Let me paint a picture for you.
It’s mid-July in Gothenburg, Sweden and I’m sitting on a round bench packed with parents at a giant soccer park with endless soccer fields. I mean endless. Surrounding me are over 30,000 people from around the world, all staring intently at their teams playing in the biggest youth soccer tournament in the world. Cheers can be heard in all different languages. I still have to pinch myself that my daughter is here and that I am here watching her. My daughter Hannah is on her game field, along with twenty other teenage girls on her national USA team. Her game is set to start. The ball is placed in the center of the field as the tension on the sidelines reaches a head and then, suddenly, the referee blows the whistle and the game begins.
Hannah immediately begins to sprint down the field, avoiding the other team and signaling to her teammate that she is open. The teammate passes Hannah the ball, and my daughter kicks it into the goal as the crowd goes wild. Hannah beams but doesn’t let the momentary glory distract her, never once taking her eyes off of the ball. I am blown away by my daughter’s unwavering confidence and passion, a result of her involvement in sports from a young age. Being an athlete has taught her how to work hard to achieve her goals, collaborate within a group, and pursue what makes her happy. Most importantly, though, it has instilled in her a deeply-rooted sense of confidence and self-worth. When Hannah is on the field, she feels powerful and strong, like she is capable of doing anything that she sets her mind to.
And, of course, she is. I’ve been trying to instill this in her for her entire life by example, through my tenacity as a businesswoman, boss, and entrepreneur. But I’m also her mom, and teenagers tend not to be too inspired by their parents. Luckily, Hannah has another incredible role model, whose relevancy is peaking at this moment. So even though I typically write about what I’m doing to inspire my team, my family, or even myself, today it’s not about me. It’s about 23 kickass women who are currently taking the world by storm and setting a precedent that women are capable, strong, and deserving of equity.
I’m talking of course, about the United States Women’s National Soccer Team. Their recent victory has further ingrained Hannah’s can-do mindset. Representing the US in Europe just one week after Hannah’s idol Rose LaVelle did the same felt as though the US team was passing the torch on to Hannah and her teammates. Hannah watched every game that the US Women’s team played and found strong female role models in the players on the field. She loves Rose because not only is she an amazing player, but people didn’t expect much of her going into the World Cup and she proved herself by demonstrating her skills throughout the whole tournament. And it’s no coincidence that Hannah recently began to talk about the role that men and women are expected to play in society and how she feels that the media is dominated by men’s sports. The US team, she noted, is a leading example to her and other girls that women can do anything men can do, and that women’s sports matter. Hannah was even quoted by several news sources talking about what watching the team taught her.
The US Women’s team doesn’t just set an example of what it means to be a female athlete, but also what it means to be an activist and thought leader. The team, made up of players of all races and sexual orientations, is representative of the America we’re proud of. This diversity has enabled the team to unite in fighting for equal treatment for each and every player. The team’s determination to fight for the America they believe in has given a voice to many Americans and earned the team support from people around the world. When they sued the US Soccer Federation for equal pay and treatment, they struck a chord with all women who understand what it feels like to do great work and still be paid a fraction of what men make. Team captain Megan Rapinoe earned support from people of color, women, the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized groups by refusing to compromise her beliefs.
Hearing Hannah talk about these issues makes me see her in a whole new light. Yes, I’m her mother, and will always be proud of her. But for the first time, I see her woman to woman, and I’m inspired by her conviction.
As a female entrepreneur, I know how hard it can be to be a woman in a male-dominated industry (and world). It’s difficult to get your foot in the door, much less to establish yourself as a thought leader and make your opinions heard. The US Women’s Soccer Team sets an example for all people that greatness is within reach regardless of your gender, race, or sexuality. I’ve seen the team’s impact on Hannah and watched her blossom into a strong-willed woman with opinions that she is not afraid to share with the world. This is the incredible effect of strong female role models. And now the Women’s Team is set to come to Chicago this fall, and I just know my daughter will do anything to be there to cheer them on.
As Hannah’s team finished their games in Sweden and celebrated their victories — with American flags waving, and many hugs and cheers, I smiled and quietly celebrated the woman that Hannah has become—and the woman so many of our young girls are becoming, thanks to the world we’re creating.