By Elizabeth Faletti, BASOC Volunteer Writer and Editor
Two-time Olympian Brandi Chastain has a habit of making history. As a member of the U.S. teams that won the first women's world soccer championship in 1991 and the first women's Olympic gold medal in 1996, Chastain's career parallels U.S. women's soccer history. She is a founding player of the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA), the United States' first professional women's soccer league which completed its inaugural season this spring. Their first championship team? Chastain's own Bay Area CyberRays!
Brandi, a proud Bay Area native, lives in San Jose with her husband Jerry Smith, women's soccer coach at Santa Clara University. She began her college career at the University of California, Berkeley in 1986, where she was Soccer America's National Freshman of the Year. She transferred to Santa Clara University in 1989 and led the Broncos to two NCAA final four appearances and was named All-American and Player of the Year in 1990.
As a spokeswoman for BASOC and the Bay Area CyberRays, Brandi enjoys the opportunity to visit schools and businesses to promote women's soccer and the San Francisco Bay Area's bid for the Olympic Games. On October 8th, Chastain and members of the 1991 world championship team (Michelle Akers, Joy Fawcett, Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Kristine Lilly, and Carla Overbeck) received a medal of honor from the National Soccer Hall of Fame. Brandi took a few moments upon her return to discuss her involvement with BASOC, her experiences as a Bay Area CyberRay, and her commitment to volunteerism.
How did you become involved with BASOC?
Anne Cribbs introduced me to BASOC. Being that I am a very proud native of the Bay Area, I was more than willing to help out.
What has your role with BASOC been up to this point?
We do luncheons and breakfasts and try to get people and sponsors involved. We share how we believe bringing the Games here is critical to the development of our community, not only economically, but to our youth - getting them exposed to the Olympics and the values and virtues that go along with it. Hopefully, with all the hard work that everybody has put in, we'll gain the acceptance of the IOC and host the Olympics here.
How do you see yourself contributing to the San Francisco Bay Area Olympic Games in 2012?
The beauty of the Olympics is that there are so many components that people don't recognize. They see the athletes, they see the coaches, and they see the international committee running it but there are so many things on a small scale that make such a big difference. I would like to be involved in community awareness. I would like to see every young boy and girl in this community have the opportunity to see at least one competition whether it's soccer, field hockey, track and field, you name it. For them to just hear the national anthem, to see the competition, to feel the excitement. Just to sit in the stadium was something that was so valuable to me. As an Olympian, being able to watch someone else's game was just riveting! I couldn't take my eyes off the field. I was just amazed by that.
I would like to be able to find a way for young kids to benefit from the Olympic experience by being a fan or by becoming a volunteer if they are old enough. Sharing the spirit of volunteerism is very important - and necessary - during the Olympic Games. Those are two ways I see myself getting involved.
Hosting an Olympic Games is an undertaking that takes tremendous community support. It's all about that volunteer spirit. Don't you agree?
No doubt. In 1984, I went to Stanford Stadium and became a volunteer for the soccer games there. Even wearing the volunteer uniform meant something to me. Ushering people to their seats - I didn't get to see very many games. In fact, I think I watched maybe 15 minutes of one game, but it was being involved with that group of people and being involved with a team that was so rewarding. That, to me, is truly what the Olympic spirit is all about - it is a great opportunity for people to reach out to their community and really make a difference.
How do you see San Jose and the surrounding communities contributing to a 2012 Olympic Games?
San Jose has a lot to offer. We have great arenas and we have stadiums that can host events. It's also a city center with a lot of communities around it that can also host events well. Being someone who has been given the blessing of making two Olympics, I see our city of San Jose, and the community of the Bay Area, as being a metropolitan place where you see different cultures and hear different languages. It seems that there's a place for everybody here, that it's a place of comfort and warmth and welcoming. I think that's very essential - especially when you have athletes coming from all over the world that need to feel those comforts and that safety. Couple all of that with the beautiful weather and the beautiful landscape we have here. I don't see the Bay Area being second to any other bid in the offering. Bottom line, the people of the Bay Area are very nice and I can see them being wonderful hosts of an Olympic Games.
What impact do you see the WUSA having on women's soccer in future Olympic Games?
Our idea is to build the women's program so that the players in the United States can participate and eventually make national teams which means playing in an Olympic Games. An underlying desire of the founding players and investors of the WUSA is to grow soccer on a global scale, having other federations around the world realize the validity of women's soccer and making it a priority in their investments, not only in time, but in money. Seeing countries such as Australia and South Korea…here are countries who have been playing soccer a long time on the men's side but now, all of the sudden, the women are getting exposure to international games. Our WUSA is providing the best female players in the world the opportunity to be a part of not only history but also the growth of their country's game. They can bring it back and they can share their experiences. Sharing our league with the world will only make us better because then we'll have to compete against a higher level internationally which includes the Olympic Games.
How have relationships changed between the U.S. Olympians in the WUSA and Olympians from other countries now that you're teammates?
I'll give you a prime example! USA versus Norway is probably one of the greatest rivalries in women's soccer. We've either played in every semifinal or in the final of every World Cup and Olympic Games. To see Kristine Lilly of the U.S. team being teammates with Dagny Mellgren from Norway (2000 Olympian) and having Kristine say, "Oh, she's so funny and so nice and we love hanging out." My reaction was, "Lil, she's Norwegian! What are you talking about..." And she said, "No, no really, you just have to get to know her." It's the same for my teammate Katia (1996 & 2000 Olympian) and I. We play against each other on a regular basis when the U.S. and Brazil compete and now we joke about the way we battle each other on the field. I think it's great for them to learn about us and for us to learn about them. And not just on the field, but also to learn about our different cultures.
Thanks Brandi, for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with us!