Inspire the Next Generation of World Cup Winners

Last Sunday, I had the spectacular opportunity to attend the 2015 Women’s World Cup Final in Vancouver, Canada amongst a crowd of nearly 55,000.

What unfolded before me was one more epic story to add to the history of women’s sports. The US women pulled off an incredible 5-2 win against Japan, scoring two goals in the first five minutes and 4 goals within 18 minutes. With such a showing, the US women not only raised the bar for how a world class team brings their A-game but they cemented their place in the record books as the first women’s team to take home three World Cup wins. Under the watchful eye of the largest American television crowd ever for a soccer event, Carli Lloyd pulled off the fastest hat trick in World Cup history with her third goal in the 15th minute.

world-cup blog

My husband, son and I at the Women’s World Cup Final

Watching Lloyd deftly cross the half field line and then loft the ball 55 yards over the stumbling Japanese goal keeper for a hat trick was a jump out of your seat, did you see that, awe inspiring moment of sports boldness.

This moment of fearless determination places her in the ranks of women like Katherine Switzer, who crossed the finish line at the 1967 Boston Marathon despite an attempt by the race officials to physically eject her mid-race because she was a woman or Alysia Montano five time national track champion who received a standing ovation for taking her rightful place in the 800 meter race at 2014 US Track and Field Championships despite being 8 months pregnant.

This honorable spirit of tenacity and boldness is a common thread amongst all women who thrive in sports. This week I find myself thinking about how we can celebrate and encourage this spirit in young women.

Given my job as the Director of Communications for the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County, I also find myself thinking about another crucial common thread for every female superstar athlete… Volunteers.

Behind each and every athlete there have been volunteer mentors who have stepped up along the way to send her down her road to success. Her achievements have been buoyed by an army of supporters- the parents, teachers, coaches and volunteers who have bolstered her confidence and capability since she first stepped onto the field as a child.

Every athlete can think of that first person who inspired a love of the game. Most likely that individual was a volunteer. As an adult who still loves every opportunity to compete, I offer my gratitude to those who took the time throughout my years to instill a love for sports. Athletics helped me establish a healthy sense of self, develop confidence as a young person, and sports continue to bring balance to my  life as an adult.

I want to give a shout out to our local women’s soccer community and extend an invitation to share your passion. As recreational soccer players, our “glory days” may be gone but the love of the “beautiful game” still lingers. We are still motivated to head out to the pitch in heat that leaves our feet flaming from the rubber on the turf, or push the ball through pooling puddles in a downpour. We are willing to tackle men twice our size or take one for the team. Why? Because we love the game and we love the feeling of accomplishment that comes with challenging our bodies. Let’s take that love and motivation and give it to another.

Sunday’s game made me beam with pride for women in sports and I can’t wait to share this feeling. I hope you feel the same.

Each of us has the opportunity to teach a young woman be bold, to move forward with confidence and to be tenacious in all that she does. We know that sports have played a crucial role in building our self-esteem. Don’t wait to get out there in your community. You can  inspire the next generation of world cup winners and encourage them to be strong bold women.

Get Involved Locally and Beyond:

• Live Oak Community Resources hosts the Live Oak Leagues providing a safe place for about 400 young people ages 5-18 to come together and play sports every summer. Learn More

• TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer) is a national soccer program created to train young people with disabilities in a caring coaching environment. Volunteers at the local level generally carry out the program, with financial support from US Youth Soccer and local youth soccer organizations. Learn more about Santa Cruz County Stars

• The Women’s Sports Foundation was established in 1974 to advance the lives of women and girls through sports. Today they provide scholarships and grants to aspiring athletes. They fund groundbreaking research and public awareness campaigns, educate, and advocate. http://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/

Voluntourism- Go international with  your passion for soccer. Soccer Without Borders recruits volunteers to run community-led, year-round youth development programs in under-served areas in the USA and abroad. Learn More

• Get Matched- Want some help finding the right opportunity? Local volunteer sports opportunities abound. Chat with a matchmaker at Volunteer Center at 831-427-5070 or visit www.scvolunteernow.org for a list of more than 250 community wide opportunities.

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