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.