Justin Ricklefs


3 Surprising Lessons Learned from the Women’s World Cup

Perhaps it was an awkward case of foreshadowing, but more likely it’s only a random moment of my childhood that stands out.

I played soccer growing up, pretty much my entire life.  Until I gave up global football for American football my freshman year of high school.

My soccer memories are more vague than my football ones. I’m sure it has to do with the season of life and my age.

But one soccer memory, the awkward foreshadowing one, that remains is my pink Umbro shoes.  Umbro, remember that brand? If you’re under 30ish years old, then probably not.
Look closely, you can see the sweet pink logo.
Look closely, you can see the sweet pink logo.

The shoes weren’t pink exactly, they were black. But the little Umbro logo on the side was definitely pink. I’ll have to ask my folks someday if I picked that color or if they found them on the MC Sports (again, you won’t know about this if you’re less than 30) clearance aisle.

Nevertheless, I wore the pink soccer cleats with pride. Or maybe indifference. I didn’t really care that they were pink, they could have been any color and I would have been fine. As long as I scored goals, slid-tackled kids and got orange slices at halftime.

After those pink-cleat wearing years of soccer, I fell out of touch with the sport for the most part. Football, basketball and baseball were my things in high school. Soccer got set aside, moved to the back of the line.

Fast forward a bunch of years and a bunch of kids. You’d think having five, active children that soccer would be the rhythm of our springs and summers. But outside of a few sporadic seasons, our kids haven’t really taken to it.

I coached Addi and Rowan during our year in Florida. Kamden hasn’t ever shown much interest.  Silas would rather play baseball or dig for worms. Henley is three so she doesn’t count, though there’s a post here someday for the ridiculous pressure for parents to throw kids in sports before they can barely walk.

I set the stage for you like this because we were part of the fringe, bandwagon U.S. Women’s Soccer fans that got swept up in the current of the World Cup the past week or two.

At first it was a cursory acknowledgement that it was even on, then we noticed a win here and there. By the time it was the final eight (sure there’s a more formal title), we watched the highlights. Final Four had us hooked for most of the game.

Then the build up to the championship.
They wouldn't even break for dinner during the World Cup.
They wouldn’t even break for dinner during the World Cup.

It came at a great time, Sunday evening, after a long holiday weekend with family and friends. A great way for us to spend one final evening together before the new week began.

Unless you’ve been asleep all week, you know how the game ended. And more importantly, how it began with four goals in less than 20 minutes.

As we sat (and stood often) and watched that game as a family, here are three things I learned:

1.Kindness Doesn’t Equal Weakness – our kids see many examples of the win at all costs mentality. It was refreshing to see women, the best in the world, compete at a high level but still be thoughtful, respectful, even kind in their approach. There wasn’t a bunch of bad body language after missed calls. And it was common to see our players, after out-hustling the opponent, help them up by offering a hand. Sure they wanted to win, desperately. But they did it the right way.

2. Success isn’t Solo – Hope Solo pun intended perhaps, but success doesn’t happen on an island. We believe the lie that we can be self-made or independent. The reality is we’re incredibly dependent and our success is directly tied to the strength of those around us. The star of the show on Sunday night was Carli Lloyd, but even as magnificent as she was, she knew the team was what allowed her to shine. After her second goal, she made a beeline directly to her sideline. She went straight to the women, most of them who wouldn’t play a second of actual game time, who had her back all season.

3. A Strong Woman is a Force to be Reckoned With – I’m surrounded by strong, incredible women. My wife of 12+ years who I’d line up against anyone, my sister who is in the fight of her life, and my mom who taught me how to be resilient. So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when Addi, our second-born, asked us during the game, “how many push-ups does Carli Lloyd do each day?”  My answer was, “I don’t know love, but I’m sure it’s at least 100. She does them whether she feels like it or not.”  Within the next 15 minutes, Addi ripped off 100 of her own. Strength is far more than physical, and I’m grateful these American soccer athletes modeled that to young girls like mine that day.
Addi took the 100 push-up thing literally.
Addi took the 100 push-up thing literally.

What a great way to start this week. Thanks ladies, for the unexpected lessons you taught us that night.

Follow My Blog to Get the Daily Story

Copyright © 2023 Justin Ricklefs. All Rights Reserved.