Soccer team has women on a roll The Sun's front-page...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

July 17, 1999

Soccer team has women on a roll

The Sun's front-page article on the victory of the U.S. women's soccer team in the World Cup ("U.S. soccer fantasy comes true," July 11) said: Brandi Chastain "might not have been thinking about being a role model as she stripped off her jersey in celebration after making the winning penalty kick."

That made me laugh. She is the perfect role model. She is breaking the mold that society has cast, and girls everywhere are on a roll. Nothing has impressed me more than the heart and soul and the skill, determination and commitment of those World Cup athletes.

To women around the world, the World Cup final was much more than a game. It was an awakening, a turning point.

I was a sophomore in high school when Title IX, the federal law which requires equal funding for boys and girls athletics, came into law.

I played on the girls basketball team before that law really had an impact. Since we had no organized practice sessions or learned skills, we sheepishly walked onto the basketball court.

Feeling embarrassed by our lack of knowledge and skill, we were thankful that at the time we played -- three hours before the gym would begin filling for the sold-out boys' games -- the vacant bleachers assured us that no one would see our torture.

In contrast, my 10-year-old daughter began playing soccer at age 4. By the time she was 5, she was skillfully dribbling the ball past her father in backyard play, but she was still timid on the field.

At age 8 she moved from a co-ed to a single-sex team -- and, like a wild filly, she tore out of the gates -- as did but all the girls. Their time had come. Together they would gel into a team that worked together, supported each other and won games.

Ms. Chastain and her World Cup teammates are amazing. They are the type of role models we need for our girls.

But, at a grassroots level, we also need more female coaches in recreational leagues and schools and coaches who are trained to understand female development.

Tracy J. Hannah

Baltimore

I was amazed to read Marc Starnes' letter, "Soccer team's triumph doesn't herald a new era" (July 13). I don't believe Mr. Starnes should dismiss the impact of this sport, this event and these athletes.

The Women's World Cup, and especially the U.S. women's soccer team, have given us many things. Young girls and women have a source of hope and inspiration in soccer and life.

For young boys and men, the U.S. team is an unprecedented source of women to respect and admire. Athletes of all ages and genders have a renewed love of the sport of soccer.

And everyone can respect that most of these women successfully juggle family and work.

Mr. Starnes, however, blows off the excitement and support for the U.S. team, saying that "everyone loves a winner."

However, this statement is unsupported. In fact, most of the tickets for the final rounds were sold last winter, before anyone knew which teams would be playing.

In addition, tens of millions of soccer fans even watched the games on ABC and ESPN that did not include the U.S. team.

More than 90,000 fans traveled from all corners of the United States to see the championship game and more than 40 million Americans watched the game on television. Also, dozens of websites are dedicated to the U.S. team and its players.

Our society is constantly changing. Until recently, sports were predominately for men. However, more girls are playing sports than ever (visit any local playground on a weekend) and women athletes are becoming more and more popular.

Over the last couple of decades, we have seen many successful women athletes -- Chris Evert, Florence Griffith Joyner, Jackie Joyner Kersey, Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova and Picabo Street are just a few examples.

I trust that, in time, there will be many more.

Maria Ruark

Eldersburg

Maryland Pride soccer deserves coverage

As a teacher and a "soccer mom," I am puzzled by The Sun's lack of coverage of the W-1 soccer league, the country's premier women's soccer league.

Our home team, the Maryland Pride, is one of the league's most successful teams, having won the national title in 1996 and reached either the finals or semi-finals in 1997 and 1998.

The W-league has been so successful that it has split into two divisions (W-1 and W-2) to accommodate 35 teams from the United States and Canada.

The Pride is a regional, semi-professional team that draws players with extensive international experience.

As the excitement generated by the Women's World Cup makes clear, women's soccer is an extremely popular sport.

The skill determination, and charisma of these players captured the attention of the American public.

As a result of the World Cup experience, we hope a women's professional soccer league will be born. Meanwhile, national team players are playing in the W-1 league and competing against our Maryland Pride.

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