Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, Julie Foudy, Michelle Acres-just to name a few. A group of women that singly handled founded the first professional women’s soccer league.
Women that made the world turn their heads and say “hey, girls can play sports too.”
This group of athletes revolutionized the world of female sports, paving the way for thousands of young girls to use sports to get ahead and give back.
The US Women’s soccer team helped make women’s soccer an Olympic sport, bringing in 78,000 fans to a women’s soccer game, and capturing the first ever Women’s Soccer Gold Medal. This Olympic gold was the start of a movement that would re-write history for women’s sports. For the first time US women’s soccer players were starting to become a household name. Alongside Michael Jordan and other sports legends in Gatorade commercials, America saw a new name; Mia Hamm; the face of women’s soccer.
The 1999 World Cup would become a new obstacle for the women and another chance to show the world what women were made of. The Women’s World Cup wasset to play in some of the largest stadiums in the USA; Giants Stadium, the Rose Bowl, and Soldier Field. Disbelievers across the country said “there was no way a women’s sport would fill those seats”. Once again the world was shocked when they were proved wrong. Not only did the games sell out in record time, they put more fans in the Giants Stadium than the Giants ever had and made history in the World Cup finals; the most-attended women’s sports event in history with an official attendance of 90,185 . For the first time, on the front page of newspapers; female sports was the story.
And it only got better; the girls played their way through the tournament to find themselves in one of the most intense finals in sports history. The world held their breath as they watched a group who had come so far face the Chinese in the final game, neither team was able to come out ahead and the game would come down to penalty kicks. In front of a sold out crowd at the Rose Bowl, the game would come down to the final kick. Brandi Chastain, a powerful female athlete would make women’s sports history with that final kick, winning the game for the USA 5-4. Brandi Chastain was on the cover of Sports illustrated, celebrating her goal, signifying strength, pride and change. The strength it takes to overcome the critics, the pride of a whole country that came together to watch a sport regardless of sex, and change what it meant to be an athlete not only for women’s soccer, but women’s sports as a whole.
This group of women put a face to female sports and gave young girls everywhere a role model and a dream. They inspired young female athletes to pick up that basketball, or softball, or tennis racket and work towards their own dream because this group of women paved the way and proved it was possible.
This Saturday we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Title IX a piece of legislation that changed the USA as we know it. There are many reasons to celebrate Title IX, but we celebrate this anniversary for it allowing women to become leaders on the field and off. Mia Hamm and the US Women’s soccer team may have changed the face of female sports, but without Title IX these women would not have been able to use sports to become leaders to inspire thousands of girls to dream.