Youth sports aren't just about fun and games anymore. What should be a pleasurable experience is often marred by poor sportsmanship, trash talking, win-at-all-cost attitudes, and, in the worst cases, violence. But World Cup soccer champion and Olympic gold medalist Brandi Chastain has a solution. In It's Not About the Bra, Chastain draws on lessons learned in her phenomenal career and in her experience as a parent to illuminate "the beautiful game" and provide creative answers to the challenges that face young athletes and their parents.
Chastain emphasizes the importance of developing leadership skills, finding (and becoming) role models, and giving back to one's team and community. She offers a blueprint for kids and parents alike on how to play fair, win (and lose) with grace, and, above all, have a good time doing it.
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About the Author
Brandi Chastain has been part of the U.S. National Team since 1987 and with that team won two World Cups, an Olympic gold, and an Olympic silver medal. She was one of the founding players of the WUSA, the country's first women's professional soccer league, and, as team captain, led the San Jose CyberRays 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. She resides in San Jose, California, with her husband, Jerry Smith, coach of the nationally ranked Santa Clara University women's soccer team, and her soccer-playing stepson, Cameron.
Read an Excerpt
It's Not About the BraPlay Hard, Play Fair, and Put the Fun Back Into Competitive Sports
By Brandi Chastain
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Brandi Chastain
All right reserved.
On The Ball And Off The Field
For me, everything in life seems to translate into soccer, and vice versa. It's no wonder. It's my livelihood after all, and I'm also a huge fan. My teammates are my closest friends; my husband coaches collegiate soccer; my stepson is an avid player. When I'm not playing or training, you can find me practicing with my stepson's team, attending games, or watching professional matches on TV. Whether I'm on the field or off, that little round ball with the hexagonal patches is almost always on my mind. Everything I do seems to touch soccer in one way or another.
This goes back to when my grandmother died from cancer when I was ten years old. My mother was an only child, and part of the way my family dealt with the pain of my grandmother's absence was to bond through soccer. My grandfather, who had previously attended games only occasionally, now came to watch me faithfully at all of them, and kept coming until he passed away in 1996, before the first Olympics to host women's soccer. I always felt the family bond when I played.
Having my family in attendance relaxed me, and I often performed better as both a player and a person when they were around. I cherished our time together, and I have always felt great comfort when my family is there to watch me play. That family sports bond is what I try to bring to my relationships with teammates. It's a strong part of the way I approach both the game and my life.
When I step onto the field, my competitiveness gets ratcheted up, and the "warrior" mentality takes hold. Even in practice, all of us on the U.S. National Team are intense about the game. And, when we play, we play to win, leaving it all on the field. But winning cannot come at any and all costs.
Over time, I've come to understand that the player you are on the field mirrors who you are off it. I may go after an opponent in the heat of competition, or even a teammate in practice, but I always try to extend a hand, to help that person back up and encourage her. It's a valuable lesson: The things we do in the course of competition often transcend the moment and reflect who we are. And when they don't, they ought to. That's not something I've always recognized.
But I can guarantee that if you get to know people like my teammates Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, and Kristine Lilly, you will appreciate the connection between what great competitors they are on the field and the remarkable individuals they are when they step off it. Changing out of our uniforms doesn't change the way we deal with challenges -- at least it shouldn't.
When people see our team, they usually see only our success (unless we lose). Even our fans don't usually imagine the hurdles we have overcome to get where we are -- as players and as people. For example, during my sophomore year in high school, my team was in a tense semifinal game against the defending champions. I ran onto a long ball sent over the top, and was on a breakaway headed for goal. The opposing goalkeeper saw me coming, but instead of going for the ball, she clotheslined me. She stuck her arm out right across my neck, and I flipped up in the air and landed headfirst. It was pretty ugly. I was the victim of a bad play, and I would always know what that felt like.
Obviously, my opponent stepped over the line. Her reckless, desperate attempt to prevent a goal -- which resulted in a penalty kick for our team -- could have seriously injured me. Almost every player I know has, at some point or another in her career, employed fouling tactics. Some fouls are harmless, like when a defender gets beat and just latches onto your jersey, knowing she'll be called for the foul and maybe carded. Others are more vicious, like a cleats-up tackle from behind or, in this case, a clothes-line that belongs more in a professional wrestling ring than on a soccer field.
The bottom line is, no one's a winner with these kinds of blatant and dangerous fouls. I can understand a jersey grab or shoulder charge, but any time there's a chance of serious bodily harm, that crosses the line. Dangerous fouls ruin the spirit of the game and teach young players the wrong lessons. Ironically, in the end, what the offending player had hoped to prevent often still comes to pass. In the case of that playoff game, our team scored on the penalty, even though I was still too wiped out from being cut down to take the kick myself.
But I have a confession to make. I've not just been on the receiving end: Early on in my career I was the instigator of some dirty play. It embarrasses me to this day to admit that, during my collegiate career at Santa Clara University, I delivered what to this day may be my worst foul. That was a pivotal moment that taught me a lifelong lesson about playing within the rules -- whether I'm on or off the field.
I was having one of those games where, as hard as I tried, my efforts weren't translating into much success on the scoreboard. We were dominating, and should have been winning, but we weren't. And my frustration was growing by the minute; every miss-touch and mistake fed my anger. At one point, an opponent took the ball from me, and, like a driver stuck in big-city traffic, I simply went over the edge. In a fit of "sports rage," I didn't care if I went through her to get it back. I chased her down and tackled her from behind, sliding and hitting her midcalf with two feet. I got the ball but fouled her badly in the process ...
Excerpted from It's Not About the Bra by Brandi Chastain Copyright © 2005 by Brandi Chastain. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Female soccer star Brandi Chastain went from slightly familiar, to an instant household name after her incredible goal winning penalty kick at the Women's World Cup against China on July 10, 1999. This experience, and her whole soccer career building up to the big win, demonstrated her ability to compete respectfully, accept and conquer flaw, and most of all, teach others that it really is not about the bra, but the passion within the player's heart and soul. In Brandi Chastain's book, It's Not About the Bra, she highlights the benefits of playing sports, because not only are they fun, but teach important life lessons as well. She emphasizes the importance of good sportsmanship, leadership skills, teamwork, staying humble, and most of all putting the fun back into competitive sports. Chastain has a plethora of soccer knowledge to share, but at times the book did get a bit boring and tedious; reading became more of a task rather than for enjoyment. Because of my prior athletic experience, I found myself not retaining some of the information because it was very basic and redundant. There are also so many physical, mental, and social aspects to the game of soccer, that it was hard to keep track of every detail that Chastain brought up, no matter the level of significance. As a female athlete myself, this book was very encouraging and helpful. She spoke of situations and struggles that I have also gone through, which was comforting. Although, It's Not About the Bra is a soccer-centered book, it can be a helpful tool to any aspiring athlete, no matter what the sport. Just like Chastain, I have played sports with boys my whole life and enjoy it very much. It was very reassuring to know that there are other strong, female athletes who aren't afraid to get a few bumps and bruises out on the field. I appreciated her honesty and integrity when she admitted her faults, which led to learning experiences. It's Not About the Bra is a book whose target market audience would be female athletes, who aspire to succeed in their preferred sport and have fun doing it! It is an inspirational book that would motivate any reader to pick up a ball, get in shape and ultimately make their dreams become reality. Chastain did a beautiful job of describing both her successes and failures, which shaped her into the person and player she is today. Another piece of writing similar to It's Not About the Bra is Mind Gym by Gary Mack with David Casstevens. It is a psychological sports book written to whip the athlete's mind into as good of shape as the body, because training your mental "muscle" is half the battle.
It's about learning Sportsmanship in Soccer and other sports. I recommend it for people to read and learn the act of sportsmanship which is playing fair and by the rules of the sport. It also teaches you how to lose gracefully and behave correctly too.