November 24, 2014
When I was in high school, I was a 3 sport athlete and loved representing my high school and my hometown. There was no question whether I would play high school or not. In the fall I played soccer, in the winter I played basketball and in the spring I played softball. I loved each one of those sports and couldn’t imagine someone telling me that I couldn’t play any of them.
In addition to playing 3 sports in high school, I was also asked to join the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team my junior year. I was playing the highest level possible in soccer and I continued to play basketball in the winter and softball in the spring. Looking back I wouldn’t have changed any of it. I became a great soccer player because of the time I put on the field but also because of the other interests and work I did in other sports.
I am a huge proponent of multi sports for kids. One day you will not have that opportunity to be able to play sports like you do as a kid. I think each sport helps you develop as an athlete and a person and there are definitely benefits both physically and mentally for kids. If you look back at our 1999 World Cup Championship team, and see how many of those players played other sports, I think you would be surprised. We all did other sports and we all played in the backyard with our brothers and friends. We were kids “playing” and that is what we are missing a bit these days.
Now back then the club system was just developing and I didn’t play for a club team. It is a different time now. Club soccer has grown and it has given young girls a place to play at a competitive level. I think it is great to have these opportunities for young girls and boys, but I don’t think it should be the end all to everything. I think it should be an avenue for young players to develop and get better and compete with older and better players if that is where their development is going. I still think that kids should be able to do other things and not have to commit to the club, which limits their high school opportunity or other sports. We have to find a balance so these young kids can grow and enjoy the sports they want to play.
We have to remember – it is about letting kids “be kids”. If we can instill in them the concepts of hard work, respect for themselves and others and passion for whatever they love, then that is what is going to help them. The game of soccer has given me so much – but I wouldn’t be the player I am today if I wasn’t able to hit the ball and shoot some baskets too.