Joy Fawcett made a penalty kick against China in the 1999
World Cup overtime shootout, too. It's just that Fawcett didn't celebrate by
taking off her shirt. Among other things, that wouldn't be seemly for the woman
known to her U.S. soccer teammates as "Momma."
The honorific reflects both Fawcett's place in the sport's gender
revolution, as one who helped nurture women's international competition through
its infant days, and her more recently acknowledged status as "America's No. 1
She was a charter member in that club of pioneers who played the sport on
its highest level and also promoted the sport with endless clinics and
community activities, creating a following of suburban parents and young girls
slyly referred to as the "pony-tailed hooligans."
Sunday, when the United States commences play in the 2003 World Cup against
Sweden in Washington, D.C., Fawcett will line up at her familiar spot on
Foudy (231) have appeared more often.
"She's got a 9 year old, a 6 year old and a 2 year old," teammate and close
friend Shannon MacMillan said of Fawcett, "and with each kid she's gotten
better, stronger, fitter. She's the first to line up for a sprint, the first to
take you on in a drill. And she'll beat you. The fact that she came back from
three kids shows that you can be an athlete, one of the best, and still be a
Within days of the birth of her third daughter, in June of 2001, Fawcett
began posting a weekly "diary of a sports mom" on the Internet, which included
recommended workout regimens she had devised, mostly on her own, through her
three pregnancies. She returned to her team, the now-defunct WUSA's San Diego
Spirit, six weeks after giving birth, and the first time she touched the ball,
hit the crossbar. The Spirit, which had been struggling without her,
immediately won six consecutive games.
And mothers began to seek Fawcett out after games, at the supermarket, at
her daughters' school, to declare their admiration. "They just tell me they
have this many kids, that I've inspired them, things like that," she said.
"You know, with my first daughter, there wasn't that much information.
Doctors had no clue about women working out when they're pregnant. I was doing
sprints when I was about three months pregnant with my first and the doctor
says, 'Oh, God; don't do that!' So I quit. It freaked me out.
"The second one, I pushed more. And I had a different doctor. I did some
stadiums [steps], lifted weights. The third, I would do ... whatever. The big
thing is heart rate and temperature; as long as you pay attention to those.
"I was running and lifting weights in my ninth month. And I tried to make
my same times. My husband would run with me sometimes. His only rule was, 'Just
don't beat me when you're nine months pregnant.'"
In certain circles, of course, Hamm and Brandi Chastain have acquired the
greater reputations. Or Foudy, Lilly, Tiffeny Milbrett. Still, if the
long-running success of women's soccer in this country - the WUSA
notwithstanding - is the athletic version of "Cats," then Fawcett, at 35 the
oldest of the group, most certainly is among the esteemed Grizzabellas who have
refused to get off the stage.
"Playing next to Joy," Chastain said, "I'm going to compare to a young
player playing next to Michael Jordan. She's a champion, grace under pressure,
knows what it takes to win. There's a confidence she exudes by her actions."
Milbrett describes Fawcett as "somebody of such silent strength."
Just this spring, Fawcett underwent surgery to repair bone spurs in her
ankle and was back to Spirit practice in 12 days, back in a game in 16 days.
Plus, there are those three pregnancies that barely interrupted her 16 years on
the national team.
Hers is a tale of divergent yet inseparable developments. Because Fawcett
and her generation of players were both talented and tireless in promoting
their sport, they gained a sudden, suprising popularity, boosted mightily by
the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the '99 World Cup. And that led to the economic
wherewithal for the Fawcetts - Joy and husband Walter - to provide for
daughters Katey, Carli and Maddy while Joy structured her schedule for soccer
training and competition.
"The family always was a priority for us, always No. 1," said Walter,
primarily a stay-at-home computer consultant in Southern California. "What has
allowed us to do this so far was the way the popularity of the women's game has
taken off. That meant there was more going for Joy from a career perspective.
It allowed me not to work and to take care of the kids."
That includes exotic travel. "Katey, being the oldest, has been to Sweden,
"Carli went to Australia twice. We were checking into a flight once when
somebody told me that I didn't belong in the Executive Premier line and I said,
'You're right. I don't, but she does,' and I pointed to Carli, who's 6."
U.S. coach April Heinrichs marvels at how Fawcett "makes motherhood look
easy, and it's not easy. She deals with stress very, very well. She's a loving
human being, and she's a quiet, confident, composed woman."
One of nine children herself, Fawcett is accustomed to family activity -
Walter describes get-togethers with in-laws and cousins as "chaos" - with a
heavy dose of athletic competition. "We broke some windows and killed a lot of
grass playing in the backyard," she said of her childhood.
In the midst of setting scoring records as a three-time All-American at
Cal-Berkeley (where she and Walter met), Fawcett was summoned to the fledgling
U.S. national team before her sophomore season. When she made her international
debut - Aug. 3, 1987 in Tianjin, China - the team was in only its third year
of existence and had played just 15 games, going 7-7-1. Since then, the
Americans are 217-40-29.
Hamm and Lilly also made their national-team debuts that day, a year before
Chastain and Foudy would arrive on the scene and four years before Milbrett.
Fawcett, in fact, would score her first goal for the United States (in December
of '87) a year before Hamm - international soccer's career scoring leader -
got her first goal.
When the first Women's World Cup materialized in 1991, Fawcett had just
gotten her physical education degree from Cal. National team members weren't
paid yet and, of course, the WUSA still was 10 years away, so Fawcett took a
coaching job at Long Beach City College. "I don't even think I looked forward
to the next World Cup," she said. "I thought, once college was over, that was
it for soccer. I went to grad school at Long Beach State to get my teaching
"Then it was, 'Let's get this sport into the Olympics.'"
In 1993 she was named the first women's head coach at UCLA and earned
Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors before resigning in 1997 to balance family and
In the meantime, the second World Cup was played in '95 (Fawcett played
every minute) and the first women's Olympic tournament in '96 (Fawcett played
every minute) "and by then you were putting your life on hold" for occasional
training camps and games with the national team.
Next came modest salaries from the U.S. Soccer federation and the
life-altering success of the '99 World Cup (Fawcett played every minute), with
its 98,000 fans at the Rose Bowl final and national TV coverage. Followed by
the 2000 Olympics (Fawcett played every minute.)
"But we always knew," Fawcett said, "that we had to fight for it. We
understood that you had to put in as much work off the field as on the field.
But I think that's what's been so great about it. These women bring so much to
society. There are plenty of athletes out there. But these are smart, educated
women. They contribute to their communities, they interact with kids, they go
to hospitals. That's why [the demise of the WUSA last week] hurts.
"When you think about it, you have to fight not to cry. We'd built this
from nothing. And I have daughters. I want it for them."
Her own WUSA career "was done, anyway," Fawcett said. "My goal even before
[the league folded] was to make it through the [2004 Athens] Olympics. And then
I'll probably just enjoy being a mother. And I want to teach elementary
school. Second grade.
"But if the WUSA should come back, and they need me ... "
By the way, America's No. 1 Soccer Mom does not own a station