Soccer. It’s played by over 250 million people in over 200 countries. It’s the single most played sport in the entire world. It’s something that has been near and dear to my heart for a long time now. I have been playing ever since I can remember; ever since they gave out orange slices at halftime and a participation trophy at the end. Soccer has helped shape me into the person I am today and has taught me a lot about myself over the years. I have been on so many teams, tried so many sports, and gone through so many injuries, but I’ve always somehow been pulled back to soccer. It’s a huge part of who I am, and I’m so grateful for all that it has given me. It’s something I love, and I love when other people love it too, which is why the World Cup is the best time of year (maybe even better than The Bachelor season? I don't know though... I'm still deciding).
Each summer that the World Cup is on, I cheer on my favorite teams and watch each game diligently (*chanting voice* USA! USA! USA!). I love how the World Cup brings people together from all over the world in all different ways. There is a general excitement in the air coming from both soccer and non-soccer fans alike when the games take place. I especially enjoy the Women’s World Cup because the female players have long fought for their equality and individual rights. As a young woman, it is inspiring to see older players pave the way for their successors. As a coach of young women soccer players, I love seeing the girls’ faces light up every time the U.S. Women’s National Team has a game. They all wear their jerseys to practice, imitate their favorite teams, and argue about who the best player is (but they’re wrong if they don’t say Julie Ertz). It is touching to know that they have role models in their lives and dreams of being in their shoes some day.
My college coach, Amy Reifert, recently traveled to France with family and former UChicago women’s soccer players to watch the World Cup live (pictured below!). Coach Reifert has such an excitement and passion for soccer. Her love for the game is infectious. In fact, all of the coaches at UChicago are extremely knowledgeable about their respective sports, and they care deeply about their athletes both on and off the field. One time, my coach even checked in to see if I was having enough fun during my first year (how cool is she!!), which is something that you don’t find very often from athletic coaches at the highest level, and I couldn’t be more grateful for it.
In addition to coaches supporting our interests, the University as a whole also takes part in helping us seek out our passions. To further the love of soccer that was spurred on by the World Cup, UChicago has partnered up with the Chicago Red Stars professional women’s soccer team to give free tickets to all students and their families in July. UChicago takes pride in its students’ passions and organizes many free events to give us the opportunity to see something we may not otherwise be able to. Whether it’s free Hamilton tickets, free dinners at restaurants, or free trips to Six Flags Great America, a wide variety of opportunities exist thanks to UChicago. UChicago even provides free or discounted admission to over 70 organizations around Chicago through the ArtsPass (quick plug for the Blue Man Group and the Museum of Science and Industry). This tool is instrumental when it comes to exploring all that the city has to offer.
The opportunities put forth by the University create a sense of community among students and faculty. My community -- my soccer teammates, friends, and coaches -- will be coming to the Red Stars game with me as we cheer on our favorites at no cost (will I be using the money I saved on a ticket for some face paint or giant foam finger? Yes. Yes I will.). I now get to watch 14 players that competed in the World Cup in person instead of on my TV screen, all thanks to UChicago. Whatever you love, whatever you want to do in college, there is a community that shares your passions and will go to your version of the Red Stars game by your side. Those are your people, and they can’t wait to watch shows with you, go to games with you, and welcome you to campus for your next four years.