Former two-time U.S. Olympic champion Brandi Chastain was in Wallingford Wednesday, visiting employees at Liberty Mutual Insurance as part of the company’s U.S. Olympic and Paralympic sponsorship for the countdown to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Of course, Chastain is most famous for another big-time soccer moment: making the deciding penalty kick to help the United States win the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup. She celebrated by ripping off her jersey, revealing a sports bra.
Chastain, now 46, gives several speaking engagements per year, including to high school kids. She also helps coach three teams, including a boys’ high school team.
“I think the No. 1 message is they are so fortunate to have the opportunity to participate,” Chastain said. “As a young person, I wasn’t thinking of that. It was all about winning and losing. Though it sometimes seems to be paramount, it (winning and losing) really is secondary to all the other things you will take away from the experience. You should enjoy yourself. Playing team sports not only is physically healthy, but also builds confidence and self-esteem.”
Chastian believes in the high school experience kids get from playing soccer like she did. For the last two seasons, high school-aged boys choosing to play for the U.S. Soccer Development Academy have had to give up playing for their respective high school team because the seasons overlap. Academy soccer is normally a 10-month commitment.
“I’m not a big proponent of playing one sport,” Chastain said. “I learned some valuable lessons by playing baseball that I used on the soccer field. Reading a fly ball as an outfielder, you catch it, go forward and throw it at the same time is kind of like defensive heading (in soccer). … We need to try and balance commitment boys make to their club team to the experience you have with your high school team because the majority of them won’t go on to be professional athletes. You cannot get these moments back.
“I don’t think kids should have to choose one or the other. Our job as educators is to help kids develop so they can attempt to play at the next level and see what that potential has to offer. You shouldn’t say, ‘No you can’t do that because you are missing what we are doing and what we are doing is more important.’”