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Lessons Learned From Soccer Superstar Julie Foudy

Olympic gold medalist, Julie Foudy, advises parents to give their young athletes space to develop and to let their kids find joy in sport.

Julie Foudy played on dominant soccer teams throughout her career, winning World Cup titles and two Olympic gold medals while representing the U.S. However, the Stanford alum told GoodSport in an interview that the moments she didn’t come out on top are the ones that helped define her legacy.

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“One of the greatest gifts I received through sports was failure. I discovered that failure is not that bad. You stumble, get back up and everything is going to be fine. You extract the lesson, learn from it, and move on,” Foudy said.

Foudy finished her exceptional career with 273 caps (international matches), 45 goals, and 59 assists. She’s participated in four Women’s World Cups and three olympics, claiming two World Cup titles, two Olympic gold medals and a silver medal. Foudy served as the U.S. Women’s National Team’s captain from 2000 to 2004, and was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2007. Her induction alongside teammate Mia Hamm was historic, becoming just the sixth and seventh women inducted in the hall and the first and only all-female class.

Foudy has continued to make as much of an impact off the field as she did on it. She served as the president of the Women’s Sports Foundation, founded by Billie Jean King to advance the lives of women and girls through sports and physical activity, from 2000 to 2002, and on their board of directors for seven years.

In 2006, she co-founded the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy, which combines sports training and leadership curriculum for teenage girls. The academy, which offers summer camps to girls in four different sports, aims to help participants become not only leaders in the game, but also leaders in life while having fun along the way.

“There is so much pressure for young kids to perform. If you can get a coach for them who makes it fun and positive and a good experience, kids are going to stay in sports and that’s what we want to see.”

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Foudy sees a sports world filled with helicopter parents who hover over their kids during sporting events. Foudy advises parents to give their young athletes a little space to develop.

“Encourage and open the door for them, but let them run through it. We want so badly for our kids to be successful that we end up putting so much pressure on them. Parents should step back and let their kids find the joy in what they are doing.”

A big part of achieving that joy, Foudy says, is giving kids the opportunity to try different sports.

“I will always advocate playing multiple sports. When kids specialize in one sport they run the risk of injury and burnout. If kids are playing the same sport over and over it can be mentally draining and they can get bored and end up quitting.”

Most recently, Foudy joined entrepreneurs, celebrities, and some of her former teammates as the founding investor group that is bringing a new NWSL team to Los Angeles in 2022. She wanted to make an impact for future generations and inspire her community.

“That is what’s most exciting for us as players, too — we’re able to give back to this next generation and continue to support the sport, support this league, and even, given the times, provide a great community outreach for Los Angeles as well,” Foudy told the LA Times.

That is gold medal advice from an Olympian and amazing role model. For all sports parents out there, we highly recommend Julie Foudy’s book, Choose to Matter: Being Courageously and Fabulously YOU, and her podcast Laughter Permitted with Julie Foudy through ESPN’s network.

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