Last Sunday, I did something I had never done before.
I watched a soccer game that did not involve family or friends, as I tuned in to the finals of the Women’s World Cup.
I woke up early that morning to see the United States defeat the Netherlands 2-0.
It was as thrilling as any Super Bowl or World Series game that I have seen.
I don’t have a lot of direct experience playing or coaching soccer, but it is a fun game to view as a spectator.
Both of my nieces played soccer at Conway High School, so our family watched many of their games over the years.
My kids played soccer when they were younger, and as I’ve written about before, I believe soccer is the best sport that young kids can play.
At younger ages, more so than most sports, anyone of any skill level can play soccer and have fun.
Soccer teaches both individual play and teamwork, and skills learned translate well to other sports.
The United States women were favored to win here in 2019, but the seeds of success were likely planted decades ago.
The World Cup is contested every four years. The U.S. won the inaugural women’s tournament in 1991, and then again in 1999.
No doubt those championship teams made an impression on countless young girls who went on to pursue their own athletic dreams.
In sports, a singular moment of glory can turn a relatively unknown, albeit talented and hardworking, athlete into an icon.
A great example is 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey hero Mike Eruzione.
He scored what would be the winning goal against the Soviet Union to cap the “Miracle on Ice.”
It changed his life forever, as he became a popular motivational speaker.
He’ll often state about that shot, only half jokingly, that, “three more inches to the left, and I’d be painting bridges for a living.”
That 1999 Women’s World Cup final between the United States and China was tied 0-0 at the end of regulation, thus going to penalty kicks to decide the champion.
U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry made a great save, thus giving the Americans an opening to win.
Brandi Chastain had the good fortune of drawing the last of the five PKs for the United States.
So the life-changing opportunity belonged to Chastain, and she delivered.
After sending the final and championship winning kick into the back of the net, she ripped off her jersey in celebration, revealing her now iconic black sports bra.
She landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated and will forever be an American sports hero.
In addition to Chastain and Scurry, that 1999 team featured stars like Mia Hamm, Joy Fawcett, Julie Foudy and Michelle Akers.
They certainly inspired a bunch of little girls to go chase their dreams.
This 2019 World Cup championship squad featured Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd and Rose Lavelle, among many others.
No doubt they will inspire a new generation of little girls to chase their dreams as well.