Advice from an Olympian: Play hard, play fair, and have fun

Chastain explores offers advice on how to maneuver the high-pressure world of competitive sports in her new book.

“Sports are a way to build the bridges that close gaps.”

Brandi Chastain ’91 is perhaps best known for the moment in 1999 when she took off her soccer jersey to celebrate her World Cup-winning penalty kick. In her new book, It’s Not About the Bra: How to Play Hard, Play Fair, and Put the Fun Back Into Competitive Sports (co-authored with Gloria Averbuch, HarperResource, $21.95, 2004), Chastain explores the high-pressure world of competitive sports, and helps teach young athletes how to develop leadership skills, seek out role models, become mentors to others, and give something back to both the team and the community.

Chastain has been part of the U.S. National Team since 1987 and with that team won two World Cups, two Olympic gold medals (1996 and 2004), and an Olympic silver medal (2000). She was one of the founding players of the now-defunct Women’s United Soccer Association, the country’s first women’s professional soccer league. As team captain of the San Jose CyberRays, Chastain led her team to a first-ever championship in that league. At Santa Clara University, Chastain won the 1990 Hermann Award, the most prestigious honor in collegiate soccer.

Chastain says several things inspired her to write the book, including her desire to honor her parents for their dedication to her and support of her soccer career. She also wanted to honor the game. “I love the game of soccer,” adds Chastain, “and I want others to see what wonderful values and virtues the game has to offer.”

In the book, Chastain explores the pressure many kids experience when competing; how parents can best support their children, and how the lack of sportsmanship has tarnished competitive sports. But she also reminds readers that sports are for fun. “After all, that is the only reason kids should get involved with anything they do. They have to enjoy themselves,” she explains.

Chastain lives in San Jose with her husband, Jerry Smith, coach of the nationally ranked Santa Clara University women’s soccer team, and her soccer-playing 16-year-old stepson, Cameron. She says her years of soccer experience have helped her be a better parent, too. “The common denominator of soccer…has enhanced our communication with and respect for one another,” she says.

In her more than three decades playing soccer, Chastain says she has learned many key life lessons. “Sports are a way to build the bridges that close gaps,” she says. “I have learned through soccer that I live in multiple communities, sometimes it is small—my house—and sometimes it is large—global such as the Olympics—and that I have to be respectful, tolerant, and flexible.”

Chastain says that sports have also taught her about the importance of effective communication. “I have to communicate on the field, like I have to communicate with my family,” she says. “Soccer has given me confidence to express myself and also has taught me to listen, because as the game changes, sometimes we have to be leaders and sometimes we have to follow the program.”

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