Recently there was an amazing photo that went viral of a bride and her bridesmaids re-enacting Brandi’s 1999 world-class, world-changing moment. It made quite an impression on me (just ask, oh, anyone I spoke to for the following few weeks!).
Then to my complete surprise, the bride herself, a teacher named Brittany Senator, reached out to me separately as a fan of Soccer Sisters. She loves the books and shares them with her students. It was too serendipitous to ignore. I just had to find out more and connect her with Brandi, who had already seen the photo on social media and was touched by it.
What happened next? Love Fest, natch.
Brandi told me later that it took her a little while to write back to Brittany because she was so moved by her words – even brought to tears. Not only is Brittany a beautiful writer, but she also captures so much of what soccer means and articulates how the legacy of that moment affected generations of young girls, some of whom are now women teaching young girls.
If you remember that moment – or it’s something you vaguely recall – I suggest you go back and watch that kick, that joy, and that CLUTCHNESS that inspired millions of girls in this country to follow their dreams.
Thank you, Brittany, for allowing me to share this, and thank you always to Brandi, for continuing to be our friend and inspiring us.
Good Morning Brandi!
This so experience has been so surreal. I’ll (attempt) to keep it short, because I never in a million years thought I’d be able to share this story with you ladies. All of my bridesmaids were former teammates. Six of them, including my maid of honor, were my college teammates – we played together at Webster University (St. Louis, MO.) Out of the other two, I played rec with one growing up, and the other grew up playing with my maid of honor.
That photo has always been very important to all of us. Our ages range a couple of years, but I was 9 years old in 1999 on that glorious day. I will never forget that day and the way it changed my life. Without that day/photo/victory, I can’t say for certain that we would have all fallen in love with the game the way we did, and I may have never met my best friends. Bonus points, I also ended up marrying one of my defenders’ brothers, so I may have never met my husband. I owe everything I have to the game, and the game owes everything to you. We all went from awkward tomboys to someone with a hero we/the world could identify. Watching that PK truly was the most magical moment of my life.
Being a USWNT fan has been as big a part of my identity as being a player. In college, we always had USWNT, but mostly ’99ers memorabilia hanging around the house. We drove 15 hours to Winnipeg in 2015 to watch the Cup. We watched Dare to Dream every morning on game days (and of course the morning of the wedding.) I think you’ll also get a kick out of my maid of honor’s Halloween costume our senior year of college (I’ll attach a picture.)
I think it just came naturally that everything in this wedding needed to be soccer-themed. When I got engaged, I was wearing a Carli Lloyd tank top. When I asked my girls to be bridesmaids, I made them all retro throwback 90’s “Scally Wedding” jerseys. For my bachelorette party, my girls surprised me with USA gear for everyone, and a World Cup to carry around Beale Street all day. Saturday, that is, because Friday night we ended up staying in and scrimmaging in the back yard. My captain from my freshman year of college got ordained online so that she could officiate our ceremony.
The ’99 photo has always been important to us: I have the Sports Illustrated framed in my house and look at it every day, and when the idea came to me, and I ran it by my bridesmaids, there was no doubt in our minds that we had to re-create it.
It was the last photo we took of the day, before heading to the reception. We all genuinely thought there was a good chance we’d get too into it and rip a dress. It was the only photo of the day that I made the photographer show me to make SURE we got it. We nailed it first try (of course, we’ve had that emotion built up for 18 years.) My only regret was that I should have held my veil in my right hand!
I never dreamed I’d get the chance to say this to you, but on behalf of myself, and all of my bridesmaids, thank you for everything, Brandi. You were our first-ever hero, and continue to be. Years back, when the WPS was in St. Louis, and you came to play against Athletica, I was so determined to meet you and get an autograph. I thought it was going to be impossible, as everyone else there wanted to as well. Understandably, a lot of players would sign a handful, and then get on their way. I stood in the bleachers and watched you, as the sun went down and other players rushed off, take the time to talk to every single person, shake every single hand, and sign every single autograph. You took the time to talk to children who weren’t even born in 1999 and couldn’t yet grasp your impact on the game, little girls didn’t yet understand that their clubs existed because of you and your crew. I remember growing up, and all of the press that you did, and how hard you all worked to grow the sport, and to spread your passion and love for the game. Watching you, 10 years later, STILL taking the time to sell your sport, made such an impact on me as a young woman. I was just as inspired by you as a 19-year-old that day as I was as a 9-year-old. You listened to every fan, including me, who was star-struck.
I believe women’s soccer requires more heart than any other sport in the world, and I firmly believe that tone was set by you. My soccer story is nothing compared to yours, but you were such a big part of mine, and every girl playing the game now. I wanted to be a midfielder but ended up breaking my neck in a club game, and was told I could no longer head the ball after having a spinal fusion. I ended up switching to goalkeeper to keep playing, and played that all the way through college. Your versatility as a player and ability to adapt to new positions inspired me. While rehabbing, I watched Dare to Dream, and World at Their Feet constantly. You, Mia, Michelle, Julie, Joy, Carla, Shannon, Tiffeny, Brianna, all of you did more for me than any physical therapist ever could have. I just wanted to thank you for that.
I will never be able to thank you ladies enough for what you have done for the game. As someone who works in an elementary school all day, I can tell you, your legacy continues.
Thank you, Brandi, for being able to take them left-footed. When I originally posted the photo I captioned it, “The two happiest days of my life.” I truly mean it. I hope you can look at that photo, and see 9 women who grew up to become best friends because you inspired them to chase after their dreams years before they had ever met.