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I started playing soccer because I hated baseball (T-ball – never made it to baseball). My father had played in high school, and that was already a rarity that he didn’t play football or baseball or any other “normal” sport. I loved soccer from the beginning. I was better with my feet than my hands. My parents signed me up for the in-town league. The only place where there were co-ed teams at the time. It was the 90’s – soccer was still just becoming a “thing” around where I was. After a few years, they finally were starting to field girls travel teams, and I was recruited to be on one of them and I started to gain confidence. I was becoming a soccer player. It was becoming my “thing” even while the most of my friends were still at dance class.

Mia Hamm set it off. The Megan Rapinoe of 1999. She was in the Gatorade commercials and she was on the field and she took her shirt off after she scored and she was a queen of being strong and being a woman and being a soccer player. Ironically, it was time Hamm spent here in Florence that inspired her to get into the sport, so there you go. America has to thank Florence again this week. So when she had her moment in the 1999 World Cup, my eleven-year-old self was only solidified into my role. I was going to play soccer as long as I could.

Today, twenty years later, I watched as a new group of women took off around that field and I loved them just as much as I loved Mia, but their voices seem to be louder than hers, so many years ago. Back then, Mia was that stereotypical “beautiful female athlete” that could take down Michael Jordan in a karate match, but Rapinoe and the entire team can take down half of a country that doesn’t want them to open their mouths, and I’d say that’s some pretty awesome progress. Now, let’s work on what the echoes of the crowd were asking for for our champions.

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