Foreword by Abby Wambach
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Sports offer a vital path for children to get healthy, self-confident, and social. In Be All In, three-time Olympic gold medalist, World Cup Champion, and US team captain Christie Pearce Rampone and sports neuropsychologist and brain health expert Dr. Kristine Keane offer practical, real world advice on how to handle the pressures felt by youth athletes, parents, and coaches today and provide kids with their best shot at reaching their dreams.
In contrast to outdated adages like “no pain, no gain,” the ethos of “be all in” is about being authentically present in everything you do, on and off the field. Through a unique blend of neuroscience, parenting strategies, and wisdom gleaned from the extraordinary experiences of a world-class athlete, this transformative book explains how to create realistic expectations for kids, help them succeed in all aspects of their life, improve game day performance, and reduce the stress of dealing with their coaches, ambitions,and losses.
With invaluable insight into parenting behaviors that may derail children’s performance despite best intentions, and concrete strategies for teaching accountability, confidence, self-efficacy, and resiliency, this fundamental guide has tips to support athletes of any age, sport, or level of competition.
We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.
—Franklin D. Roosevelt, address at the University of Pennsylvania, September 20, 1940
Is your kid an athlete? Maybe you played sports growing up. For so many of us parents, athletics have played an important role in our lives—from teaching us to stay fit to introducing us to lifelong friends. We want our kids to love being active, engaged team players. We want them to perform well, to be winners, and to feel proud of their accomplishments. And it can be hard to know how to make the right decisions to serve our kids along the way.
We composed this book in light of our professional and personal experiences over the past two decades, playing and working with athletes, coaches, parents, and educators. Christie Pearce Rampone, America’s most decorated professional soccer player, is a two-time FIFA World Cup champion, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, a professional and youth sports coach, and a sports commentator, and Dr. Kristine Keane, a neuropsychologist, clinical director of two multispecialty neuropsychology practices, and clinical director of a neuroscience concussion program, has been working with professional and youth athletes for the past twenty years. We met when we were contracted by a hospital to speak to parents, athletes, physicians, and coaches on concussion and sports-related topics. Working together, we quickly learned that we were both passionate and concerned about the anxiety-provoking and high-pressure mind-set that is so prevalent in modern youth sports. Our work led to countless discussions about family pressures, parental sideline behaviors, the increase in elite teams and training, and the stressors that often accompany youth sports.
Be All In was born from myriad hours of research; airing our gripes, fears, and disappointments as well as our triumphs about our own children; and countless conversations and interviews with parents, coaches, and elite athletes. Our book was written as a gift to our multisport children, to their teammates, and to all the kids who play sports around the world. It is also our gift to their parents and families, who do all the heavy lifting, transporting, working, worrying, and caring so much.
The be all in approach is about being fully present in everything you do, on and off the field, in all spheres of your life. It is an alternative to the familiar sports mind-set that is focused solely on achievements and wins; being all in means knowing what your goals are, having confidence in your training, and being fully engaged in what’s happening around you. Martin Luther King Jr. said that in order to succeed, we do not have to see the whole staircase; we only need to see each step. When Christie was a child, she never played on elite or academy soccer teams. Her family could not afford the fees or the travel requirements. Instead, she played on local travel and school soccer and basketball teams, often coached by her father. She did not attend collegiate showcase camps and never created career highlight films. She accepted her first offer to play Division I basketball for Monmouth University in New Jersey, and she was later welcomed to the soccer team as a walk-on. The US Women’s National Soccer Team invited her to practice via a letter she received when she was boarding a bus on the way to a college basketball game. She wasn’t planning it. She wasn’t pressured into it. She earned it each step of the way.
It is our hope that our readers learn alternate perspectives about how to create realistic expectations for kids, set them up for success in all aspects of their life, improve game-day performance, and reduce the stress of dealing with coaches, parents, and losses. We wrote this book because we really listened and wanted to make a difference. We are thrilled to invite you and your family to be all in with us on the journey.
Foreword by Abby Wambach
Since I played forward on Christie’s team for fifteen years, I certainly hoped to be the first pick to write this brilliant book’s foreword. Now that she has chosen me, I can finally relax and try to put into words what Christie Pearce Rampone has meant to me as a player, leader, and parent.
Christie and I were teammates for fifteen years, bus seatmates for a decade, and co-captains of the United States Women’s National Soccer Team. Now we are more like sisters than friends. Our daughters are BFFs, and we celebrate each other’s lives post-soccer just as fiercely as we ever celebrated each other on the field.
Everything I teach my kids about how to use sports to build character, I learned from Christie Pearce Rampone. I know that Christie is the correct person to write this book because every lesson and strategy between these covers was first tested on me and our national team. We were her first students and the first recipients of her brilliance.
During halftime of every game that we played for team USA, Christie and I would find each other in the locker room. I would give her my breakdown of the first half and my ideas for the second half. She would listen carefully, even repeating what I’d said back to me. Next, she would walk around and repeat this process with every other starter on our team. I’d watch her quietly absorb everything she was told. Finally, in our team huddle, right before we’d step onto the field for the second half, she would deliver our plan of attack. Every single time I was amazed, not just by her perfect game plan, but by the process she used to create it. She was—and still is—an expert at observing, synthesizing, and creating an effective plan of attack.
In her post-soccer life, it’s no surprise to me that Christie would team up with sports neuropsychologist Dr. Kristine Keane to write this book. For as long as I have known her, Christie has always wanted to give back. Christie and Dr. Keane have observed and documented some critical information about youth sports. Dr. Keane provides valuable clinical insights and the scientific underpinnings of the why and how parents can help their youth athletes. They have noticed that we seem to be forgetting some of the most important things about sports: mental toughness, accountability, fun, friendship, and becoming team players. It seems that many of us are so focused on “top of the mountain” dreams like championships, scholarships, and going pro that we have lost sight of the beauty and the wisdom that comes from the climb. Because of this, we’re no longer creating climbers—just dreamers.
I am so grateful that Christie and Dr. Keane have put all of their hard-earned wisdom into these pages, because now when my kids ask me, “How do I become great like you?” I can just hand them Be All In and say, “Here’s how.”
When it comes to sports, a lot of people focus on the end result. In professional sports in particular, people talk about the end results—who won, who underperformed, who pulled an incredible play out of nowhere. But what is often lost is any acknowledgment of all the hard work it takes to get to that moment. Those of us who play or have played at the elite level make it look easy. But there are countless hours of behind-the-scenes practice, tears, physical injuries, performance fears, embarrassment, and triumphs that occur every day. We celebrate the World Cup win, not the practice outside the trailer on a field in the middle of nowhere in New Jersey.
I have trophies, medals, and wins, but the most meaningful things to me are all the moments in between. I focus on the space between where I am and where I want to be. I let it inspire me. When you remain focused on your journey, the outcome you desire follows naturally.
I have had the time of my life playing soccer. I not only earned a spot on the US Women’s National Team; I won World Cup gold medals in 1999 and 2015, a World Cup silver medal in 2011, and two World Cup bronze medals in 2003 and 2007. I won three Olympic gold medals in 2004, 2008, and 2012, as well as an Olympic silver medal in 2000. In all these world events from 1999 to 2015, our team never finished outside the top three teams. I not only played on Olympic medal–winning teams, but I was eventually asked to be captain. I played in three professional soccer leagues including the Women’s Professional Soccer league, the National Women’s Soccer League, and the Women’s United Soccer Association, of which I was a founding member. I have two amazing children, and now that I have retired, I share my experiences with others through speaking engagements.
In the rare event when I was not on the soccer field—when I was injured, pregnant, or caring for my newborns—I’ve been fortunate to return to the game at the elite level. From the outside, it might look like someone was holding my spot, but that’s only illusion that comes from focusing on the outcome. When I left to have a child, and when I tore my ACL, nobody was sitting around waiting for me to come back. On the contrary, there were at least five women lined up to take my position. But each time, I fought and I trained and I exceeded every goal I set because I trained with a be all in mentality. For me, a be all in mentality is about understanding the big picture of what I want to accomplish. Of course I go into competition wanting to win, but over the years I have learned that winning is the wrong goal: especially when it comes to team sports, I can’t control a win on my own—there are too many other people and other factors involved. What I can control, though, is what I bring to the field. When I use practices to hone my skills, when I am confident about the team strategy, when I am focused on who I want to be on the field rather than just what I want to see on the scoreboard—that’s when I do my best. That’s when I leave the field proud of the results I’ve contributed to the team and the game.
Now, I need to be clear on this. I want the winning outcome as much as any competitor does. Maybe I want it more. So while I have always felt strongly about fully appreciating my journey rather than just the outcome, I was, and remain, fiercely competitive. It is simply who I am. Even if you and I are having a beanbag toss in your backyard, I am all strategy. And I am planning to beat you. It’s just my nature. But I have a different perspective on how to get there. My focus is always on my process, and my intention is to win.
Young athletes today are under so much pressure, and too often it’s being applied in the wrong places. Kids don’t need parents coaching them from the sidelines in the middle of a play; they need parents who can help them set their intentions on the car ride to the competition. Kids don’t need parents who speak for them; they need parents to teach them to advocate for themselves and manage their priorities. But those skills don’t come if a kid is taught that the only thing that matters is the final score. My greatest hope is that reading this book gives you the tools you need to help the athletes in your life thrive.
I have always thought that sports are a powerful place for kids to develop the skills needed for success in their adult lives—things like leadership, organization, focus, and drive. Those are just some of the skills that I know I’ve gained over my years playing professional soccer, and those lessons started from when I was a very young player (back when basketball was my main sport!). So before you dive into the chapters of the book that explain how to foster the skills that young athletes need to thrive, I want to show you what it looks like when those tools get tested.
In July 2009 I was pregnant with my second child. At the time, I was training with the US Women’s National Team and also finishing my first season with Sky Blue FC, the women’s professional soccer team based in New Jersey. I carefully timed my pregnancy so I could give birth with more than enough time to recuperate before competing for a spot to play in the World Cup. I knew the recovery would be tough, but I had succeeded before, and knew I could do it again. I would much rather recover from having a baby than from a torn ACL!
I kept my pregnancy secret from my teammates with the exception of Abby Wambach and Shannon Boxx, two of my favorite people in the world. I was medically cleared to play, but I didn’t want anyone to coddle me or treat me differently. I also didn’t want to hear any negative opinions about playing soccer while pregnant. My plan was moving along beautifully. My health was intact, and my playing was unaffected. Life was good.
Until I got to Rochester, New York.
A strong, stabbing pelvic pain came on all of a sudden, in the middle of a scrimmage with my national teammates. It stopped me dead in my tracks.
“I think something is wrong. Take it easy on me,” I whispered to Abby, national team forward, two-time Olympic gold medalist, FIFA World Cup champion, and no stranger to pain.
“I got you,” Abby whispered back.
During a water break in the middle of practice, I quietly excused myself to go to the bathroom. Normally, I never leave practice for any reason. But this time I felt like I had a good reason: I needed to check for bleeding. If I had seen any, that would have changed everything—players must pay attention to what their bodies are telling them, and if an honest self-assessment says that you’re going to do long-term damage if you keep playing, you have to sit out. If I had been bleeding, I would have gone straight to the hospital. But I wasn’t bleeding. And because I had had enough experience playing pregnant before, I knew that what I was experiencing wasn’t critical. It wasn’t great, but I could carry on until practice was over. This was something I always did. I always held myself accountable to my team, no matter what.
It sure wasn’t fun. I could barely walk by the time Coach Pia (Pia Sundhage, the coach of the national team) called it quits that day—almost quits. Pia liked to end practices with some kind of team-building exercise, and on that day she chose the crossbar challenge, in which players chip the ball from the top of the eighteen-yard line and try to hit the crossbar. Miss and you’re out; hit it and you stay in. It is a fun skill-set game. As my teammates took shots like rapid fire, in an attempt to be the first one to hit the crossbar, I took the opportunity to slowly slip away, hoping to remain unnoticed, and get to the bus. I needed to sit down. I loved the crossbar challenge, but for the first time in my life I couldn’t kick a ball.
When practice officially ended, Abby sat down next to me. She leaned into me carefully, which made me bristle. No coddling.
“Are you okay?”
I closed my eyes and focused on the mantras I always used to make it through pain.
Mind over matter.
Pain is weakness leaving the body.
The pain you feel today will be the strength you feel tomorrow.
Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.
That evening, I tried to sleep off the pain in my hotel room. By the middle of the night, my pain was driving me to insanity. My usual narrative of fighting, ignoring, and triumphing over pain was no longer working, to put it mildly. I felt myself moving in and out of consciousness.
All night I pushed my body to fight the pain. To ignore it. That is what I was trained to do. But I knew it was finally time to listen. Greg, our team trainer, drove me to a nearby hospital.
After hours of waiting around, I was told I would need an emergency hysterectomy. In shock, I signed the papers put in front of me and was wheeled into surgery within the hour. I wasn’t entirely sure what was happening, but I was so worn down from the pain, I could hardly respond. I was put under anesthesia and the last thing I remember thinking was that I would be okay with whatever came next.
When I woke up, I was alone. I sat in my hospital bed for what felt like hours, wondering if I would ever be able to have a child again. I had no access to my phone. My anesthesia hangover was wearing off and I could feel the morphine numbing my senses. But it did not dull my feelings. I felt an overwhelming sense of emptiness. My thoughts ran wild. Rylie would never have a little sister or brother. The surgery would negatively affect my athletic performance. I might never play on the national team again. I was shattered.
When the nurse finally came to my room, she casually said the surgery was a success and talked about hormone replacements and medicine. The nurse said the surgeon had repaired a ruptured ovarian cyst and said my pregnancy was completely normal… my pregnancy was intact! I couldn’t hear a word she said after she told me that my baby was okay.
I had my baby. I could play.
I was flooded with relief.
I couldn’t have been more grateful.
Two Weeks Later
Once I recovered from surgery, I returned home to play for my professional club team in New Jersey, Sky Blue FC. The team was having a difficult season, with a record of six wins, seven ties, and five losses, and was in fifth place with two games left. Even though I’d gotten the green light—my pregnancy was healthy—I still kept it hidden from my teammates. This wasn’t going to be about me. They were my home team, and they were like family. I wanted them to succeed and not be distracted or worried about me.
When I played for the national team, I was provided with comfortable travel accommodations, hotels, and lodging around the world. We were given three meals a day, all tailored to our individual needs. We were provided with medical care and massage therapy. Even our hydration was looked after regularly. All I had to do was focus on playing soccer. It was my living dream.
Sky Blue FC did not enjoy the same resources. Housing was scarce. My teammates lived in an extended-stay hotel to save money. There were no showers or treatment rooms in our locker areas. At one point we even had to use a trailer as a locker room. Our practice fields were also poorly kept. Most of our health-care providers volunteered their time for the love of the team.
As the captain of Sky Blue, I made it my mission to make sure my teammates had everything they needed even if it meant doing it all myself. I didn’t want them distracted by better-funded teams. Success is about being focused, executing a plan, and trusting one another enough to evolve when the action gets intense. Sure, having cushy housing and a huge staff can make it easier to give all your attention to the game, but it can also coddle you. I wanted to teach my teammates how to focus on the game no matter how grim the circumstances.
I became the team mom for Sky Blue. I washed all my teammates’ game-day jerseys in my own home. I regularly held dinners for my teammates. I listened to their stories and often gave advice about their personal relationships (when they asked!) and how they might improve their playing. I took my role to heart. I knew the team saw me not only as their trainer and captain, but also as protector and caretaker.
The day I returned to the team after my surgery, my general manager asked me to deliver the bad news: our head coach had been unexpectedly asked to leave his position one month ago after an issue with a player, and our assistant coach was leaving as well. Given my role on the team, the general manager thought this news would be best coming from me. When I told my teammates, I saw defeat and fear in every one of their eyes. We were already having a losing season. Now our coaching staff had completely disintegrated in a matter of a few months.
After practice, the general manager asked me if I would consider coaching the team for the remainder of the season. He knew I was recovering from surgery, but he had no idea I was pregnant. I had just been cleared to return to personal training two times a day and was already working more than forty-five hours a week with my schedule of meetings, interviews, events. It was a grueling schedule, and I had to check in with myself to see if I was up for it. But after careful consideration, I knew I had to step up. My team needed a leader, and I had the skills to set a good example, motivate the players, and set goals that would inspire everyone to do her best work. What was good for my team would be good for me.
I said yes. I would continue to play on the team as their center defender and coach my teammates simultaneously. Two weeks after surgery. While pregnant. No problem. I didn’t even ask for a contract.
When I agreed to take on my dispirited team at the end of a losing season, I wasn’t taking on these women just to get them to the end of the season with a coach. I fully intended to turn the season around. We didn’t necessarily have the league’s best individual players, but I knew we could be the best team collectively. And great teams win championships.
My first order of business was to ask my personal trainer, Mike Lyons, to be my assistant coach. We had very similar perspectives on coaching and communicating. Good communication was going to be critical to making sure that everybody was on board with our mission. The fastest way to derail a team is to confuse the mission: when people don’t understand the goals, don’t know the strategies, or haven’t bought into the process, they go rogue. This leads to chaos—and chaos leads to failure. Once Mike accepted, I set out to create a plan for each game leading up to the playoffs. My focus was to address the games one at a time—every game was going to be different, and we needed to assess the skills of every team we were going to play in order to develop a strategy that would help us win. I did my homework, plotted carefully, and considered each of the opposing teams’ unique history, players, and previous playing styles and tactics. Coach Lyons then implemented my plans from the sidelines. We created multiple formations and possible scenarios, and we communicated with each other and the team to make necessary adjustments during game time.
My second order of business was to restore morale. I implemented a zero-negativity policy for the team. There would be no discussions about the past—or the future, for that matter. Their focus was to be on the present state of the team and on each game. I didn’t want to dwell on our past losses or ponder the possibility of a win. I didn’t want them to be thinking about their personal stats. I wanted them to trust that I had a winning plan for everything that we were going to encounter, and they needed to focus on the plan in order to succeed. We might not have fielded the best players, but we could be unstoppable if we worked together and worked smart. I knew our genuine connection on and off the field meant we would have the confidence and the wisdom to rely on one another. If only my team could believe in themselves again.
My third and most important goal was to bring back our passion for the game. Many coaches would approach training a team like Sky Blue by imposing long hours and repetitive drills, especially given their losing season. But I knew my teammates would view that as punishment. I needed to bring the fun back into their game. Fitness and drills are important, but scrimmaging and challenging teammates are what we live for. With that in mind, I began practice with four-versus-four scrimmages. I wanted to bring back not just their playing awareness but also their love for the game. I knew this would bring back the competitive edge we had been missing all season.
I was forthcoming right off the bat about my own limitations as a coach—I had no idea how to create film for the team to review, and I didn’t have the time to learn how. Instead, I asked my teammates to independently watch clips of their games and bring any questions to me and Coach Lyons. There were two major benefits to this: I learned how each player saw herself individually and relative to her teammates on the field, and my players began to cultivate more self-awareness. By making the players responsible for their own review, I was giving them the opportunity to develop their self-assessment skills. Watching film gave the athletes the opportunity to review the moments when they were successful, as well as where they needed to improve. The film provided time for the players to see their options on the field and how to handle those situations next time. I was holding them accountable while building their confidence in their individual games.
My plan worked. To my utter delight, Sky Blue won the first game I coached, and soon after, we made it to the national playoffs! The team was excited. We were having fun again, and we were playing with passion.
We would have to win all three of our games over the next eight days to win the national championship. We would have to travel four hundred miles, over three different time zones, and would have to practice and recover while on the road. I continued to remind the team to stay in the present: “We are going to take one game at a time, just like we’ve been doing. No need to look ahead to the championship. We are going to enjoy this journey. We have nothing to lose!”
In the first game of the playoffs, we faced an incredible Washington, DC, team led by Abby Wambach. We had recently lost to Washington, 3–1, in the last game of the season, only to play them as our first-round playoff game. I knew I would need to concentrate on our mental preparation more than our physical preparation. I spoke to the team about focusing on the game plan and letting go of any negative mental blocks they had acquired in the last game against Abby and her team.
Our game plan was simple: we needed to force the DC team to play their game down the middle in order to shut Abby down. We executed our plan flawlessly. Abby was forced to play the game differently than she was accustomed to, and we gave her very little opportunity to do what she does best: finishing crosses. Thanks to our intense focus, we won the game with a tight score of 2–1. We gained an immense amount of confidence that day.
The next playoff game was held in St. Louis. This team was led by Jorge Barcellos, a highly accomplished Brazilian national team coach, and the US Women’s National Team goalkeeper coach. Mental preparation would again be paramount. I didn’t want anyone intimated by the stakes of the game or the reputations of the opposing coaches and players. I immediately set out to reframe their nerves. I wanted to shift their fear of defeat to the thrill of the game. I told them I played some of my best games against the toughest, most difficult-to-beat athletes. I taught them that anxiety before a game is fuel.
- "An essential manual for a sports parent. It's a compelling look at the role from someone living it."—Forbes
- "A terrific primer for both youngsters who participate in youth sports and their parents."—New York Post
- "Should be required reading for any coach or parent who wants their child to play sports, regardless of the level. Informative, nourishing reading for parents and coaches and their young charges."—Kirkus Reviews
- "Backed by considerable experience, knowledge, and common sense, Rampone and Keane's game plan should be required reading for all student athlete parents and coaches."—Booklist
- Normal0falsefalsefalseEN-USX-NONEX-NONEMicrosoftInternetExplorer4 "Expertly written and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, Be All In: Raising Kids for Success in Sports and Life will prove to be an invaluable guide for parents, caregivers and coaches with respect to children of any age engaging in an athletic activity of any kind."—MidwestBook Review
- "As a parent, coach, and member of society, I find that we are too caught up in raising our future generation to succeed, and we lose sight of the most fundamental key to success: finding your passion. My parents taught me from a young age that loving what you're doing is more important than winning, which ultimately built the foundation for my success. Be All In perfectly embodies the importance of helping children find where their passion lies and encourages them to build on it rather than focus on the pressure of winning."—Shawn Johnson East,US Olympic Gymnast
- "If ever there were authoritative voices in youth sports, it's Rampone and Keane. Be All In gives young athletes and their parents the perfect formula for balancing competitiveness, confidence, and compassion."—HarleyA. Rotbart, M.D., professor emeritus of pediatrics at University of Colorado and authorof No Regrets Parenting and 940 Saturdays
- "Be All In is a vital read for parents and coaches. Rampone's success on the field and Dr. Keane's studies in the field combine to create a knowing, scientifically backed primer for those looking to navigate the youth sports world and live to tell the tale."—Ken Davidoff, baseball columnist at New York Post
- "Be All In brings heart, hustle, and focus back to the forefront of the conversation in youth sports, in a way that helps athletes develop the inner drive that helped Christie Pearce Rampone become one of the best athletes in the world. This powerful fusion of theory and practice creates a priceless and refreshing view of sports, and how we can guide the youth sports experiences to create champions in sports and in life. I am ALL IN for Be All In and you should be too!"—Dr.Jen Welter, Founder of Grrridiron Girls & first female NFL coach
- On Sale
- Aug 18, 2020
- Page Count
- 304 pages
- Grand Central Publishing