We’ve been busy
at R & R. Perhaps you’ve noticed that we’ve cleaned up the front porch,
so it is easier to come in, sit a spell, and visit. Just as we were changing the
linens in the guestroom, our old friend LTC Wayne Kirkbride, also known to south
Georgia wrestling fans as Coach Kirkbride, showed up with the US Women’s
Soccer Team—well, an article on them. Those great athletes should be
impressed, since this is their second appearance with us. Of course, last time,
they had to share space with Nikita Krushchev. Thanks for your newest insights,
Col. Kirkbride. You keep on keeping our hearts full of noble thoughts, and
we’ll keep on keeping our feet dry. Mike
Copyright © 1999 by LTC Wayne
Kirkbride, All rights reserved
the success of the United States Women's World Cup Soccer Team, we have all had
an opportunity to see sport for what it was designed to be—two opponents
trying to beat each other while following a set of rules for the glory of
winning a prize and nothing more.
This occurs all the time, and all we have to do
is watch a pick up game of basketball or little league, high school, or college
sports. Teams play for the bragging rights of the best in the city or the best
in the state or even play just to beat the one rival on the schedule. Auburn and
Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas, Florida and FSU, and, of course, Army-Navy come to
mind as great rivalries—so great that the rest of the season did not matter
when compared to the outcome of that game.
As we get into pro sports (and maybe college
football and basketball), the almighty dollar rears its head, and the attitude
surrounding sports changes. Many will make a comfortable living from a
professional sports career, but for the 99 percent of the athletes that don't,
the Women's Cup reminded us of sports for the reason of sports. The statistics
are that 93 % of all starting varsity football players will not play in college
and that only 7% of starting college football players will make it to the pros.
A great ad reminded us that there are fewer than 70 new jobs in the NBA each
year compared to 250,000 new jobs in management.
So, the odds are that many of our players will be
playing for the last time a highly structured program in high school and, those
that continue on, will end their career in college. Yet, those who do not
continue to the pros will play in summer leagues and church leagues and on
intra-mural programs as they compete for the sport of it.
At the risk of adding one more story to the never
ending saga of the team, this is what I saw as I watched the game. First of all,
the team was accustomed to winning. The 1991 team won the first Women's World
Cup in China in 1991 and won the gold medal in the first-ever Olympic women's
soccer tournament in Atlanta in 1996. Second, the team knew that hard work was
the order of the day—both in preparation for the grueling tournament and for
the championship game with China. Third, and maybe most importantly, I saw a
group of girls (or should I say women) playing as a team. There were stars to be
sure, but what I saw on that championship day was a team of players.
So, as the game unfolded, we saw our players
playing the game of their lives. Several players had played in 1991 and were
ready emotionally and physically for the game. For the uninitiated, it seemed as
if nothing had happened, because at the end of regulation time (90 minutes of
soccer with no time outs) the score was tied 0-0. Then came the two sudden death
overtime periods of 15 minutes each. There were a lot of penetrations of the
defenses during the two hours of play, but not goals. There were a lot of good
offensive plays thwarted by equally good defensive plays during that time.
Somewhere during the 90th minute, our best player, Michelle Akers, left the game
due to fatigue which was compounded by being hit in the head by her own teammate
in a wild flurry to clear the ball away from the goal. Although she had been the
inspirational leader, her replacement came in without missing a beat and the
team continued to play together as a team.
We saw players doing what had to be accomplished
in order to win. At one point, as the game was winding down in regulation play,
China was awarded a corner kick. The corner kick is one of the most dangerous
plays because anything can happen as the ball bounces around and is kicked or
headed (hit by the forehead) in the vicinity of the goal. The kick also comes in
an arc, and it is difficult to determine the exact impact. As the crowd held its
breath (and doubtlessly many of us watching on TV), the Chinese kicker kicked
the ball into the crowd, and it ricocheted toward the goal beyond the
outstretched hands of the goalkeeper. A gasp turned into a cheer as one of our
girls headed the ball back into the playing field and as another player kicked
the ball far down field and away from danger.
Then, after 30 minutes of overtime, we were down
to the penalty kicks as each team selected 5 players to take a shot on the goal
against the goalkeeper alone. To think that 120 minutes of play comes down to 10
shots is hard to comprehend. But that is the overtime rule for soccer. So, the
first Chinese kicked and scored. She was matched by the American and the score
was 1-1. In the second round both teams scored and the score was 2-2. However,
in the third round, the American goalkeeper, Briana Scurry, deflected the
Chinese shot on goal, and the American made her shot to give the United States a
3-2 lead which was upped to 4-3 in the fourth round and ended up 5-4 in the
fifth round as Brandi Chastain sealed the victory with a kick beyond the
outstretched hands of the Chinese goalkeeper.
So, who was the hero? Brandi Chastain for kicking
the final point? Any one of the five who kicked the penalty shots? Briana
Scurry, the goalkeeper who deflected one shot? Michelle Akers who played her
heart out and was named the most valuable player of the game? The player who
saved the goal in the final minutes by heading the ball out of the goal area, or
the second player who kicked it way down field? I think that the hero was all of
these and more, because the entire team did what it had to do and did it well.
This returns us to high school sports because at
this point in the season, everyone is preparing for the next season. The
off-season conditioning is the most important phase, and it builds the base for
the competition. Most do this because it is the right thing to do. Many are
spending time learning techniques and skills needed to do well during the
season. My wrestlers learned a takedown which should propel them into the next
level of competition. Many are dreaming dreams and working to achieve those
These athletes are learning the value of hard
work and the importance of staying with a task until completion. In a microwave
society, everything gets done quickly. But a real accomplishment is built over a
long time, and our athletes know they get better one mile at a time, one
repetition of an event at a time, one free throw at a time, one more pushup and
one more sit-up.
Dan Gable, perhaps the greatest freestyle
wrestler and college coach in US history, was undefeated in high school and
throughout his collegiate career. However, in the finals of the last tournament
he wrestled in college, he was defeated. He did not give up but set his sights
on the 1972 Olympic games and was so focused in his training that he did not
have a point scored upon him as he gained a gold medal. When asked why he
trained so rigorously, he replied, "Right now a Russian and an Iranian are
trying to beat me. If I do not train as hard as they do, they will beat
me." Many of our athletes are preparing to beat Tift County, Shaw of
Columbus, Sequoyah, and other schools. The lessons they will learn as they
prepare will do them well in life.
Finally, each of our athletes learn there are
lessons that must be followed in life. In wrestling, or example, there are times
that you can lock your hands and times that your opponent will be awarded
penalty points if you lock your hands. You must know and apply the rules
according to the situation. This lesson, maybe above all other rules, helps
athletes do well in life.
There are two quotes that are worth repeating as
I finish this article on the value of sports. During World War II, General
Marshall stated, "I am looking for an officer for a secret and dangerous
mission. I am looking for a West Point football player." The second is akin
to the first because General Douglas MacArthur, while he was Superintendent of
West Point, stated, "Upon the fields of friendly strife are sewn the seeds,
that upon other fields, on other days, will bear the fruits of victory."
So, our 1999 Women's World Cup Soccer Team
reminds us that sports are good for us and that the lessons we learn in
competition can carry over to our everyday life.
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