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Brandi Chastain Wants Parents, Coaches to Set 'Positive' Examples

When soccer star Brandi Chastain ripped off her uniform shirt after a Women's World Cup win back in 1999, she had no idea what one sports-bra-bearing moment of joy would mean to girls everywhere.

She also had no idea what it would eventually mean to her as a mom.

"Looking back on it, 14 years later, and now as a parent," she says, "I can look at it and say, that picture to me symbolizes hard work, dedication and ultimately, the pure joy and satisfaction of knowing that I did a good job. I'm celebrating the good thing that I did."

Chastain, who's mom to 7-year-old son Jaden and 23-year-old stepson Cameron with husband Jerry Smith, is also celebrating family time. That's why she teamed up with Merck Consumer Care's Active Family Project, Play for a Change, which encourages families to be active together. The campaign will also donate up to 125 soccer kits to underserved communities.

In this Q&A, Chastain speaks to mom.me about family play time, bullying coaches and her son's first soccer game ever.

How did you connect with Play for a Change?

Number one, I'm a mom, and I have boys who play soccer, and I am hopefully an ambassador and an agent for change to help families see the potential for health and wellness just by going out to the park, going out to the soccer field, running around together and having a good time. And two, I love soccer. I think I've been in love with soccer since the first kick, when I was a little girl.

How do you recommend families be more active when they're juggling so many schedules?

That is probably one of the obstacles out there that inhibits people, but I think it's actually a wonderful opportunity to recognize that you have to make a plan for it. Say, "We're going to get together with our neighbors Friday afternoons, after work, after school, and we're going to go to the park together, and we're going to play."

Some of the greatest memories I have are when it was parents vs. kids. They love it, right? They laugh their heads off. They think it's so funny that the parents are trying to get with it. It's just a good time.

How do you balance your career with having kids?

It's not easy, and I don't know that I have it down to a perfect science. What I have recognized is that it's hard to do alone, so I think collectively it's important that my neighbors—my friends who have kids—we do things together. They help me when I'm gone, when I'm traveling. I go, and I help them.

I think number one is giving your kids a good example at home. Are you active? Are you making decisions that are positive—good, healthy choices about food, about sleep, about time together? Kids pick up on those things, and for as much as kids think parents aren't cool, parents are still their role models.

There have been a lot of discussions about coaches being too aggressive or bullying. What do you think about that?

As it turns out, I do work with an organization called Positive Coaching Alliance. Jim Thompson is the founder, and his feeling is that we have to encourage kids in a positive way to reach their goals. It really is about, "How do you get our young people to set goals for themselves?" And, as parents, how do we encourage them? And how do we as parents and supporters do that in a positive way?

You said your boys play soccer. How is your 7-year-old liking it?

My 7-year-old had his first game of the year on Sunday (Sept. 8), and it was hysterical. It was awesome, so great!

Did you have any idea that your bra-bearing moment would be so iconic?

No, I had no idea. I was hot, and I was so excited that we had won the game that, no, I wasn't thinking clearly at all. And thankfully so. ... Especially for young girls, it's very important for them to recognize their small and large victories, and for them to be the ones to pump their fists and say, "Yes!"

Even though it is good to hear from your peers or your coaches, "Hey, good job," you have to know that inside. And I hope that that picture symbolizes and conjures up that kind of feeling for young girls all the time.

Photo credit: Hector Mata/AFP/Getty Images

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