Fifteen-year-old Stefani Pehle was brought to tears after hearing American soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo speak at this year’s Cal North-Nevada 2013 Soccer Expo in Lake Tahoe.
The U-15 player from Nevada appeared shocked and amazed almost an hour after Solo’s Q&A session at Harrah’s Event Center, where an audience of more than 200 people gathered to hear the triple Olympic Gold Medal winner speak.
As Solo stood alone on a makeshift stage, she fielded questions and comments from an audience of all ages, including inquiries ranging from marriage proposals to career decisions. And Pehle was selected to ask a question.
"I was so nervous asking the question and almost forgot when I spoke! But her answer was deep and sincere. She could have given a simple answer but instead she went deep into how she got through a difficult time. I just started crying when she was done," Pehle admitted.
It was obvious that Pehle’s question, "Did you ever have a point where you wanted to give up," sparked deep thought and reflection from the 31-year-old player. When asked, Solo paused for a moment before answering, took a deep breath, and unleashed a profound response.
"In 2007, I lost my father and my best friend. I was also kicked off the Olympic team," Solo responded. "I didn’t know if I had the strength within me but I did. I thought I’d hang up my cleats but instead I took it one day at a time. I will not let anyone steal my dreams from me. Ten months later, I had a gold medal in my hand."
Solo, who was a forward all her life until age 18, when she became a goal keeper, admitted to the enthusiastic audience that her dream was to play college soccer. She came from the small town of Richland, Washington, missed a lot of parties, and confesses to have not been the most popular person, Solo said. But she had a passion for the sport.
"I kept my dream alive every step of the way. I made sacrifices and I did everything to keep that dream alive. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it," Solo said.
The 5’9" player, known for freely speaking her mind, didn’t hold back at this 40-minute event. She discussed in detail the 2011 World Cup games and her perspective on the decisions made during the match against Japan, namely when the game went into penalty kicks. But, she admitted, it was also her favorite moment in life.
"We lost to Japan in the final but it was the first time women’s soccer came together on a global stage. We had more viewers than the Royal Wedding, which was held during the same time," she said proudly. "We felt like the world stood behind us. And there’s no other team to lose to than Japan. We took the silver."
When asked who provided the greatest influence in her life as a youth, Solo didn’t hesitate to answer.
"That would be Mark Francis in ODP (in Washington). I was 13 or 14 years old when he said to me, ‘Let not behaviors off the field dictate where you go.’ I always remember and live by that," she said.
As for Solo’s future, she firmly stated that she still has one more Olympic and World Cup game within her to play. After all, she added, goal keepers grow with age as they become mentally better in reading the game. But make no mistake, Solo is leaving soccer when she’s ready.
"I want to walk away when I still have love for the game. I don’t want to be pushed out. I’ve been doing a lot in the communities and speaking," she said. "I don’t want to be head coach either. However, I don’t think there are great goal keeper coaches in America and I’ve been coached by the best coaches in the world. I would want to coach goal keepers one day."
Ranked as one of the best goal keepers in women’s soccer, who plays at the 40-yard and with the back line, Solo roused the crowd when she promised the audience one thing:
"In 2015, we’re bringing that World Cup trophy home!" she vowed.
Hope Solo was this year’s Keynote Speaker at the Hall of Fame dinner at the Emerald Bay Ballroom in Harvey’s Hotel. Team members and professional women soccer players Stephanie Cox and Megan Rapinoe were inducted into the 2013 CYSA’s Hall of Fame.
Story written by freelance writer Andrea Garcia