MOENCHENGLADBACH, GERMANY - JULY 13: Pia Sundhage, head coach of USA celebrates after the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011 Semi Final match between France and USA at Borussia-Park on July 13, 2011 in Moenchengladbach, Germany. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
Sundhage is the brains behind the brawn, and like so many soccer coaches she gets short shrift
USA 4, Canada 3. What a match! In the victory tumult that erupted after that last-second winning goal of the women's soccer semifinal, the beaming weathered face and silver-haired bob of USA head coach Pia Sundhage was poignantly visible on the little screen, as she made the rounds of her team, making sure each of the women knew how thrilled and satisfied she was.
For us LGBT people, it's an important moment to remember that the out coaches are as important as the out athletes.
So often the out coaches get listed as an afterthought, after the growing list of out LGBT athletes. And admittedly there are still not many out coaches around the world. Yet we have to recognize the undeniable influence that a good coach has over individual athletes and whole teams. Win or lose, the coach's input is always a turning point. They deserve more credit for what they achieve, not only on the playing field, but off it -- in terms of the growing acceptance of LGBT presence in sports.
That's certainly the case with Sundhage, who came to the U.S. from a distinguished career as a player in Sweden, where she was internationally celebrated and the once-highest goal scorer for Sweden's national team.
After she was tapped by the U.S., Pia told the media, "There has been no problem for me to be openly gay as head coach in the USA team." She went on to say that she and her partner received a solid welcome in the U.S.
Before this critical match, Sundhage summed up her approach with her players: "We talk about dictating the tempo, we talk about changing the point of attack. The thing I ask of them is try."
And try the women did, through 122 minutes of soccer, with both teams exhausted but still slugging it out toe to toe. The Canadian women played brilliantly too. The struggle made this match one of the classics that show how women's soccer is finally coming into its own, in terms of its maturity and -- let's face it -- its ability to get a global audience hyperventilating and screaming its head off.
For Great Britain, we need to mention the world's second out women's soccer coach, Hope Powell, with her own strong career. And for the U.S., in the triathlon, there is Andy Schmitz, team leader for the U.S. team. Both these coaches have powerful stories of their own, which I hope to return to.
But today is Sundhage's, as her team moves toward the gold-medal match with Japan.
Olympics Results: US Women's Soccer Edges Canada in one of Greatest Games of All Time (via sbnation)
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