Whether you’re a sports fan or not, you likely heard via social media about the USA Women’s Soccer Team competing in the World Cup tournament within recent weeks.
Our women’s team was one of the strongest & most confident yet, crushing its opponents and clinching the World Cup title after defeating the Netherlands 2-0 on Sunday.
The team attracted a lot of attention during their World Cup run due to not only their amazing soccer skills on the field, but for their confidence on & off the field.
In fact, some criticized the team for its “boldness” in celebrating each & every goal with unbridled enthusiasm. They were champions, and they projected that confidence as they played.
They were certain they could win, & they did exactly that.
Although the team’s World Cup victory is obviously a huge cause for celebration, it’s not just their incredible soccer skills that have made these players such important role models for women of all ages. You don’t have to be a soccer fan to understand why Team USA’s attitude is so critical for fellow women to adopt about themselves.
After it’s thrilling final win, Team USA was honored at the Women’s World Cup ticker-tape parade, held in New York City on Wednesday, a tribute that is well deserved.
But while the Women’s U.S.A. team has long been considered one of the most successful in international women’s soccer, -winning four World Cup titles since 1991- they’ve done far more to inspire people than just by playing phenomenal soccer.
A short video clip of midfielder Megan Rapinoe celebrating with her World Cup trophy has quickly gone viral on Twitter, because her words embody precisely the shift in self-confidence that women “deserve” to have.
.@mPinoe holding a trophy and a bottle of champagne and yelling “I DESERVE THIS” is a mood, an inspiration, a battle cry for women nationwide pic.twitter.com/1r9YUDNBxD
— Emmy Bengtson (@EmmyA2) July 10, 2019
The US Women’s team has done a hell of a lot more for their fellow women than winning the World Cup!
Now taken at face value, Rapinoe’s words make sense. Megan, along with the rest of the star-studded USA lineup, kicked some serious soccer ass. After the blood, sweat & tears that the players pour into winning a championship, celebrating a major victory amidst confetti fanfare is indeed sweet bliss.
But Rapinoe’s words carry a powerful message that is far deeper than just a World Cup win.
“I deserve this!” – It’s for every girl in decades past who had no chance at a career in professional sports, because the opportunity simply didn’t exist.
Sure, you had your stellar female Olympic athletes, your tennis phenoms, & your golf stars. But in terms of most other mainstream sports, a talented female basketball or soccer player couldn’t ascend beyond college-level competition. While a career in professional sports was the dream of many a young boy, girls didn’t have the same opportunities…
…until now. And it was long overdue.
Being a professional athlete would have been my dream, if it had seemed possible.
I played on many sports teams with girls that had the same talent & passion for their sport as well. In fact, as a kid, my dream was to be a pitcher for the NY Mets- until the realization hit me that women didn’t play major league baseball. No matter how good you were at your sport of choice, there was only so far you could go. A professional women’s soccer league? An awesome concept, maybe, but disappointingly unreachable.
THEN. Not now. It’s here. And the women are not just doing it, but kicking ass at it.
Women can now be what they want to be. Girls can dream bigger. There’s more room for talent, & passion, just as there should have been all along.
“I deserve this!”– It’s not just for the women who love sports. It’s for every woman that has worked hard at whatever she does, and is good at it. The women’s soccer team had total confidence in their ability to win it all. Some labeled it arrogance; many sports commentators said that they seemed “too” confident.
When the US Women’s team beat Thailand 13-0 on June 11, Alex Morgan racked up an impressive five goals. The team enthusiastically celebrated each goal, which critics considered to be “poor taste”.
Why? Because they were TOO excited. They were too proud of themselves, and celebrating their success “too enthusiastically” was blasted as being borderline tasteless.
It didn’t seem to matter to their critics that every goal counts in World Cup play.
It didn’t seem to matter that Morgan’s five goals was a huge personal best, tying the tournament’s record. It didn’t seem to matter that the team was celebrating each other- their hard work, their success, their unity in achieving exactly what they had been trained to do.
Alex Morgan shouldn’t have had to explain the reason for their excitement -would the men’s soccer team have had to do the same?- but she did. And it makes sense:
We really just came into the game really wanting to showcase ourselves. Every goal matters in this tournament and that’s what we were working on.
That’s the difference between men & women. It’s totally acceptable for a man to be confident in his abilities, & to project that confidence outward.
Too often, however, a woman who does the very same thing is considered too “full of herself”. For a long time there has been this unspoken idea that being a woman who feels good about herself -proud of her mind, her body, her talents, etc- and says so just isn’t ok.
All you have to do is take a look at most social media outlets to see this concept play out. While we’re told in one breath to love ourselves, be proud of ourselves, to be REAL- but there’s a lot of criticism that comes when a woman actually does it. You can think you’re good, just not “too good”.
…until now. If you’ve crushed your goal, shout it from the rooftops. If you worked your ass to achieve whatever it is you’re proud of, let the world know. YOU DESERVE IT.
“I deserve this!”- It’s for every woman who has done their job well… only to hit the glass ceiling.
For those who deserved the same pay as their male counterparts and didn’t/don’t get it.
It’s important to note that as the confetti rained down on the team & spectators, so did the chants of “Equal pay!”.
The US men’s soccer team hasn’t come close to winning a World Cup title since 1930, when they managed to win third place. But despite their consistently lackluster record, the men’s players typically earn two to three times the salary that the US Women’s soccer players earn.
You know- the same women that have done their job far better, with far more title-winning results.
When Megan Rapinoe said she “deserves this”, she’s sure as hell does.
And so does every woman on that roster. So do Carli Lloyd, Mia Hamm, Abby Wambuch, Hope Solo, and Tobin Heath, who all filed a wage-discrimination lawsuit with the Equal Opportunity Commission against the U.S. Soccer Federation in 2016.
They wanted to be paid the same amount as the men doing the same job. And the women were doing the job even better in the first place.
All 28 members of the women’s soccer team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit again the United States Soccer Federation in March of this year… while in the midst of intense World Cup preparation. They wanted equal pay. Equal access to training facilities, equipment, etc.
Despite not having those things, & while fighting to ensure them, they STILL KICKED ASS AND WON IT ALL.
That’s why they deserve the glory, the sweetness of being celebrated for their victory, because their fight went beyond the playing field.
They didn’t just fight for America in the World Cup. They fought for every woman who has been marginalized, belittled, neglected, overlooked. For every woman who has dreams, & wants more, & can be more, regardless of the ridiculous methods used to hold her back.
They so deserve this. And so do YOU.