The FIFA World Cup™ is underway, and I can’t help but feel giddy. Since a young age, soccer has made me so happy because it reminds me of all the truly special moments I have had on the field with teammates/friends, fans and of course, my family.
I will always remember the first time my dad took me down to the field. He knew nothing about the game but became my coach – and through the countless hours of practice, games, road trips and daily conversations about the sport we grew to love together, soccer became a bond we shared throughout my entire life.
My dad continued to be my coach throughout my childhood and remained my biggest supporter through my collegiate and professional careers – always offering advice, encouragement and unconditional love when I needed it most. Whether he was the coach on the sidelines or the parent in the stands, some of my greatest memories of our relationship were on the soccer field.
It was because of this early introduction to the sport that I was inspired to do the same for my son, Jaden. He came to love the game at a young age just as I did, and once he was old enough to join a team, I jumped at the opportunity to coach and share in that experience with him. Now, I am the one sharing the lessons of teamwork, camaraderie, sportsmanship and the importance of hard work with him and his teammates.
I’m making a conscious effort over the next couple weeks to watch the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ matches with my son. While we both share in the joy of watching textbook passing and the thrill of a goal scorer finding the back of the net, I’m most excited to show him the true meaning of the event. To me, it represents more than a soccer tournament – it is a coming together of the world’s people. For those 90 minutes, we all become fans of the most beautiful sport there is. Even through the toughest of competitions, we watch and cheer as players from opposing beliefs, political affiliations and geographies share pregame “good lucks,” offer a hand to help their rival to their feet, and shake hands even after a loss. Seeing the world’s best players embody the true meaning of caring for others amidst fierce competition is one of life’s greatest lessons that I learned on the field. And it has continued to inspire me as a coach, as a fan and most importantly, as a parent.
As the world continues to cheer on these athletes through the rest of the tournament, I hope we can all take the time to highlight caring moments to our children. We as parents play an invaluable role in teaching our kids to be caring people, and that starts with showing them examples of caring acts both big and small.
Just recently I watched as Jaden and his team played against one of his closest friends. Our team was in the lead, but when his friend scored a goal, Jaden ran right over to him and gave him a high-five, one of the first on the field to congratulate him on the score. Watching as my eight year-old son showed care for a friend in a moment of athletic competition was one of my proudest moments as both a parent and a coach.
Whether it’s a small act of care on the sport’s largest stage or a large act of care at a local U-10 weekend match, recognizing and celebrating these moments with our children is one of the best ways to show them the impact it has on others and help to inspire us all to care more in our everyday lives.
Brandi Chastain was a member of the US National team over 12 years between December 1988 and January 2004, collecting 192 caps. During that time, she served as a trailblazer for women’s soccer as part of the golden decade of the US Women’s National team during the 90′s, one of the most dominant teams the sport has seen to date. She was a member for the 1991 and 1999 Women’s World Cup Championship teams as well as the Olympic teams that brought home gold in 1996 and 2004 and silver in 2000. Chastain is best known for elevating the profile of women’s soccer with her game winning penalty kick in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ that ignited an explosive soccer following and increased participation in the sport. Shortly after, Chastain was one of 24 founding players of the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA), she was a member of the San Jose CyberRays from 2001-2003. During the Inaugural season of the league, she helped the team capture the WUSA’s World Championship title. She has also been a member of the California Storm since the mid 90′s and still currently holds a place on the roster. Chastain has made the most of her time away from pitch becoming a published author of a book titled It’s Not about the Bra, serving as a soccer analyst on ABC/ESPN and NBC Sports coverage of MLS and Olympic soccer competition and remaining active on the field. Chastain currently resides in San Jose, CA with her husband Jerry Smith, Head Coach of Santa Clara Women’s Soccer team, and their son Jaden. She is co-founder of the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative (BAWSI), a nonprofit that mobilizes women athletes to serve as role models of health, hope, and wholeness to girls and women in underserved communities and to children with disabilities.