by JoJo McGuire
I want to teach math in third grade.
I want to… (insert female hero of the day)
It is amazing to look at my daughter and see how her goals and dreams change based on a positive female role model that she has encountered or seen. One minute she wants to be her favorite teacher and the next she is emulating the latest soccer moves that she watched. That is one goal that never changes, her goals always involve soccer. (Either being a professional or just playing for the heck of it on a team. She always includes the sport into her plans. “Do they have soccer at Stanford, Daddy? What about Miami?”)
Last year I was able to take her to see an actual MLS soccer game. We jumped into the car, drove for two hours and took to our seats in the stands, right as the rain started, and continued for the remainder of the game. She did not care, she just sat, enthralled and captivated by the lights, stadium and the tiny specks of people down on the field. She studied their every moves, cheered for her team and was upset when they lost.
Flash forward to the next day…
“Do you want to play soccer?” She dribbles the ball through the house and into the back yard, immediately attempting to fix the broken goal that we use (and fix) every day. Blonde hair bouncing as she sets her jaw and begins dribbling towards it, trying to use a move she saw the previous night to fake out an imaginary opponent. She continues to try to incorporate the moves witnessed the previous night into her game. When corrected, or it is suggested to use the moves she knows, she argues that she is just doing what comes naturally and she is not trying to act like they did. (She is. I can remember emulating my sports heroes and trying to be like them. I wanted to be John Elway, Steve Prefontaine.) We play on.
Fast forward to the past month. FIFA Women’s World Cup. We had watched all of the men’s World Cup last year, every single televised match. We tried to watch as much of the women’s as we could as well. I wanted her to see the women in action. It is all good and well to love a sport but you need the role models as well. I am a strong believer that girls need strong female role models that match their interests. Not just the Miley Cyrus or Brittany Spears that all girls try to emulate. (And, I might add, who continue to show that they should not be role models.) But actual role models with character regardless of what field, sport or occupation they are in.
Enter Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Shannon Boxx, Megan Rapinoe, Hope Solo and all the others. For the past month, she was able to watch these women pull out win after amazing win and compete in the finals. For 120+ minutes on Sunday, she sat on the couch between her mother and me, studying every move, telling me to quit complaining and watch the game, supporting “her” team even as they lost in penalty kicks.
“Dad, they did the best they could. They did not give up and they tried.” No mention whatsoever that they lost. She knew it and did not need to state it. Intelligent observations for a ten year old.
She is right. They did. There was not the rolling on the ground as she witnessed the previous year during the Men’s games (stall tactics, constant posturing, frowning, yelling and arguing). These women played with their hearts and souls. I enjoyed watching her as she studied the game, smiling when they did over a shot that went high, shrugging and smiling at the refs, smiling and having fun. Smiling.
As the final kicks were taken and bubbles burst, she turned to me and said, “Do you want to play soccer? I am going to be Hope Solo.”
She grabbed her ball and headed out into the 95 degree heat. Who was I to hold her back? I am just glad that she got to see the match. Hopefully, as she gets older and decides whether to play or not, she does not just emulate their moves on the soccer field. Hopefully she emulates their attitudes as well. The attitude that even if you lose, you can still have fun, laugh at your mistakes and enjoy the game while it is happening.