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3Qs: Women’s World Cup success is ‘inspiring a nation’

leoneThe U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team once again proved its dominance on the world stage, winning the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final on Sunday against Japan, the team’s first since 1999. The team’s performance is one the players and their fans will not soon forget.

Someone who is no stranger to wearing the U.S. kit is Northeastern women’s soccer head coach Tracey Leone. As a player, the midfielder had 29 caps for the U.S., scoring five goals. Then in 2004 Leone was part of the coaching staff of the gold-medal winning U.S. team at the Summer Olympics.

During Leone’s tenure as head coach, the Huskies have won the Colonial Athletic Association regular season title twice (2009 and 2014) and the conference tournament championship three times (2008, 2013, and 2014), resulting in three NCAA tournament berths.

We asked Leone what it’s like playing for the red, white, and blue, and what this World Cup performance will mean for women’s soccer nationwide.

Playing for one’s country is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for any soccer player. What was your mindset when you donned the U.S. jersey?

The mindset when putting on the U.S. National Team jersey is one of unparalleled pride, honor, and appreciation. You feel so fortunate to represent the greatest country in the world, and you feel a deep sense of pride.

You also feel a sense of responsibility to do all you can for your country to succeed. I know I felt like the luckiest person in the world when I had the honor of wearing the red, white, and blue.

What are some best practices you and the coaches you’ve worked with find are beneficial when preparing a team for a major competition, whether it’s the 2004 Olympics or the NCAA tournament?

When preparing a team for a major event, a lot of the hard work is done, I believe, early in the season. You spend time growing your fitness, figuring out your style and system, developing partnerships between players on the field, and having back up plans and solutions for challenges that you predict could arise. You basically are laying your foundation for hopeful success.

As you get closer to the event, you hope that you, your staff, and your team have figured all that out and then the philosophy of “less is more” kicks in. You just want to keep your team sharp, in sync, positive, healthy, fresh, and extremely excited to play with a relentless energy and competitive spirit.

How significant is the USWNT’s success to the growth of women’s soccer as a whole? Following the run in this World Cup, can we expect a similar boom in popularity to the one that followed the 1999 World Cup victory?

I think the USWNT success in this World Cup is very significant to the growth of girls’ and women’s soccer in the U.S. This team is inspiring thousands of young girls, and boys for that matter, and from that, the sport grows exponentially.

The affects go from the highest levels all the way to the grassroots levels and everything in between. I do think we will see a boom just like after the 1999 World Cup. Having the Women’s World Cup in Canada is almost like having it in the U.S. because so many Americans have gone to the games, and millions have watched them play on television.

They are inspiring a nation and to bring the World Cup trophy back to America will create such a contagious excitement around the game. From there, all kinds of great things and growth can happen.

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