Overbeck lets girls know dream is alive, well

Receiving college medal, World Cup player says, `it's out there for you'

October 27, 1999|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

In her dreams, Notre Dame Prep senior Megan Schwartz someday reaches the point where Carla Overbeck is today.

Maybe not as most valuable player of the Women's World Cup-champion U.S. soccer team. But certainly as a leader in women's athletics, someone eager to pass on to girls what her experience in sports has meant to her.

"I dream," said Schwartz, an All-Metro second-team striker. "I would always dream to be one of those women on TV showing leadership, not only for my team and all women but the whole United States. But not that many girls could ever get the chance to be there. Beyond college, I would love to continue showing leadership by being a coach."

Yesterday at the College of Notre Dame, Overbeck assured Schwartz and more than 400 other high school girl soccer players and college players from Notre Dame and Villa Julie that they can dream of becoming elite athletes and of making important contributions to women's sports.

"You all have opportunities we did not as kids or as young adults," said Overbeck, "because our team has had many doors opened up for us by Billie Jean King and all the women, the pioneers before us.

"If you have the desire and the will to want to work and be the best, it's out there for you. You can dream now to be in the Olympics in women's soccer. You can dream to play in a world championship."

Overbeck came to the college to receive The President's Medal from college president Mary Pat Seurkamp as part of the School Sisters of Notre Dame Foundation Day celebration.

Honored for her achievements, leadership and "powerful and positive influence on the lives of girls and women," Overbeck was presented as a role model to the young women assembled in the college's Marion Burk Knott Gymnasium.

Schwartz and the other girls needed little convincing. They had watched on television as the 29-year-old defensive star and her teammates drew legions of new fans to their sport, capping a superb title run with a shootout victory over China at the sold-out Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

Before yesterday's 30-minute question-and-answer period, the girls already knew of Overbeck's storied soccer resume. Most were a little starstruck in her presence.

A 1996 Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champ, Overbeck played on four NCAA title teams at North Carolina. She later ran up a streak of 39 consecutive complete international games, more than any other U.S. national team player -- man or woman.

Fila made Overbeck its first female athlete with a signature shoe. She is also a wife and the mother of a 2-year-old boy.

"She does it all," said Schwartz. "She went to college, she majored in psychology, she's a mother, a wife, and she continues to play at the highest level, on the women's national team. She's still continuing to show what she has and she shares all her talents by coaching at Duke and teaching more young women. I just think that's great."

Schwartz has played soccer since she was 7 and now plays for the Soccer Club of Baltimore Pride Under-19 team. Unless she has an opportunity to play in a proposed professional women's soccer league, she is realistic about her chances to advance beyond Division I college soccer, because there are so few spots on the national team and so many girls now playing the sport.

Overbeck stressed, however, that there is life after competitive soccer and that is the life for which playing soccer prepares young women.

Although she plans to stick with the national team through the 2000 Olympics and she might play a couple of years if a professional league is formed, Overbeck said she likely would teach or coach when the time comes to retire from the game.

After listening to Overbeck, Schwartz saw a bit of the Texan in herself. Schwartz also wants to coach and is considering studying psychology. But more than anything else, she would like to emulate Overbeck as a team captain.

"She said there are no problems on their team and they get together like a family," said Schwartz, a Pirates team captain for two years.

"As part of my leadership, I try to have our team be a family and be close and not have any cliques. Even in practices, I don't hang out just with the seniors and my close friends but I love playing with the sophomores and the juniors and helping them learn. I like how united she said her team was and how happy they were. I want us to be like that."

"To me she's a leader, which I try to be."

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