Showing Up

 
Photo by:  Brand Smith Images

Live from the World Cup in France

I wanted to reach out with a quick update. The frenetic pace of fan life here leading up to today’s quarterfinal match against the host team has made it difficult to find time to reflect, but the electrifying spirit supporting women’s athletes from all over the world has been magical and it seems like now is the time to try to take a snapshot of this point in history and do my best to share it with you.

We’re at a cultural inflection point today. You can feel it. Not just for the US Team but for the fans and the growing community surrounding the game of women’s soccer.

The Fans are Rocking it

Have you checked out the American Outlaws marching band? They showed up to play. Americans bought the second most number of tickets for this tournament than any other country, aside from the French–go figure. As I walked through the small town of Reims, no more than 100,000 in population, every street was covered in the USA Red, White and Blue. There were more Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe jerseys in Reims than I saw during their send off game in San Jose, CA in April.

And it’s not just the die-hard sports fanatics changing how our country has begun to embrace soccer. You can sense a seismic shift back home too.

Media Frenzy

Speaking to friends about the latest news headlines it’s only obvious what’s going down right now in France represents something far bigger and further reaching than just celebrating the joy of our beloved game.

What we are witnessing with this World Cup is the power sport has to exhibit a team’s greatness. Fans all around the world are recognizing the effort our women are showcasing and the life they’ve dedicated to being the best athletes, and more importantly the best versions of themselves. They’ve got each other’s backs. No matter how much the media obsesses over how they prefer to stand for the anthem, celebrate goals, speak up for wage equality, or orient their love–they continue to show up to play, united.

It’s no surprise this style of passion and speaking out to advocate for a level the playing field has caught the ire of our current administration. While our team is on foreign soil playing for a World Cup trophy, our president took the time to express his thoughts on Women’s soccer and Megan’s willingness to speak out against injustice.

If you missed the story, here’s sports columnist Christine Brennan’s interview with CNN on the topic.

The most interesting thing about all this hubbub, is that relatively speaking, over here, right now, hours before kickoff at 12PM PST, this tweetstorm is just a tiny mouse squeak in the greater scheme of things. It’s just another distraction that our squad isn’t paying attention to. Nor are the fans here. We’re all rallying together with a shared goal to play for what matters: beat France, represent our country on the world stage, and have one helluva time celebrating the journey.

Setting the Stage

The USWT has worked so hard to get to this point. The story goes back to the courageous women who built this team and its international reputation. Michelle Akers, Tiffeny Milbrett, Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain to name a few. The historic 1999 run led the way to our 2011 success which catapulted the team into official rockstar status. And ever since they’ve secretly been building America’s (and arguably the world’s) most-beloved underpaid team.

While it’s obvious everyone here has their chosen team and wants to beat their opponent. It’s clear that everyone who’s traveled from around the world is cheering for something greater than this World Cup. After the win against Spain I was admittedly a little biased witnessing Megan’s two penalty kicks, but the response from the other countries hit me like a ton of bricks. Even the French fans were contagiously celebrating into the late hours of the night in unison around this bigger idea of cheering on women and giving them the joy they deserve and have worked so hard for their entire lives, going back generations.

There’s a new class of athlete that’s broken through and is able to express themselves and earn their respect on the world stage. This team is representing more than the red white and blue. They’re representing a color spectrum that’s beautiful, different, defiant, expressive, loud and proud. And they’ve been able to do so in a way that’s resonated with a world of fans.

Playing for What Matters

The fans and players here right now are in this because of their passion. They want to cheer and play for why they love sports vs. who their favorite team is. They’re here because they feel a deep connection the raw essence of competition, and that the real battle we all face day in and day it in the end is all about just trying to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be. We all love winners, but what we’re seeing is a societal shift where fans are connecting with athletes not just for how many points they’re putting up on the board but for what they’re doing in their communities. Whether it’s Serge Ibaka hosting a cooking show or Lebron James opening up a school and production company highlighting the athlete’s perspective (at the same time), we’re seeing a hungry audience of fans eager to connect with players on a different, empathetic level.

It’s this human side to sports that we want to champion. Our goal with Mendi goes beyond just building great products to help athletes recover better so they can perform at their best. We also want to highlight their journeys along the way and celebrate their ability to handle adversity. We can all learn so much from each other’s perspectives and approach to living life to the fullest not just with sports but with competing to be your best self in life as well.

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We Believe in a Deep Bench

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I’m looking forward to catching up after the game. In the meantime, go

USA!

~Rachael

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