On the Field with ... Julie Foudy


By Matt Christopher

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ebook (Digital original)


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The number one sports writer for kids presents a biography of Julie Foudy, who was a co-captain of the Gold Medal-winning U.S. women’s Olympic soccer team in 1996 and played on the U.S. National Team that won the Women’s World Cup in 1999. Photos.



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First eBook Edition: December 2009

Hachette Book Group

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New York, NY 10017

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ISBN: 978-0-316-09411-5

Chapter One: 1971–1984

The Soccerette

In 1991, shortly after the U. S. women's national soccer team won the inaugural Women's World Cup, star midfielder Julie Foudy spoke to a reporter about what women's soccer meant to her.

"Some people have doubts where women's soccer will go," she said. "We [the United States] don't have a culture for soccer. It would be great for girls to have soccer role models. I couldn't name one woman soccer player when I was growing up. I didn't know much about it."

No one has any doubts about women's soccer anymore. Thanks to the efforts of Julie Foudy and her teammates on the national team, today women's soccer is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. Wherever they go, Julie and her teammates are greeted like rock stars, as hundreds of young girls and boys clamor for their autographs. In less than a decade, women's soccer has gone from being an obscure sport that received little attention to one that now often leads the nightly sports report on television.

Julie Foudy is one of the major reasons that transformation has taken place. She is not only one of the most talented women's soccer players in the world, she is also one of the game's great ambassadors, a player whose contributions on the field have been matched by those off the field. In her wake, literally millions of young girls have discovered the joy of playing soccer. Her story is nothing less than the story of women's soccer in America.

Julie's parents met in the late 1950s. Jim Foudy was a lieutenant in the United States Army when he was introduced to a nursing student named Judy at a party on the army base in Tacoma, Washington. Three years later, in 1962, they married.

The young couple worked hard to save money and moved to northern California in 1963 when their first son, Michael, was born. A year later, they had another son, named Jeffrey, and three years later, they had a daughter named Kristin.

In 1967, the family moved south to the small city of Mission Viejo, south of Los Angeles. Jim Foudy left the military and worked as a manufacturer's representative. On January 23, 1971, the Foudys' last child was born, a daughter they named Julie.

Julie tried to keep up with her older siblings as soon as she could walk. When she saw Michael, Jeffrey, and Kristin playing basketball or baseball, skateboarding on the sidewalk, or diving into their swimming pool, Julie wanted to try, too. She was very precocious and very well coordinated and active.

Like everyone else in the family, she loved watching and playing sports. Julie never even noticed that most of the sports she and her family watched on television were played by men. She just assumed that when she was old enough, she would be able to start playing organized sports. Yet until about twenty years ago, it was rare for a girl to play sports. Schools allowed girls to compete on only a few teams, like gymnastics, tennis, track, and basketball. People thought that sports like football and baseball were too demanding for girls to play. Very few youth leagues existed for girls in any sport, and in many communities, girls were not allowed to compete in boys' leagues.

But that began to change in the 1970s. Women demanded equal rights in all areas of society, including sports. Some spectacular performances by women athletes at the Olympics and in some other sports helped open up the world of competitive athletics to women. In tennis, for example, star player Billie Jean King made headlines when she was challenged by an older men's champion, Bobby Riggs, to a match. She shocked the world by defeating him. And in the famous Boston Marathon, a footrace of more than twenty-six miles, several women silenced critics who said it was impossible for a female to run that far. They sneaked onto the starting line and didn't just finish the race but beat men in the process.

People began to realize there was no reason to keep girls from playing sports and that, in fact, playing sports was good for girls. Not only did it make them physically stronger and healthier, it gave them confidence.

Whenever the kids in Julie's neighborhood got together to play football, basketball, or other sports, Julie was one of the first kids on the field. She played basketball with boys and girls on driveway courts, and sandlot tackle football at the local elementary school.

There was no stopping her. Julie was one of the best athletes in her neighborhood. She was strong, fast, and tough. When she got knocked down or skinned her knee, she didn't run home crying. She just got up and charged back into the game.

Julie was lucky. Southern California was one of the first places in the country to establish leagues for girls to play sports. And she had so much energy that her parents encouraged her to play. Her father coached her team in the all-girl Bobby Sox baseball league. When her sister, Kristin, took up tennis, Julie did, too. She even went surfing at the beach like her older brothers. But Julie's favorite sport, even when she was very little, was soccer.

Games similar to soccer have been around for thousands of years. Even the ancient Greeks played a game like today's soccer. But the modern game of soccer was developed in England in the 1860s. Since the game demanded little special equipment, except for a ball suitable for kicking, it quickly became very popular. British sailors spread the game all over the world, and in 1904, an organization called Fédération Internationale des Football Associations (FIFA) was formed to manage the game throughout the world.

Although the United States joined FIFA in 1913 and even participated in the first World Cup, a competition between soccer-playing nations, in 1930, the game was never as popular in the United States as baseball, football, or basketball was. Most participants were new immigrants to the United States. Although some colleges fielded teams, few high schools played the sport.

A professional men's league, the North American Soccer League, formed in 1968. But apart from a few years in the early 1970s when Brazilian star Pele, the greatest soccer player of all time, played, the league wasn't very successful and didn't get very much attention. Most of the players were from Europe or South America. The games were rarely on television, and usually only a few thousand fans watched from the stands. Americans had a hard time relating to a sport few of them had played before.

There weren't organized leagues for children in the United States until 1962. But that year in California, the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) was created in California with nine teams.

The group grew slowly at first, but by the time Julie was growing up, soccer was starting to be more popular with kids and their parents. It was easy to learn to play and didn't require lots of equipment, and many parents thought it was safer than football or baseball. Although it was still predominantly a game for boys in most areas of the world, the AYSO also had leagues for girls.

Julie was introduced to the game of soccer by her brothers. Every time they'd practice in the backyard, kicking the soccer ball back and forth, Julie demanded to play. By the time she was six years old, she could dribble the ball so well it was as if it were attached to her feet by a string. In fact, she was so good that older kids often asked her to play with them.

Julie begged her parents to allow her to play on an AYSO team, but she had to wait until she was seven years old before she was eligible to join. For Julie, the best thing about turning seven was signing up for soccer.

Julie was one of the most talented girls in the league, already skilled at playing both offense and defense. To take advantage of her abilities, her coach had her play midfielder, the same position she plays today.

The midfielder occupies an important position on a soccer team, for he or she has responsibility on both offense and defense. The midfielder is involved in virtually every play, and the position requires all-around skill and stamina.

The midfielder is often referred to as the quarterback of the team, calling out plays, directing traffic, and serving almost as a coach on the field. When the other team has the ball, the midfielder is typically the first line of defense. The midfielder is expected to challenge the opposition as they start upfield, and to try to steal the ball by tackling the offensive player, intercept passes, or disrupt the attack simply by getting in the way and slowing them down.

On offense, the midfielder often starts the attack by moving the ball across the midfield and sending it ahead to the forwards. Although midfielders sometimes score goals and collect assists as they follow play into the offensive zone, the forwards usually do most of the scoring. But the midfielder plays a vital role in a team's success.

Julie, one of the AYSO league's top scorers, made the all-star team in her very first season. The next year, when she turned eight years old, she was selected to play for a traveling club team, sort of an all-star team that traveled throughout California playing other club teams. Julie's team was called the Soccerettes.

For the next few years, the Soccerettes played against teams of older players. Even against better competition, Julie remained one of the best players on her team and one of the better players in her age group in California. The Soccerettes were so successful that when Julie was in seventh grade, they got to travel to Norway to play in a tournament.

Julie enjoyed her trip to Europe almost as much as she loved playing soccer. When she returned home, she started spending almost every spare minute after school playing soccer, either with her team or by herself, trying to get better. She shot a soccer ball against the garage door of her parents' house for hours almost every day. Eventually, her father had to replace the door!


On Sale
Dec 19, 2009
Page Count
128 pages

Matt Christopher

About the Author

Matt Christopher is the best-selling name behind more than 100 sports-themed books for young readers.

Learn more about this author