|“I asked my mom to sign me up for soccer and she said I had to wait a year.”
Born, bred and raised on soccer, Olympic Medal winner and world renowned soccer player, Julie Foudy, is sharing her knowledge about the game.
The Mission Viejo native, now 39, is not only a reporter/commentator for ESPN/ABC, but she is directing the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy and Julie Foudy Soccer Camps during the summers.
“We use soccer as the vehicle to teach kids about life, and most importantly, how they can positively contribute in life. Our theme is ‘Leadership is personal, not positional,’” she says. “We all can lead in life so choose to matter.”
Foudy was a midfielder for the US Women’s National Soccer Team, from 1987-2004. She also served as the team's co-captain from 1991-2000 and the Captain from 2000 through her retirement in 2004. She played in four Women's World Cups, winning two FIFA World Championships and competed in three Summer Olympic Games winning an Olympic Gold Medal in 1996, Silver in 2000, and Gold again in 2004.
“I always wanted to be a sportscaster or a professional football player (as in pads and a helmet,)” she laughs.
When asked when she knew she wanted to play soccer professionally Foudy says, “I never really dreamt of that as there weren't any pro soccer playing women I could emulate when I was growing up. There was no such thing. I just knew I loved soccer and playing.”
She does recall her first game though -- playing on the field at recess in elementary school, age 6, with the big red bouncy ball.
“I loved it,” she reminisces. “I asked my mom to sign me up for soccer and she said I had to wait a year.”
Forget the red bouncy ball; what’s it like to be in the Olympics and to win a Gold Medal?
“Incredible, you work so hard to achieve something and the hard work lands you on the top of the podium. Plus, it’s just so much fun along the way. I learned that enjoying the process is just as important.”
These days she’s busy with the soccer camps and the Julie Foudy Leadership Foundation that she founded in 2006 and other volunteering duties.
“Our mission is to teach leadership skills to young girls using sports as the vehicle. I also was President of the Women's Sports Foundation for 2 years in 2001-2003. The WSF is a great non-profit with a mission to provide more opportunities for young girls to get active. I also sit on the board of Athletes for Hope and the advisory board of Beyond Sport, two great non-profits that aim to use sports to make a positive difference in people's lives,” she says.
In the end, however, it is soccer that has been good to her and she it.
“Soccer has been one of the greatest gifts in my life. It helped me find my voice and gave me confidence. That is exactly why I founded the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy and Foundation. We wanted to help more young girls not only find their voice, but give them the tools to use it for positive social change in their communities.”
For those young girls looking to follow in her footsteps Foudy says, keep on taking steps forward, even when people tell you that you are crazy.
“Smile, say ‘thank you,’ and keep going. I have discovered that life is about figuring out how to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations. Life is full of them. Learn to love them,” she says.
Foudy is married to Ian Sawyers, and they have two children, Isabel, 3, and Declan, 1.
The Mission Viejo High School graduate, who also attended Stanford University for Pre-Med but decided against going to Stanford Med School after deferring 2 years, hardly plays soccer much anymore.
“I do charity events and of course, demo most things at my camps, but not any full length games. That could be dangerous for my health now,” she says.
However, she does have an opinion about who are the greatest soccer players who ever lived: Best Male: Pele; Best Females, Mia Hamm and Michelle Akers.