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U.S. soccer star makes pitch: More women to coach girls sports

Legendary goalie Briana Scurry started playing soccer at age 12 growing up in Minnesota.

The 48-year-old went on to become a gold medalist with the U.S. women's national soccer team at the Summer Olympics in 1996 and 2004, and she helped the team become World Cup champions in 1999.

Even so, the first time she ever played for a female head coach wasn't until 2000 with the national team. Despite the milestones she reached, she doesn't want other girls to have to go that route.

Scurry headlined a local event Sunday to recruit and inspire more women to become volunteer youth sport coaches for girls,  explaining why it is "vitally important" to have women coaches in the game.

"Especially coaches who are passionate about teaching their students or their kids life lessons. That's what really sport is about. Sport isn't about whatever activity you're doing necessarily, whether it be double Dutch or soccer or basketball or water polo, whatever it is. It's about the things you learn," Scurry said. "You learn teamwork. You learn overcoming obstacles. You learn leadership. These are the vital things that kids are learning while they're going through the sports.

"So to get more women, especially African American women, into coaching kids is vitally important so that kids can see – especially young girls – can see people who look like them," Scurry said.

About 50 women of varying degrees of athletic ability participated in the #SHECANCOACH event at Canisius College's Koessler Athletic Center, sponsored by United Way of Buffalo & Erie County, Western New York Girls in Sports and Project Play Western New York.

Retired U.S. women's soccer team goalie Briana Scurry emphasizes the need for more females to coach youth sports and get girls involved. (Deidre Williams/Buffalo News)

Current female coaches and trainers instructed participants like Kathryn Orrange – an elementary school librarian for Iroquois schools –  in 15-minute workshops in basketball, golf, track and double Dutch. Orrange said she might explore an assistant coach position or become a volunteer next year.

"I probably have the most experience with soccer, like just being comfortable," Orrange said. "When they had us practicing basketball, I am terrible at basketball, so probably soccer or possibly track/cross-country."

A woman doesn't have to be an athletic superstar to coach girls and enrich their lives,  Scurry said.

"Anyone can be useful. If you have a speck of athletic ability, but you have a lot of passion and you want to teach, and if you're willing to learn the game yourself and then teach the kids as you go, because the truth is a lot of these girls aren't going to end up playing on the national team. They're not going to end up playing on (Division I) college teams, and that's not the relevant part of it," Scurry said. "The relevant part of it ... is what (girls) learn and being a part of something bigger than them and being a part of a team and that energy ... and that camaraderie and that sisterhood – that's the important part."

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