One of my favorite female athletes is Brandi Chastain. I remember watching her game winning goal in the 1999 Women’s World Cup final and the revelation of her six pack abs as she peeled off her shirt and pumped her fists in victory!
She retired her soccer cleats after becoming a mom in 2006, but has definitely remained active.
DAVE HOLLANDER: You are running the New York Marathon to raise money for free running programs in schools and community organizations. But a marathon is 26.2 miles. That’s a little extreme. What are some little steps kids can take to get started?
BRANDI CHASTAIN: I was talking to Kerri Strug today and we agree that the hardest thing to is get started. Once you get started you gain momentum. I’ve gone to the Olympics three times and I’ve been to the World Cup three times. It’s not easy. Get a friend. Say, “C’mon we’re going to go around the block.” Take fifteen minutes. Play something in the street if your parents will allow it. Or go down the school if they’ll allow it. Maybe even take your parent for a walk. Create a neighborhood activity groups. Sometimes it’s not considered cool or it’s not the hip thing. And that’s hard for kids and adults to deal with. But my call to action to every young kid out there is if you don’t take action yourself, nobody else is going to. So be the example. Be the person who sets the trend. Be the person who they say, “Wow, I want to be like that.”
DAVE HOLLANDER: What would you say is the number one enemy in the fight against child obesity?
BRANDI CHASTAIN: Oh there’s so many. I think one for them is the lower income environments don’t have facilities. They don’t have opportunity. They just don’t live in the space and a time where it’s encouraged because they either have to take care of their siblings or they have to work or they don’t have a ride to get to their practice field or they don’t have the luxury of going to a tournament. So I think that’s a significant uphill. Some live in neighborhoods that are incredibly dangerous so they can’t play outside after school. That’s an initiative that should be at the top of our priorities: Create environments that are safe for our kids to learn and play in to become better citizens and more in service in the community. If we had those spaces we’d see people who don’t have the luxury of being in a middle-class family or upper-class family.
DAVE HOLLANDER:The upper and middle class have their own issues. Video games, texting, Facebook — what do we need to do about these things?
BRANDI CHASTAIN: These are issues families have to deal with. That’s parental control. It’s a lot of communication. I have two sons — one 2 years old, one 20. I remember when the 20-year-old was in high school and it was Facebook this and texting that and there had to be a limit. It’s okay if they want to do it. I’m a believer in moderation. People say you must eat healthy all the time. I say I have ice cream almost everyday. I’m not going to completely take these things out of my life but I won’t make them the focus either. I played Atari when I was a kid. My friends and I used to play that until two o’clock in the morning. But we also got outside. Parents have to be the initiator by being the examples — by doing it themselves. Not just talking about kids doing it.
DAVE HOLLANDER: What is your reaction when you hear a school has eliminated PE from its curriculum?
BRANDI CHASTAIN: I think it’s devastating when I hear a school doesn’t have the necessities to make physical education part of what a young person — male or female — gets in the school system, mainly because I know how valuable the lesson are you learn on the field that translate what I do off the field. And, I know the significant contribution that being healthy, physically fit, does for our ability to focus, pay attention, to study. Everybody’s worried about standardized testing but we don’t care that our kids are sitting on the couch playing video games and becoming complete mental mush-heads. We’re not feeding the whole person and I think that’s contributing to the decline in those test results.
DAVE HOLLANDER: There’s so much obsession with body shape for young women today. Do you think girls would do more sports if athletic female bodies were given more favorable treatment in the fashion world?
BRANDI CHASTAIN: I think it’s changing. I saw a picture of Dara Torres on the from page of The New York Times yesterday in a beautiful black gown. There is nothing about her that is not athletic and not incredibly well shaped and strong and fit and yet look at how incredibly beautiful she looks. I have two sons. One is a junior in college and he has body image issues, too. I don’t think this is particular to girls. It’s more hidden for boys because they don’t talk about it. But I think things are changing. The female athlete is becoming more mainstream. I see it on these prime-time shows. I can definitely tell Brooke Shields has been working out. She’s got some tone and definition in her arms. You never saw that before. So I think it’s gradually changing to more that athletic body.
I hope she is right and we get to see less starving celebrities and more athletic role models. Who would you like to know more about?
Many thanks to Dave Hollander, who is the author of 52 Weeks: Interviews with Champions! and blogs for The Huffington Post. Info at: www.davehollander.com
Picture source: People.com