When you think about the sturdiest center back pairings in soccer, who do you think of? Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta, Julie Ertz and Becky Sauerbrunn? What about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Carrie Underwood…
This year’s SheBelieves Cup, U.S. Soccer’s international invitational tournament founded in 2015 to motivate young women to dream big and achieve their goals, provided a compelling way to celebrate women both in and outside the sport. On March 2nd when the U.S. faced England in Nashville, U.S. Soccer added a unique twist to their jerseys – rather than have players’ own names emblazoned on the back of their jerseys, each USWNT player wore the name of another female who has inspired them in life.
The team’s selections were diverse, including activists, poets, writers, astronauts, celebrities and politicians in addition to other athletes. For example, Tobin Heath selected basketball analyst and reporter Doris Burke, because, “she’s obviously been the first in many things she’s done in terms of broadcasting.” Ashlyn Harris admires Cardi B, because, “she doesn’t blend in with society, and … owns her story, all of her story.”
On Twitter, U.S. Soccer tweeted about the jerseys and the response was buzzing, to say the least, even prompting a response from Carrie Underwood who was featured on Julie Ertz’ jersey. The idea strongly resonated with supporters, with comments including, “Where can I get this???” to “Love this.”
— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) March 2, 2019
Our idols help us define our aspirations and discover the qualities we hope to possess. The USWNT, whose players are admired by young men and women because they are some of the best in the world, is in an ideal position to use their brand to inspire and educate. Showcasing world-class female athletes and leveraging the game for the greater good in such a clever and audience capturing way is clearly a win-win.
However, coaches and managers should keep in mind that when you’ve got an 85-year-old Supreme Court justice playing at center back, you’ll have a tough time keeping clean sheets.