My daughters are both too young to remember this year’s World Cup, but part of me wishes they were able to understand the significance of what we’re witnessing on the soccer field. As I write this, the United States women are one game away from repeating as World Cup champions—something, I might add, that the men’s team has never accomplished once. It’s a tremendous example of what women can do, even when the playing field isn’t equal.
While my oldest cheers “U-S-A” at the TV and the little one kicks her chubby legs in celebration, I’ve been reflecting on what we can teach them from watching this tenacious United States team on and off the field.
Here’s what I’ve got:
1. Women’s bodies are powerful
As the US women readied themselves to take the field, I was nursing my daughter in our living room. I know this sounds cliche, but at that moment, the incredible range of what the female body can do wasn’t lost on me.
Women can nurture and grow our babies inside our bodies; we can deliver them into this world, and we can provide food for them. Women can compete at the highest level of sport, training their bodies to do unbelievable things (did you see those headers? that footwork? that save?!) and pushing themselves to their physical limit.
I hope that we can teach our daughters to be confident in their abilities and to appreciate all that their bodies can do.
2. Women should always stand up for what’s right
All 28 members of the USWNT have filed a lawsuit against their employer, the United States Soccer Federation, for paying them less than their male counterparts. Women in offices across the country are all too familiar with this scenario—completing the same work with more success and yet receiving less compensation.
We plan to teach our daughters to advocate for themselves every day, but especially when they feel like they are being treated unfairly.
3. Be a good teammate
This part is obvious, but it bears repeating. The US women’s team consistently operates as a unit, communicating with each other throughout the match and working to find an open teammate on the field. It’s clear that they are in this together; when one of them succeeds, there is an eruption of joy from the entire squad. Look no further than goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher’s epic save in the game against England, when her teammates mobbed her in celebration instead of running down the field. Their reaction was so incredibly genuine; you could hear it in their screams and see it on their faces.
It’s something that we’ll be teaching our daughters as well—how to work together, help each other out, and lift up their teammates in their moments of triumph.
I don’t know if my girls will end up being soccer players, or even athletes at all. But I do know that representation matters, and that the example of a team of strong, confident women will be increasingly important to my daughters as they become aware of gender imbalances.
Ever since they were born, we’ve read them books about trailblazing women like Rosa Parks and Malala Yousafzai. This weekend, we’ll tune in as these American women write the final chapter of their own story.
And no matter the score, we have a lot to learn from them.