This article originally appeared on the Greenwich Time website.
By Jo Kroeker
Megan Rapinoe, one of the world’s best and most famous soccer players, made a pit stop in Greenwich on Saturday to run a camp for 350 kids, giving technical tips and words of wisdom to the young players.
And then she was gone, sprinting from the clinic at 3 p.m. to fly to a meeting with the U.S. women’s national soccer team.
A lot has changed in the past year for Rapinoe, who put on a soccer camp at this same time last year with her sister Rachael at Sacred Heart Greenwich. In 2018, the purple-haired player from Seattle was training for the World Cup. This year, she returned as a winner and one of the sport’s most recognized players, drawing a much bigger crowd of young players eager to learn from her.
“With the success Megan had personally and with the World Cup, (interest in the program) exploded,” Sacred Heart varsity soccer coach Stuart Smith said.
Attendees of the soccer camp Saturday hailed from Fairfield and Westchester counties, and even Manhattan.
“We love hosting events because they are great for our community,” said Liz Dennison, director of athletics for Sacred Heart. “We are happy our top-notch facilities are able to attract this kind of talent.”
Rapinoe was so busy at the clinic and focused on the kids that she didn’t have time to take questions from a reporter.
The camp was divided into stations, including taking free kicks and penalty shots, things that Rapinoe did so well in helping to lead the U.S. team to the World Cup championship over the summer, Smith said.
Some of the coaches incorporated Rapinoe’s plays into the stations, yelling out sayings such as, “Megan’s a striker. She shoots goals, and goals win games.”
Hala Si-Ahmed, mother to Dalia, an 11-year-old who attends Sacred Heart, and Lina, a 9-year-old who goes to Glenville School, brought both girls to the camp.
“They were very excited,” Si-Ahmed said. “They watched the World Cup. To them, this is a super cool opportunity. I don’t think my girls know she’s a public figure, but they are excited because she’s an elite player.”
To Si-Ahmed, it is important for her daughters to see a woman who has made it in a male-dominated sport.
Sacred Heart students Amelia Sheehan and Taylor O’Meara have been big fans of Megan Rapinoe and the U.S. Women’s National Team most of their lives. The two soccer captains look up to Rapinoe and strive to motivate their varsity team the way Rapinoe does for the U.S. women’s team.
“Megan has taught me how to be fearless, composed, humble and driven simultaneously,” O’Meara said in an email after the camp. “2019 has been a big year for Megan and she has inspired our team at Sacred Heart to make it our year as well.”
Both Sheehan and O’Meara commended Rapinoe for the way she has championed causes using her platform as a famous athlete.
“I think that it is very brave and courageous of her to use her platform to speak out on important societal issues,” O’Meara said. “I am particularly inspired by her commitment to the equal pay issue within the U.S. soccer federation. I believe that she has used her influence appropriately and set a really great example for young girls and other female athletes.”
Professional athletes should use their fame to help, Sheehan said.
“Megan has proved herself on the field and I believe she has earned the authority and respect to be able to speak on an issue that impacts her life so dramatically,” that is, equal pay for women athletes, she said.
Madison Hart, an eighth-grader, and Lauren Giuriceo, a 10th-grader, played and volunteered in the camp last year. They had talked to Rapinoe during the camp, and while they watched the World Cup, felt a special sense of pride watching her play knowing that they had met her.
“We are super lucky we get this opportunity,” Hart said. “Not many do.”
Rapinoe set a tone for the young players and let them know “when you believe in something, you have to speak up,” Giuriceo said.