… COVER OF TIME, NEWSWEEK, AND SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
… SCORED WINNING GOAL OF 1999 WOMEN’S WORLD CUP FINAL ON
… GOLD MEDAL, U.S. WOMEN’S OLYMPIC SOCCER TEAM, 1996
I was trying to give the league a little exposure.
PA UL CANNELL,
Washington Diplomats player, explaining why he dropped his
shorts during a North American Soccer League game
220 IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME
Two defining moments for me came years apart. One was in 1980, when my junior high soccer coach, a male, told me I could not play because I was a girl. All the boys around me asked, Why not? She’s as good as the rest of us. Up to that point, I’d never been told no in my life. When I realized I had teammates who liked the way I played well enough to back me, I realized my play on the field could actually win people over. I played on that junior high team, put up with our opponents’ disbelief, and always had my teammates in my corner. It was a great season for me because of that.
My second moment happened playing college soccer. I missed two and a half years with knee injuries and I ended up switching schools, to Santa Clara, where the physical demands were like nothing I had ever seen before. When the running became too difficult, I just quit. I said my knee was bothering me and that I had to sit out. In my head, I thought, I am so good, I don’t need to do all that. That’s for the other players who aren’t at my level. I knew that when the game started, I would score the goals if they’d just get me the ball. One day my coachand future husband pulled me into the office and said, This is ridiculous. You’re setting a horrible example and you need to do the work or leave the team. So I quit. Just like that, I quit the team. Rather than do the work the team was doing, I walked away. Well, in the next forty-eight hours I came to realize I had made the mistake of my life. I went to the office and asked for another chance. Thankfully, he gave in. He scheduled an entire session of fitness. I came in first on every run and I learned my lesson.
SHE OWES IT ALL TO DAD
I owe my dad for my approach to the game, because he was my first coach. He was a marine and we learned soccer together from a book. Going to the ball, showing up on time, giving maximum effort, that’s what he always demanded. He would send me home a lot for not paying attention or fooling around. In the end, my years with him on the field gave me the mental and physical toughness to excel later on.
WILLINGNESS TO CHANGE
Overall, change has been the best thing to happen to me in my life: the transformation as a player at Santa Clara; the switch from being single to being married; going from just married to becoming a mom; and on the national team, switching from forward to defender. Each time it happened it was scary, but each time it worked out for the better. The key is sticking it out in the beginning of change, because at first it always looks bleak.
In 1991, I did not play very much. From 1992 94, I was rarely with the team. I went to Japan to play pro and it was great, but in the end, going pro cost me the 1995 World Cup, because I was not in the mix. When Tony DiCicco took over, I picked up the phone and made a call, but I still missed that World Cup. When the player strike happened the next year, I was invited into camp. At the end of camp, the coaches pulled me over and let me know that I had won them over. Then they said, We need you not as a forward but as a defender. My jaw dropped, but I was smart enough to know this was my big chance, so I embraced it. The rest is history. I started and played every game up until the 1996 Olympics.
If you look at mistakes as burdens, then you’ll never have the opportunity to get better. That penalty kick and what I did after it have been great for U.S. soccer and of course, for me. But it was just one moment. There were others. Remember, I scored in my own goal against Germany, having Carla Overbeck say, Don’t worry, we’ll get it back. Later, I would score to tie the game, 2 2. There was Mia Hamm scoring late to beat the Czech Republic; Kristine Lilly clearing the ball off the line versus China. All these moments showed me the meaning of team and they were all special to me and everyone on the team. You and others may think of the bra, but the team knows it was about them not me. Okay, so you didn’t see the cover of Time magazine and Sports Illus-
222 IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME
trated in July 1999, when Brandi scored the winning penalty kick to give the United States the Women’s World Cup in front of one hundred thousand at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.. Well, it was the way she celebrated and not how she scored that stood out. She took her shirt off, exposing her sports bra. The sports world had seen male players do that, but for the women, well, this was a first. Her life and the game have never been the same.
Everything I learned about life, about change, about attitude, I learned from soccer. As a stepmother of a seventeen-year-old, and as a wife and new mom, I often go back to soccer to think about what I learned and how to apply it. Everything I learned on the field works for me off it. I always look at people in this world and think we are in this together. It’s why I might give some insight or tips to opponents on the field as we play. I like competing, but I do not hate my opponent.
Brandi may be the most famous player on that championship team, but she may have had the hardest road of all the core stars on that national team. You get the feeling she’ll do as well in broadcasting as she did as a player. Her journey to the top makes her even more identifiable to the masses than most megastars, and that’s probably why kids especially can’t get enough of her.
BRANDI CHASTAIN Photo Gallery
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