U.S. Women's Soccer Team Star Julie Foudy Has A Message To Inspire Women To Lead: Own Your Awesome Longtime U.S. women's soccer team star Julie Foudy says the things she learned on the field aren't so much about winning as about how women can unleash their inner force and stand up for something.
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A Message To Inspire Women To Lead: Own Your Awesome

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A Message To Inspire Women To Lead: Own Your Awesome

A Message To Inspire Women To Lead: Own Your Awesome

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Commentator and longtime U.S. soccer star Julie Foudy has had some big moments in her life.

(SOUNDBITE OF 3RD FIFA WOMEN'S WORLD CUP MATCH)

UNIDENTIFIED SPORTS ANNOUNCER: (Unintelligible) In front. (Unintelligible) Foudy - it's in. It's in.

(CHEERING)

INSKEEP: That was in a 1999 World Cup match against Denmark. The U.S. women won the World Cup that year. Julie Foudy says years of high-level sports taught her some lessons beyond winning.

JULIE FOUDY: People often ask me, what's the best lesson you learned after almost two decades on the U.S. women's soccer team? And I'm fairly certain they want the secret formula to winning. Instead, I tell them, the best lesson I learned is actually a secret about life. And that lesson came to me while watching my incredible teammates do their thing on and off the field. And sure, I love that they were amazing athletes and we were winning World Cups and Olympics together. But I was most impressed that they were even more amazing human beings who led in a variety of ways. And now that was a complete shock to me, the diversity of leadership styles, because I had always thought leadership was positional.

I'd always thought leadership was as CEO or president or person in a position of power. And honestly, to me, that meant a man because that's what I was reading about in history books growing up. But my U.S. teammates showed me that leadership is personal, not positional. They showed me that asserting your own leadership style is most important, being authentically you. You could be a quiet leader, like Mia Hamm, or a vocal leader, like Abby Wambach or, let's be honest, Loudy Foudy - an emotional leader like Brandi Chastain, a cerebral leader, a nerdy leader - you get it. You just had to find your unique approach, your way. No need to be a celebrity or leadership expert, you just had to care enough to raise your hand.

Ah, yes, that whole raising-your-hand bit - it can be scary for women. We love, as women, to make sure all the boxes are checked, that we are just prepared but overprepared before we raise our hand. And it's that discipline that I love most about women, but it's also what holds us women back the most because by the time we raise our hand, that opportunity is often gone.

Yep - we women are great at underselling ourselves and not so great at owning our awesome. So my motivation in life is to get all women to unleash that inner force - not in the sense that you have to wear a T-shirt proclaiming your awesomeness or walk around telling everyone you're the bomb-diggity (ph), but in a way that allows us to step out of our comfort zones, stand up for something or speak out for someone. Whether you empower one person or the free world, that is leadership. Because if I can own my awesome and you can and we can get more young people to do it, too, and then use that to do good - well, that's a world I want to live in.

So let's start now, shall we? Go on. Go be courageously and fabulously you - because you can.

(SOUNDBITE OF ULRICH SCHNAUSS AND JONAS MUNK'S "CHASING RAINBOWS")

INSKEEP: Indeed, she can. Julie Foudy, a member of the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame and analyst for ESPN and I think the first person ever to use the phrase the bomb-diggity on NPR News. Her new is called "Choose To Matter."

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