Julie Foudy on Soccer's Unique Ability to Inspire Lives
Julie Foudy

Julie Foudy on Soccer’s Unique Ability to Inspire Lives

This interview with Julie Foudy kicked off the most recent Soccer Parenting Summit – a weekend-long virtual summit where I pushed out 22 interviews from youth soccer, performance, parenting and coaching experts.  Many of the interviews are available at the SoccerParentResourceCenter.com.

Julie is SO MUCH FUN to talk with and shares many important thoughts on youth development and the state of the youth game in the United States. Of course she is one of the most decorated American players and the former captain of the USWNT, additionally she is the parent to two young soccer players. Julie and I talk about her book Choose to Matter, the importance of learning what it means to be a teammate, the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy, ways our youth soccer landscape can improve, and there is a call to action to BRING BACK THE JOY to our fields.

You can watch the interview below or read the transcript under.

TRANSCRIPT:

Skye Eddy Bruce:

Welcome to the Soccer Parenting Summit. In this conversation with Julie Foudy about teaching life lessons to our children through sports. As you probably know, Julie is one of the most decorated female women soccer players that we have. She’s a long-time captain of the US National Team. She was an Olympic gold medalist. She’s a World Cup winning athlete, and she’s now a commentator for ESPN. She also has two kids who are growing up in the game, so she’s got a lot of really important perspectives about the youth game these days.

We talk a lot about her book Choose to Matter and teaching leadership lessons to our children through sport, and we also talk about her leadership academies and the work that she’s doing there, and how that work could translate into the youth game so that we can really ensure that we are focusing on the development of our children, not just the results. But that development can’t just mean the soccer development for our children. You know, this is a call to action for that development to really mean teaching our kids and bringing back lessons of leadership, bringing back the values and the importance of being a teammate and fighting for your team.

I’m really excited about this conversation. I’m thrilled that Julie joined us for the Soccer Parenting Summit. Julie Foudy.

Skye:

Julie, thanks so much for joining us at the Soccer Parenting Summit. I’m so excited to talk to you because there is so much to talk about with you. You’ve had so many experiences in the game between your playing experiences, coaching, your leadership, your women’s empowerment. I mean again, the number of things we can talk about is really endless, so I’m thrilled to have you here and to let parents sort of get inside your thoughts a little bit in terms of the youth game, so thanks.

Julie Foudy:

Yeah, thank you, Skye for doing this. I can’t wait to listen to all this which was the first thing I said to you. I need this education. Thanks for gathering such an amazing group of people.

Skye:

Yeah, I’m really excited about everybody who’s realizing the importance of really starting to think about bringing the parents into the conversation just a little bit. Let’s start with your book and let’s start with just your concepts of leadership and what we can teach our kids through sports because I think that that is sort of an underlying theme that we’re starting to see is we need to remember these life lessons.

So, I love your book Choose to Matter. I bought it for my daughter right away, and I’m sure like you’ve heard from a lot of people I ended up reading it myself before I gave it to her. It’s set up like a workbook with all these little things and tests, and I was like oh, I don’t want to do this because then I’m going to mess up her book, so I was like scratching off a paper on the side. I loved it. Thank you for writing it.

Julie:

I get that a lot, the parents are reading a lot of it which is great, and it’s good to do together too. But a lot of it is based on the idea that, and I use sports as the vehicle to teach leadership often but it’s not just all sports in the book of course, but I was lucky enough to be surrounded by a lot of amazing women on the National Team who showed me, which is really the catalyst behind so much of this, the book and the leadership academies, is that leadership comes in so many different styles and forms.

And, I grew up thinking I had to be in a position of power or celebrity or president or politician to actually make an influence on someone’s lives, and then I realized like gosh, I have that all wrong. Leadership is personal not positional, and you just have to care enough to raise your hand and have the courage to step out of your comfort zone and do something different, or to pass on kindness, or inspire someone by helping them out. I mean there’s so many different ways and forms of leadership.

And that, watching all the amazing women I played alongside, Mia Hamm for example was, as you know, so quiet and didn’t want the spotlight, and so she led in a very personal private way that was equally effective to Loudy Foudy’s way of screaming from the locker room out because I have great vocal cords. So I just love the nuance and felt like there weren’t enough young kids growing up that thought they could lead or have the confidence to lead, and that you could. I wanted them to know you can be the quiet kid, the nerdy kid, the cerebral emotional kid, that everyone can lead. You just have to figure out what your style is. And so that’s a lot of the book, and it’s really a lot of what I do outside of my TV work that I’m so passionate about because I don’t think we talk about that enough with kids, especially in soccer.

I think we coach Xs and Os but we don’t talk about the character development that goes by playing. You don’t have to play at the highest level to get that. You don’t have to be an Olympic gold medalist or a National teamer or even a collegiate player to understand the value and this gift really is what it is about character development, and setting your foundation for being a disciplined, hard working young woman or young man who deals with adversity and setback, and failure becomes a friend because you understand you grow from it. So all those things sports teach you we don’t talk about enough. I’d love to see more clubs doing that.

Skye:

Yeah, do you see an avenue in the future? Do you think that that’s one of the solutions is clubs getting more engaged in character development or trying to think a little bit bigger than what they’ve been thinking?

Julie:

Yes, I would love, I mean I’ve always said that. I’d love to start that club that talks to kids as yes, we want you to better athletes but more important and equally important we want you to be better human beings, right? And that to me is the value of sports, is you have so many opportunities to teach them about all these great skill sets that they’re going to use for the rest of their lives.

There are a ton of coaches out there doing that, but it doesn’t become a foundation for what a club does often. It’s one-offs on oh if I have this particular coach I know they believe in character development a lot, or you know, this coach. So, I just think the opportunity to talk about being a good teammate, being a good leader, being a good human being. I mean all these things that then I also think may them better soccer players in the end and a better team because it’s not mutually exclusive. Those things come hand in hand.

We won on the National team for so long because we got all that and we loved each other, and we got along great, and we worked a ton on that stuff. If someone came on to the National team who was a superstar but their character stunk, the first thing we’d say to Tony or whoever the coach was, we don’t want her, right?

Skye:

Yeah.

Julie:

I don’t care how many goals she scores. This is not helping us.

We’d have that battle of no, it doesn’t matter, get rid of her. And he’d be like, what?

Skye:

Let’s talk about, let’s just jump ahead and talk about club culture while we’re here because I think that this is really pertinent to what we’re thinking about. In what ways do you think that clubs need to rethink the way they’re engaging with their players and with their parents? Are there rooms for improvement there?

Julie:

Oh my God. This needs to be more than 45 minutes. Now I will speak from my perspective. I’m not in the trenches like you guys are so I don’t have that, I don’t have that up close and personal view, but I am in it from a parenting perspective as the parent of an eight and 10-year-old who both play for club teams locally. Mind you, it’s a good club program but it’s, I think a lot of it has to do with communication out to parents. I think if we did a better job as a whole just from based on watching my kids, watching other kids, listening to a lot of parents who have gone through it, there’s not a lot of communication that goes out to parents in terms of character development.

Because obviously we all want for our kids the best environment for them to be successful, right? But I do feel like if the parents aren’t getting the information, then they’re starting to doubt whether this is the best environment for their kid, and then that’s when they get like kind of weird, and crazy, and there are a lot of crazy parents out there.

Instead of just being like it’ll work out, like what’s going on because I don’t have information. If a club came in and said, this is what we stand for, right? This is what we do, and we value over results character development and making sure they’re better soccer players, right? So better player, better person both, but here’s how we’re going to get there and this is what we’re doing and this is why we’re doing character development which has nothing to do with a soccer ball, but in the end it’s going to help them be a better soccer player.

Skye:

Yeah.

Julie:

I’ve never heard that conversation. I’ve never heard that. I get the opening conversation of this is what our club stands for, and they’ll always say we’re not about results, we’re about development. But then I never have another conversation, not one, not from a coach, not from someone from the club. I don’t actively go out and seek one, and maybe that’s on me, but I don’t think it should be on the parents because I try and disengage rather than hover especially with our background, Ian and I both from the soccer world of course.

So I don’t sense there’s any plan in place of this is what I want to do and this is how I’m getting there. I’d love to see, and it doesn’t need to be in the form of an email. Just grabbing the parents after a game, this is what we’re working on.

This is what we’re doing, and I know we may be losing 6-0 bu tit’s okay because I love this, this and this.

The parent education and engagement platform brought to you by the Soccer Parenting Association

Skye:

Yeah. I think there’s a couple things that stand to me about that. One is that I don’t think that within U.S. Soccer coaching education, just all the gamut between all the different organizations, that coaches are really getting any background or information about how to talk like that, how to have those conversations.

Julie:

Right.

Skye:

Because those are somewhat skillful conversations.

Julie:

Yeah.

Skye:

The second thing just in terms of the clubs, and I want to talk about your Leadership Academy here because I think the things that you’re doing within the environments of your leadership academy, don’t you think those could translate into clubs?

Julie:

Totally, totally.

Skye:

Tell us about, tell us about what you’re doing there.

Julie:

Well, it’s a lot of quick activities, hands-on fun interactive, team building, and you don’t need like a classroom, but little fun, little exercises things they do and then you debrief it, right? So, and again, the leadership message in that moment isn’t necessarily from the soccer field, right, but it’s stuff that always transfers to the soccer field, and always to life, and I think makes you a better soccer player because you start to understand your teammates better, and you start to work within a team better.

And so, so much of what we do is thinking beyond yourself, fright? Leadership isn’t about thinking about how I’m going to empower others. Leadership is service. Leadership is knowing that I need to raise my hand even if I feel uncomfortable, and I’ll be fine. I’ll get through it.

So, in all these things that transfer to the field, so those things I think absolutely I’d love to see more coaches doing, you know? And it’s not rocket science. It’s not you have to have this full on really intricate curriculum about leadership which I think becomes way too intimidating for a lot of coaches, but it’s simple things that just get them talking and sharing and trusting each other and believing in each other, and understanding the value of falling flat on your face and being okay with it, right?

Skye:

Yeah.

Julie:

Because then you talk about trying a new move and you trip over the ball. Good. I love that because you’re trying it. You’re growing. So, that’s what we do a lot at our leadership academy is a lot of hands-on fun and bringing the joy back. I see a lot of practice sessions and it’s very serious, or when I’m walking or running or going anywhere around town or even at tournaments, all very serious and intense.

I just remember when we were growing up, it was a lot of laughter and celebration and joy. I think as parents we need to contribute to that as well, of course.

Skye:

Yeah, for sure. I mean the game’s changed so much. I think we might be about exactly the same age. In the last 30 years since we were growing up in the game, we probably, you and I have similar pathways, in terms of we probably, I had parent coaches for the most part. I played ODP, that was sort of the path to getting more technical training in terms of higher level coaching.

We played in a few key tournaments every year. You know, we really, it was 30 years ago and we’ve seen so much progress and development in those 30 years, but it also feels like we’ve kind of lost our way a little bit. Do you feel like that?

Julie:

Yeah, I do because everything is now focused on what level am I playing and what team am I on, and are they Tier 1 or 2, gold, silver, whatever, however you phrase it. And, I already see that with my eight-year-old. I’m like, really? Why are you focused on this? Or you know, the team playing like Barcelona and they’re 10-year-olds, and it’s like, yeah, let’s teach them just to be comfortable with the ball. Can we do that? Can we just teach them instead of passing, let’s dribble. Let’s hold on to the ball and take people on. Let’s have confidence in that area.

So, I feel like the stakes are so much greater for whatever outside influence or perceived pressure there is that, and we’re paying a lot more money so parents are like, I’m paying $2,000 for my kid to play for this club. There better be some results coming from it. So then the club has to deal with that pressure, and it’s just a whole different system all together. It’s different.

Skye:

Yeah, yeah. As a parent though, wouldn’t you be so much happier paying that $2,000 if the club is focusing on life lessons and they were focusing on leadership?

Julie:

Sure.

Skye:

And you felt those lessons coming through? We have this tendency that we’ve just kind of pushed ourselves to, it’s interesting to me because it’s like we’re all about development but what it seems like is that we’ve started to focus so much on the individual, like what your child is on, what team they’re on.

Julie:

Yeah.

Skye:

What they can do. It’s like we’ve lost track of the team.

Julie:

And what parent would say, if you said to them we’re going to develop not just your daughter or son as a soccer player, but as a leader as well, would be like, oh I’m sorry, I don’t want that? I do not want my kid to be a leader, right? I don’t want my kid to be a great human being. Like, why don’t we just do that? Make it mandatory across the board, like sports is about character development. That’s the gift of sports. Why aren’t we teaching that?

Because in the end, if you’re a parent that doesn’t want that, fine. Then don’t come to this club. Go somewhere else. And I’m sure there’s going to be a ton of parents who are like, hell yes, I want that for my kid.

Skye:

Exactly, and that’s just bringing it all back. You mentioned earlier values. I love the fact that you brought that up. That’s definitely a reoccurring theme of this summit with all of the guests that we have, is that we’re talking about club values or coaches values. I’ve created for the soccer parenting association the soccer parenting values, and these are six values that I push out to parents and encouraging them to reflect upon, because we know that it’s our values that drive our behaviors and that can help us make decisions.

You know, we’re sort of having a call to action for clubs to create values, and not just do what you said in that first email say this is what we stand for, but to actually live those values. The soccer parenting value statement that’s related to life lessons is we support our children’s youth soccer participation because we want them to develop grit, determination, and resiliency while learning empathy, compassion and solidarity that will make them caring and committed adults.

You know, having this perspective-

Julie:

I love that.

Skye:

As a parent to reflect upon actually seems like it’s a lot of your mission. I mean, you’ve done that with your book. You’re doing that with your leadership academy. Was all this really intentional for you, or did you just sort of fall into this?

Julie:

I wish I could say it was intentional. I think people think it’s intentional. I was like, no. No, it’s me following a passion, you know? The book actually comes around because I was tired of reading crappy teenage girl books that didn’t have strong female characters, and I said to Disney, who owns ESPN, actually to Disney Publishing who published the book, like, I don’t like your books. I won’t read them to my daughter. I won’t go to your stores, right? I run away from princess stuff, and that’s the reality of me as a mom.

And I know there are a lot more out there like me, so let’s do a book that like talks to girls about being strong and confident, and it’s raw and it’s real, and it’s not sparkly and “princessy”. They’re like, okay, we get it, we get it. You can do this book.

So that’s how the book came about because I was like, listen, I can’t handle this anymore. I need a better book out there.

Skye:

Yeah.

Julie:

For young women, but no it hasn’t been that, and it certainly, which is the thing I see is now that I’m in the space of clubs and youth soccer a little bit more intimately with the eight and 10-year-old, and I’m still not in the heat of it, but I look at it and I go, oh my gosh, we’re missing so much here that we should be. We have this wonderful opportunity to teach kids in a positive way all these other values and we’re not doing it, right? So consumed with are we getting the best kids and are we keeping the best kids. I mean even to the point of like how they rotate between teams so much which I don’t like, this guest player stuff because then there’s no team chemistry. I’m like, gosh, like what if we’ve lost our way in a sense of what it means to play for a youth team.

Because really when you ask a kid what’s their favorite part of any sport, what do they say? Hanging out with my friends.

Pizza party, time at tournaments, hanging out in the hotel room together. I mean, that’s what they love.

Skye:

Yeah, and it kind of brings it back to and it’s something that I think we need to focus on with parents and all of us. I mean, I run into this, is why are you doing this. Why is your child playing with this team, or why are you driving 60 minutes to go to training every time? Or why do you have a personal trainer?

I mean, there are times when there are really good answers to that question. It’s not at all bad to do that, but it has to be the why. I kind of think this sort of circles back to your book a little bit of like it has to be like innately deeply you. It has to be your child what they want and their path, and not a parent stepping in, or getting consumed with the dream of playing in college or playing with a national team. Do you find, do you ever run into that, or find-

Julie:

Yes.

Skye:

Some thoughts with that especially with your experiences with the National Team?

Julie:

Yeah, I find a lot of parents who to your point, like well we felt like this was the better team so now we’re traveling God awful amount of miles to get and hours to get to these tournaments. My first question is, do you like the team? I mean like, the people on the team. Does your son or daughter like who she’s playing with? Well, we don’t really know them.

Well, then first things first, it’s like if my kid loves who they’re playing with and they’re loving it, then they’re going to want to get better, right, because there’s joy in what they’re doing. So, I feel like we jump to the next team without understanding what the culture of the team is, what the team is like in terms of the players, and you know similar to how you chose a college. You didn’t just go to a college and jump on that team. You checked out that team. Is this like you know, is this team people I like to be around? Is it, you know some people I like?

Skye:

We need to come up with Julie Foudy’s top six questions you need to ask before you join a team. Will you do that for us?

Julie:

Would you want to have a beer with the parents? That’s enough for one question. Actually, that’s huge for us. I’m always like will I like these parents, because I’m going on that team if I don’t like these parents. If they’re all crazy parents, I am not going on that team.

Skye:

Yeah. Well, you mentioned crazy parents a couple times. That’s something that I refer to a ton in all the writing that I do, like crazy parents. You know, I think that just my take on the youth soccer environment is that there are some seriously crazy soccer parents out there, and what I always say to coaches is stop trying to give them your attention. Just ignore them. Let them go to another team. Let them go to the crazy coaches, let the crazy soccer parents and the crazy soccer coaches all form this separate world, and let’s have the level-headed parents, and then communicate with us. Give us some information. It’s okay to communicate with us. We’re not the crazy ones.

When we talk about parent engagement, which you and I sort of have talked about a little bit offline, is that’s what I’m trying to do, is I’m trying to get the level-headed parents to be a little bit more part of the process so that we can redefine and remember, as you way, what youth sports are really all about, and they are about these life lessons. They are about this team chemistry and the bond. I think it’s interesting you brought up crazy soccer parents a few times. This is sort of level-headed parents unite.

Julie:

Well, and there’s two things to that though, right? There’s the crazy parent which I totally agree, like stop wasting your energy on them, right, in terms of engaging and engaging them. Like, I always say to my husband, like, why don’t thy just say good riddance. Go somewhere else. We don’t need you here. Like, who cares, right? If you don’t want to deal with that, don’t deal with that.

But the other thing is is that I think some parents are crazy because they’re not getting information, right?

Just check in and it doesn’t need to be like, like I won’t read these long, you know you used to get those emails and the kids were like on the six-year-old soccer team but I used to get these emails of like paragraphs about the game.

Skye:

From the volunteer recreational coach?

Julie:

Yes. Yes.

Skye:

They must have been so stressed having you on the team.

Julie:

I was like, oh bless them, I am not reading this. Like, I would love if there’s just a little bit of information, you know, and not in an email. Just hey, I want to gather real quickly after the game, whatever parents are around just to give you an update. It takes five minutes. And your point teaching coaches how to do that.

Skye:

Totally.

Julie:

If parents feel they’re getting information and that there’s a plan in place, and that progress is being made so that that money being spent is going. Even if it’s here’s why we’re doing character development, right? HEre’s why we’re doing this. Then I think that alleviates some of the crazy parents.

Yeah, I mean you’re validating for me without even knowing it, a lot of the work that I’m doing, which is great because I talk a lot about, you know, crazy soccer parents, let’s kick them out but let’s educate. We’re not crazy. A lot of us are just stressed and you need to alleviate the stress and then we’ll be fine.

Julie:

Yeah.

Skye:

You just need to give us some information. Bring us into the mix, so I love that you’re saying that.

Julie:

I find it’s a lot of the parents who haven’t played Division 1 soccer, haven’t played, so they really want it for their kids. I think it’s all going to work out. You’re going to be fine, I promise.

Skye:

Let’s dive into that a little bit. Like, there’s the parents that really want it for their kids. If you had 1,000 parents in a room, that’s a huge room, it’s a ballroom, and these were parents of kids that were between the ages of let’s say, like, eight and 14. What would you say to these parents? They’re all soccer playing parents of various levels maybe, but would be like one or two key things that you’d want to impart upon these parents?

Julie:

Like if I ran a club, or?

Skye:

Yeah.

Julie:

As a fellow parent?

Skye:

It’s just an imaginary group of parents that appeared in front of you with 1,000 parents that all have soccer playing kids. I don’t know if you’re a club director or what. If you’re talking to them, like, given your experiences on the National Team, given your experience as a parent, as a coach, with your experience with the leadership academy, what would be the one or two key lessons you would give to this appearing group of parents?

Julie:

Bring joy into the equation. Bring it in, like everything is stress. Everything is scholarships, what level I’m playing. I would just say as much as you can with whatever you do, how you parent, how you talk to the coaches, how you navigate all of this, think first about bringing joy into it, because when there’s joy in what you’re doing and what your child is doing, she’s going to get better. It’s going to happen naturally. It doesn’t matter if she’s on the best team ever created in the entire universe if she doesn’t love it. If she hates is, that kid’s not going to get better.

Skye:

Yeah, definitely.

Julie:

So stop suffocating, right? If you’re questioning whether you’re suffocating, you’re suffocating. You know, always err on the side of, as my parents did, just backing off. I once came to my parents, senior year of high school, and I said I have a chance to go to Italy with the US team, but it conflicts with my high school graduation. I really don’t want to miss high school graduation but I also know if I miss this trip to Italy, I may not, this is like my chance to possibly start on the national team and get that starting role.

My parents, and I wanted them to say, you have to go to Italy, or you have to go to your graduation, but they were like, well what do you want to do? You should do what you want to do because in the end you have to live with that.

Make that decision.

Skye:

Well that goes back to your book, Julie. I mean, all of your stuff is roundabout. It’s like finding your voice, like finding your voice within the game. Let our kids find their own voices within the game, and let them dictate it because if anyone knows better than, I mean you know better than anybody that your path is really being on the national team is so slight. The chance of that really happening especially if the joy’s not there, we can say that it’s non-existent.

Julie:

Yeah. That’s what drives you, right, in anything is that joy.

Skye:

Would you change what you say to that room of parents if it was a room full of parents of kids that a had a lot of potential, that had been identified in some way or another?

Julie:

No. I’d especially give that to them if they had a lot of potential.

Skye:

Yeah.

Julie:

Yeah. I mean the only two things we ever say to our kids which is in the book everywhere, right, is the two things I want. I want you to work your ass off. I don’t say it like that. Effort, attitude and effort. We don’t care what happens on the field as long as walk away feeling like I gave everything I could. If you get that habit down, and then you bring a positive attitude so you’re contributing to your team in those two ways, then good things will happen. And then finding as a parent, you’re responsible for helping them find that joy.

Find the joy in the type of team you choose, right? It’s not just about the level and what they’ve won or haven’t won. Also, the level of joy, are you suffocating after every game, breaking down games, and killing the love of it for them?

Skye:

Great, I love it. A lot of parents ask me to make a bumper sticker that says level-headed soccer parents unite, and now we can maybe add like and bring the joy back to the bumper sticker. And have a picture of a donut for you there. It would be perfect. No, I think there’s a lot to be said for that, and that’s actually a pretty simple message.

Skye:

I’m all about solutions for this, you know, as we’re talking about this. We need to talk about the problems, but we need to now take it to the next step within our association, the soccer parenting association. I need to be thinking about this, like, how can we make this really happen? How can be bring more joy to the sidelines? So you know, we’ll be thinking about that, and I do agree that that’s really important. It comes a lot back to just the culture, the club culture.

Julie:

Yeah, and who, what the director of your club stands for. You know, if they’re super serious and intense, and it’s all about results, then that obviously trickles down. I think you, and even to your point of like we’re not teaching our coaches about how to develop character and how important that is in the grand scheme of all your curriculum, you know?

Julie:

Yes, you obviously want to talk tactics and technique, but this is equally important. This is another pillar that we should be hitting on. It’s so important. We don’t hit on it nearly enough.

Skye:

Yeah. You and I have a great friend in common in Tony DiCicco, who sadly passed away this year, but I know that Tony impacted you so much within his role in your life as a friend and as a coach. What are some things that you can take away from Tony because when I think of him, I think one of the things he was just so magic at was creating culture.

Julie:

Yeah.

Skye:

What are some things that you can take away and impart to youth coaches or club directors that you learned from him?

Julie:

The joy. That’s it, right? That’s the perfect example of what I’ve been just been saying. Like, he came every day to practice, and we all talked at the funeral, sadly all we were saying, all of us were saying he would come with this big grin on his face and he would say and scream and look up to the sky and say, “I love my job.” And then he’d laugh and we’d all laugh.

And that’s how we started practice with the national team, and it was so true. It was like, I’m doing this for a living? This is amazing. And he was appreciative, and he had all this pressure to be successful and to win if he wanted to keep his job, but that never came out. What came out is oh my God, I am so lucky to be here and to be doing this with you know, with you women.

And so, I think, and the other thing I think he was really good about is he understood the value of character development and team chemistry. Like we spent time on that. I mean talk about a coach embracing that. We had to do team building and we did debriefing, and we did a lot of things away from the soccer field that some coaches would look on as crazy, and yet it was, I would say probably one of the main reasons we were so successful is because we had this incredible team chemistry and unity.

So when things went bad in a game, we didn’t jump all over each other and start questioning what, this person wasn’t working hard enough or, you know, it was like, we’ll be fine. Let’s go.

Because we built that foundation and that trust and that unity, and so all those things that I’ve been talking about, Tony personified in his coaching and his style. He was just amazing that way.

Skye:

Yeah. The thing that stands out to me with him is his connection to people. Like, as I’ve been traveling around the country doing a lot of my speaking these last six months or so, people are saying is they’re mentioning Tony and talking about him, how he remembered their name or he met them briefly and he was able to remember where they were from or an experience that he had with them.

For me, that’s what really stands out is his connection to players. That’s something that I hope that our youth coaches and clubs can think a lot about. Like, how do I feel about the players on my team? How connected am I really to them or is this all about just the business of winning or getting to the next level or whatever, so.

Julie:

I mean, I don’t coach so I know that’s a hard, that’s a hard thing to balance of you know, like wanting to keep it separate but also wanting to engage with players. But I do think that as Tony always did, he erred on the side of saying this is family, right? And [inaudible 00:33:59], myself, my kids, we’re all here for you. We’re part of your family. I just think you can’t go wrong when you care about someone.

Instead of saying like, oh no coach-player, we’re keeping it separate. Here’s the line in the sand. I think you have to show a human connection. Relationships are different. It’s your point, right? And he was incredible at that as well.

Skye:

Yeah. Did you feel really close to your club teams growing up?

Julie:

Yeah. I mean, and back in those days too, this is what’s different, right? I played for the same club team for my entire seven through 17 years old.

The only reason I didn’t play with them when I was 18, they were all a year older and went on to college, and I was left. I was like, wait, no. 10 years with the Soccerettes

Skye:

Oh, that’s great. Was that really your name of the team? The Soccerettes? That’s brilliant. I love it.

Julie:

(sings team song)

Skye:

I know your time is limited. I have one last question for you.

Julie:                           Please don’t keep saying your time is limited.

Skye Eddy Bruce:

Yeah. You were pulled off the stage. So, you got thrown into the mix for the U.S. Soccer Presidency race, huh? Grant Wahl pushed your name out there?

Julie:

He didn’t tell me he was going to put me in there. I was like, Grant, it would have been nice to get a little heads-up.

Skye:

Did you pick up the phone and be like, what are you doing?

Julie:

I texted him, “What is wrong with you?”

Skye:

I love to think of you there in the future because I think that with everything that you bring to the table just from the Women’s Sports Foundation and your role there, and obviously your playing background, there’s a spot for you there.

Julie:

Then we could add our character development. I’m running for U.S. Soccer President so that we can change all the curriculum.

Skye:

Well, that was what I was going to ask you, is like what do you think that U.S. Soccer needs to think about from a leadership standpoint with the youth game?

Julie:

I mean, I get that you have to have some pay component, right? You can’t all do this for free. I get that there needs to be a pay to play model. I just don’t understand the pay to play model when results is everything, and so, and outcome is everything, instead of there being a process to development. I just feel it’s outcome, outcome, outcome.

And so I get frustrated by the system, but I also don’t think it requires blowing it up as some people say. I do think there’s a lot of great people out there doing great things, but I definitely would add a different component which is, again, the character, not to beat this horse to death, the character side is a perfect reflection of why this system, they feel like they don’t have the space for it, right? Because it’s so results and outcome oriented.

If we then shifted our focus to okay, but we of course want World Cup winning soccer teams and we want to build the best soccer players in the country, but if we take the emphasis off results, we’ll get there, right? Like anything in life, if you stop worrying about the outcome, you’re actually going to be much more successful on that journey. So, I just feel like our emphasis is way, way, way skewed and we need to bring things back to it.

Skye:

Good. Well, I think that bringing joy back in the game and giving that focus will be a part of that solution. Any other last final words for parents, or comments as we wrap up here?

Julie:

I find, I was going to say something that I probably shouldn’t say, so I’m not saying that. For the first time in my life, I just had a…. Let’s celebrate this moment.

Skye:

Tone it down three notches and still say something.

Julie:

Grab a tequila before you come to a game, that always helps. No.

No, I think, you know, I think as parents, I think of my parents who I had to convince to come to the first Women’s World Cup literally in China because my dad was like that’s a busy time of the year for me, honey. I just think like ignorance is bliss sometimes. Like we want the best for our kids, but also realize like less is more. Back off, and in the end they’ll thrive because of it. So yeah.

Skye:

Perfect way to end it. Thank you so much for your time today. I know that just your thoughts and opinions and songs will be really important for parents as they’re trying to navigate this, what is this stressful and confusing process, but to hear from people like you who have been through it and are a parent now and have that perspective, I think is really, really helpful, so thanks for taking the time.

Julie:

Yeah. No, thank you, Skye, for all you’re doing, my friend.

Skye:

Take care.

Julie:

It’s important work, so keep doing it. Thank you.

Skye:

You bet.

Julie:

Bye now.


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About the Author Skye Eddy Bruce

Founder, SoccerParenting.com Skye is a former All-American goalkeeper, professional player and collegiate coach. She holds her USSF “B” License and USSF National Goalkeeper License and is an active youth coach, soccer parent and coach educator.

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