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Little Eyes, Big Voices: Why Young Girls Need the Women of the Orlando Pride

The Pride are important because young girls need role models.

Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

It’s June 7, and the women of the Orlando Pride have yet to win a match this season, drawing only once while on the road visiting Reign FC. Fans are disappointed, but the support doesn’t waiver. This city stands behind the females that make up the team.

Listen, I’m a grown woman who grew up hating soccer and found inspiration watching the 99ers when I was 12. I wish I’d had local role models I could watch during my formative years. I’m so thankful that little girls today have Malala Yousafzai, Bana Alabed, Amariyanna Copeny, Emma Gonzalez, and so many more girls leading the way for the next generation. They’ve used their platforms to evoke change.

Little girls also need local heroes to inspire them, so why are the women of the Pride some of the role models little girls need?

Dedication

Despite their (so far) winless season, the women don’t stop. They’re working to learn a new system under a new coach who understands change takes time and must be implemented carefully. When seemingly half of your roster heads out for international duties and Sydney Leroux is home awaiting the arrival of her little girl, you have to figure it out and just keep going. It can’t be easy to take the pitch week in and week out knowing everyone is watching and waiting for them to bring home some points, especially when players who don’t typically start are playing more minutes than they otherwise would have seen. There’s a lesson in dedication and perseverance to be had for anyone paying attention.

Pride

The team name may be Pride, but these ladies are the pride of their countries. Little girls can read about these badass women making headlines and think it could be them one day.

They get to see Marta not only as Brazil’s treasure, but as the six-time, FIFA World Player of the Year. Not only does she leave everything she has on the field for Brazil and the Pride, but she’s using her opportunities to advocate for dogs. If you follow her on social media, you know she loves her dogs, but is also working to build a rescue and a call to action for fans to be part of the solution to help the helpless animals.

They get to see Alex Morgan larger than life on streets all over the United States — celebrities like Natalie Portman wearing kits with her name across the back. They get to see her in Maroon 5’s Girls like You video, which aims to celebrate the women of the world. More importantly, little girls get to see a talented woman make a living out of the sport she loves. They get to see her spend her vacations sharing the love of soccer with children around the world who have nothing more than a ball made from old t-shirts and be inspired.

I could keep going about the women making their countries proud with call-ups for the World Cup 2019, but here’s where I’ll let you share your who and why in the comments!

Resistance

Women are a lot of things and I think it’s pivotal that little girls know there is no mold. None of the women mentioned so far are the same or are even being recognized on this list for the same reason. Lereoux is resisting societal standards on what makes a female athlete, and even more so resisting the expectations of motherhood. She’s resisting the men on social media who hide behind screens and tell her what she should or shouldn’t be doing with her body. When a photo of Leroux went viral of her practicing while pregnant the internet had a field day. The one thing she didn’t do? She didn’t resist her doctor, the medical professional in charge of her and little girl’s well being. She knew her limits, she played it safe, and as seen in episode two of Bad as a Mother, she knew when it was time to take off her boots.

Not just in pregnancy, but Sydney is resisting the classical image of motherhood. She’s a model for girls to realize they can have careers, be it in sports or elsewhere, and be great mothers. Through her sharing on social media we see a woman and mom who jokes, laughs, and makes mistakes, and yet the world keeps spinning. I want to be Sydney when I grow up, or in my next life, and I want little girls to know they can clap back at the men and boys that have anything to say about them.

Perseverance

Carson Pickett was born without her left forearm and hand. By any and all accounts, she has a disability, but you wouldn’t know it to watch her play or listen to her talk about life as a professional soccer player. She knows that people are watching. She knows she has a platform to inspire others, not just in playing soccer, but in living a happy and successful life. She’s sharing her message that she has to control what she can control — a message any girl needs to hear regularly.

Equality and Self-Worth

Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris fall into multiple categories here, but I’m going with equality and self-worth. These two women are already role models for little girls playing soccer on small fields or in their backyards. As a couple that is playing together, engaged, and focused on their futures, how can you not be proud to have them for your little girls to look up to? They are unapologetically themselves, and work hard to make sure boundaries are in place for themselves as a couple that also has to work together.

In her story in the 23 Stories series for the USWNT social media campaign, Harris shared that she had to work hard to get where she is and how soccer saved her life. She recognized a group of people who felt unwanted, recognizing those feelings in herself, so she’s using her platform to work with those who struggle with their mental health and addiction. She wants people all over to know that their stories matter, they’re not alone, and that who they are is beautiful. Her message is simply, “Stay.” Life is hard, but it gets better. She encourages today’s youth to undeniably be themselves.


Representation matters.

It’s my motto when I’m searching for books for some of our youngest readers, and I think it’s only fitting in sports as well. It matters in the books we read, the movies we watch, the games we play, and the leadership roles that fill our lives. It especially matters for little girls, who start life loving bugs, loving soccer, loving STEM. It matters that little girls have strong role models to watch regularly so they don’t lose their loves because some YouTube video and a girl on the playground said they only need to worry about the latest makeup palette, when they can love both.

Little girls need to know they can do and be anything. Little girls need to know that they have voices that are worthy. Little girls need powerful women leading the way, and how lucky our city girls are to have these women in their backyard.