available as a fundraiser to soccer clubs and other organizations that tie the soccer experience to social causes such as gender, race and LGBTQ+ issues.
“We wanted to create a program that would give young girls a chance to play, teach them about health and wellness, that it’s OK to be bold, to have a voice,” said Brandi Chastain, the soccer Hall of Famer who co-founded of one of our partner organizations, BAWSI (pronounced bossy), the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative.
“One of the things we do at the Mia Hamm Foundation is to encourage and empower girls through sport, and it doesn’t mean you have to be on the National Team,” Mia told us. “At the end of the day, it’s not about who plays at the highest level, it’s just about all those life lessons you learn through sport and how that can impact your life going forward.”
It’s amazing for everyone involved when young women like Jessica and Danesha, and several others, take that spark provided by generosity and take their games to the highest level. The most moving stories and photographs in our book, however, came from the girls most people will never hear about; they just love, and benefit from, the game. Thank you, in advance, for helping to make a few more of those possible.