USWNT goalkeeper was recently the (drunken and belligerent) passenger in a vehicle driven by he drunken husband, former NFL player Jerramy Stevens. Oh, and it turns out that vehicle they were in one of the USWNT’s vans. Solo has been suspended from the national team for (at least) the next month.
Originally that’s what this post was going to be about- how disappointed I was that another athlete was throwing away her career. It was going to be about her tough childhood (she and her siblings were once kidnapped by their estranged father), about the frustration she must have felt trying to unseat Brianna Scurry as the USWNT’s first choice goalkeeper, about her fallout with coach Greg Ryan during the 2007 World Cup, about her drunken appearance on Good Morning America following the team’s gold medal winning match in the 2008 Olympics, about how her search for love and companionship led her to marry a man (Jerramy Stevens) with his own demons- he has had at least 10 serious encounters with the law in the last fifteen years, ranging from rape allegations in college to a charge of “extreme” drunk driving, who is Solo’s enabler and is co-dependent with her, and about how, most recently, Solo had been one of many victims of the “celebrity” hacking scandal, with photos of a graphic and personal nature appearing on the internet. About how, despite all of these things- and probably because of a few of them- Solo had transcended her status as a world class athlete. How she’s been in ESPN the Magazine’s “Body Issue,” how she’s been on Dancing with the Stars, and how she’s raked in money from sponsors as varied as Seiko, Nike, and Gatorade. As I read through all of these things, however, my anger at her behavior grew, but not in the way I expected it to.
It turns out that I’m not really mad at Hope Solo for her bad life choices- we all make them, some more often and some worse than others, but it happens. I sincerely hope she get’s her life back on track, but to put it bluntly, if she wants to push the “self-destruct” button on both her personal and professional life, well, that’s sad, but ultimately, that’s her business. She’s a grown-up. A grown-up who is making terrible choices, but still, a grown-up. No, this is why I’m mad-
I was lucky enough during my coaching career to coach and to coach against some very special young women. One of those young women- whose name I’m not going to use because I don’t want somebody Googling “Hope Solo” only to have this young woman’s name dragged into the controversy because I included it in this post- is on the short list of women working hard to replace Hope Solo as the next USWNT goalkeeper. I coached against her (and her twin sister and father, and I taught with her uncle) from the time she started playing varsity soccer (as a seventh grader!) until she graduated from high school. I also had a few opportunities to coach her (and alongside her father) when she was on various league/conference/region all-star teams. Despite her immense talents she carried herself with class and humility in every interaction I had with or against her- the same goes for her sister, father, and uncle, all “class acts.” She was, and I’m sure still is, the kind of player who will do anything to beat you on the field, but as soon as the whistle blows will give you the shirt off her back or her last dollar and who gets bashful when complimented. She’s a “competitor” in the healthiest sense of the word.
The player in question went on to a very successful career at the Division One level where she started 74 matches over four years, was a two-time All-American, and a M.A.C. Hermann Trophy finalist as a senior. At the same time she worked her way up through the USWNT age groups, culminating in a U20 World Cup championship in which she won the “Golden Glove” award. Since college she has forged a career that has seen her become one of the top goalkeepers in various domestic leagues and afforded her the opportunity to play in Europe during the “off-season,” all the while making her case for the senior national team. She has done all of this quietly, humbly, and gracefully. When she does become the USWNT’s starting goalkeeper- and she will- it will be through nothing but years of hard work.
I could argue that Hope Solo’s behavior off the field (and sometimes on it, it must be said) has actually served to “open the door” for this player and others to get an earlier shot at their ultimate goal, and that might be some kind of karmic justice, I suppose. But that’s not how it feels to me. I’m mad at Hope Solo not because of her actions themselves- she will, I hope, be the only one to pay for those actions- but because there is a group of 4-6 young women who are working hard day in and day out just for a chance to have a day of what Hope Solo has had for the past decade and what Solo has now, apparently, chose to squander in the most public and sad way possible.