Foudy talks Title IX and women in sports
By Charlie Rafkin
Published on Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Despite winning two World Cup and Olympic championships apiece as a member of the U.S. women’s national soccer team, Julie Foudy said she cannot pinpoint a single individual achievement that means the most to her. Rather, when reflecting upon her career, she emphasized the team’s attitude, culture and philosophy of success as most important, as opposed to her own personal accomplishments.
Foudy, whom the team nicknamed “Loudy Foudy” for her outspoken nature, spoke to a packed audience of over 200 students, faculty and community members in Alumni Hall on Tuesday, highlighting her experience as captain of the national team and expressing her continued support for women in sports. Foudy, a soccer commentator for ESPN and founder of the Julie Foudy Leadership Foundation, stressed that everybody can attain success.
“Success isn’t a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice,” Foudy said.
Foudy’s team was successful because it chose to cultivate a culture of hard work, team spirit, goal setting and personal leadership, she said.
Foudy said that the players’ personal determination was critical to the team’s success, citing Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers and Joy Fawcett in particular.
Hamm trained late into the night on the University of North Carolina soccer field, lighting the pitch with her car’s headlights. Akers, who earned the nickname “Mufasa” for her lion-like mane and ferocious attitude on the field, arrived at every practice 45 minutes early and stayed 30 minutes late. Fawcett would train in parking lots while her children napped in the car. Because of her teammates’ drive, Foudy was inspired to train even harder.
Even the players who weren’t stars contributed to the team’s positive atmosphere. Through her experience captaining the team, Foudy realized that her previous definition of leadership was too narrow.
“As long as you believe in something passionately, you can get it done,” she said. “Leading is personal, not positional.”
Foudy, who sat on the Commission on Opportunity in Athletics in 2002 when changes were considered to Title IX, explained her consistent advocacy for the legislation. Although the legislation has been criticized for forcing athletic budget cuts, Title IX contributed to a tenfold increase in women’s sports participation, she said.
Young children who have heard of Title IX often have a negative perception of the legislation, Foudy said. She encouraged audience members to challenge this view by educating young people about Title IX’s benefits.
For Foudy, sports are about “more than the wins or losses.”
Sports help people learn how to lose, encourage a balance between competition and supportiveness and teach people to be “silly” while achieving success, she said.
Foudy described her team’s efforts to promote the 1999 Women’s World Cup, held in the United States. Because many doubted that the World Cup would be successful, the team took a risk in advertising the event.
In the question and answer section following the lecture, Foudy said she would tell her 16-year-old self to meet people who “celebrate differences.”
While balancing her personal, athletic and professional goals was challenging, Foudy said she was most productive academically when training for soccer because soccer helped her maintain academic discipline.
Foudy said in an interview that Title IX advocates should focus on increasing athletic participation in underserved communities. She attributed the disparity in athletic participation levels across different socioeconomic groups to the expenses associated with playing club sports.
“Are we doing enough at an early age to give poorer communities access to these opportunities?” Foudy asked.
Bridget End ’14, a member of the cross-country and track teams, said she connected with Foudy’s belief that success is a choice.
“With running you really have to watch every choice that you make,” she said.
End, who “idolized” Hamm and Foudy as a child, said she supports Foudy’s sustained advocacy for women’s sports even after Foudy’s retirement from the game.
Ian Engler ’12 Med’16 said he was surprised Foudy emphasized the supportiveness of the women’s national team, since he thought the training necessary for professional success encouraged egoism among players.
Cami Thompson, the Dartmouth cross-country ski team coach, said she appreciated the “intimate” opportunity to listen to Foudy, and hoped her 13-year-old daughter was inspired by Foudy’s success.