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Monday, May 26, 2008

Grow Up, U.S. Women's Soccer Team!

Read this excellent article in yesterday's New York Times and see what I'm talking about.

Everyone knows that in the women's World Cup a few years back, head coach Greg Ryan made a mistake and benched stellar goalie Hope Solo in favor of old favorite and World Cup hero Brianna Scurry for the semifinal game. The result: Scurry looked slow-footed, the U.S. was routed, and Ryan ultimately lost his job. En route to the latter result, Solo opened her mouth and complained, very publicly, that Ryan's decision was wrong. In the process, and, yes, wrongly, she threw the respected Scurry under the bus.

Solo later apologized, very publicly, about her transgressions.

So it all should be over, shouldn't it?


Not a chance.

You see, the U.S. women's team is acting like a bunch of thirteen year old girls who've just gotten their own cell phones and are trying to own the landscape in middle school. They started the bad behavior after Solo initially transgressed, banning her from the team, the consolation game, the flight home and the team's hotel. Instead of embracing someone who was hurting, showing they were forgiving and, yes, bigger people, the other members of the U.S. women's soccer team, all of whom must be the equivalent of altar girls and none of whom has ever said something she wished she hadn't, took the other road, the road much more frequently traveled.

Virtual shunning.

Or so it seems. Friendships are over, moments are awkward, the fracture hasn't healed, and no one is showing the leadership to put once-upon-a-time former best friends together to mend the rift, publicly declare that it's over, pull the team together and give it at least a puncher's chance to win the 2008 Olympics. But no, the rest of the women's soccer team knows better, feels that if they continue to ignore the problem, Solo will vanish or will forget or that somehow the team can pull together to win the gold medal.

That's realistic, isn't it?

Yes, Hope Solo made a mistake, but in her mid-twenties, she was bound to, even a big one. She got caught up in a moment, ventilated publicly, and has paid an awful price for her transgression.

But hasn't she paid enough?

So who, exactly, are the leaders on the U.S. women's soccer team? Or, are the team members subject to the same criticism that the Boston Red Sox were when they weren't winning with great frequency decades ago -- "25 team members, 25 taxi cabs" when they were on the road?

Leadership requires putting the good of the team over everything else. Leadership means standing up to those who didn't transgress but who are acting badly know and saying that the rift is over. Leadership means that you do your best to heal all rifts and make things right. Don't just sit around and let bad things fill this awful vacuum. Solve the problem!

If you don't, you won't win, few will remember you, you'll get your coach fired and U.S.A. Soccer will have to take a long hard look at team chemistry and determine who will represent the country in the 2010 World Cup. And, yes, it will be an easy fix to cashier Hope Solo and find another goalie. But that would be the wrong fix, too, because among those who remain will be a bunch of people who acted in petty fashion and demonstrated that their own emotions and egos were more important than the greater good.

So, members of the U.S. Women's Soccer team not named Hope Solo, forgive her, talk to her, talk out your problems, and, yes, even apologize for not forgiving her soon enough. If you do this, you'll find out that you'll play better, and your team will play better, too.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your analysis is exactly right. The NY Times article particularly mentioned the estrangement with former friend Cat Whitehill. Whitehilll's Face Page touts her Christian commitment. You have to live it Cat, not just say the words.

11:43 AM  

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