2014 Undergraduate Commencement
Buck Shaw Stadium
Santa Clara University
June 14, 2014
Whoo! Well, the time has come, ha, ha. Man, I am so proud to be here with you today. After the World Cup in 1999 (I have to tell you this, this was not a part of my speech), but after the World Cup in '99, I had the luxury of doing a lot of things on behalf of women's soccer and for women in sports, and a lot of doors opened for opportunities that never would have existed, one of which was throwing out the first pitch at the old Yankee Stadium.
Yeah. You may not be a Yankee fan, but I'm going to tell you, the history in there is pretty amazing.
But I will tell you, the butterflies that were unleashed in my stomach are nothing compared to what they feel like right now. When I got to the dugout at Yankee Stadium, I was sitting there, watching the players as they came in, and, all of a sudden, in comes Don Zimmer, Joe Torre, the managers, and we're chatting it up, and it's really casual. And, all of a sudden, Zimmer looks at me and says, "Don't throw it in the dirt
And I'm thinking in my head, "Why would you say that to me?"
And I said, "Why?"
He said, "Because they will boo you."
And then he says, "Now, go on out there and throw the pitch."
So, anyway, now I'm feeling better. The butterflies have gone away because you are my people. You are Broncos.
And I'm going to start my timer on your behalf so I don't go too long because I could spend all afternoon with you. Really.
First, I would like to thank Father Engh, Provost Jacobs. Where did she go? Oh, hi. Mary Stevens, for your introduction, and for the gift that you gave to the athletic department and women's and men's soccer.
To Mary Grace Colby, 50 years ago starting women's - being the first administrator in the athletics department before Title IX was even enacted.
To my husband, women's soccer coach, my mentor, and my support system, Jerry Smith, for all you do.
To all of your families enduring this graduation in the stands.
But, most importantly, to each and every one of you for making Santa Clara so great and a place that I love to come to every day. You are truly amazing and a gift to this great university.
I'm grateful for this day because, like life, this was very unexpected for me. My plan was not to go on to be a soccer player and make that my career. My plan was actually to play in the NFL.
As a young girl, I envisioned myself as a lineman on the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was a really great flag football player in sixth grade, probably the best on my team. Well, maybe second to Steven Robertson, also a proud alum of Santa Clara University in men's soccer.
I didn't know that I was different from those football players, and I think why that sticks in my mind is that everyone around me gave me the strength, the support, and the encouragement to do whatever it was that I thought was possible. And I feel that that is something that I've lived my life going forward with. It just so happened that I realized that I wasn't going to be 6-foot-5, 300 pounds. So, things changed a little bit.
And it just so happened that in my neighborhood in south San Jose, a girls' soccer league started. And neither my father nor my mother knew anything about soccer, but we walked down, and we signed up. I have to tell you that as soon as that ball hit the ground and I kicked it the first time, I fell in love, and it has been my passion ever since, and I know that it grows deeper every single day.
The game, like Santa Clara University, has given my life purpose and meaning. It has helped me focus on what's most important. You see, when I was very young, I was a goal scorer. I wanted the ball. The game was about me. I could make the difference. I wanted to be the one who scored the goal. I was a bit of an egomaniac. Now, you have to have a little bit of that if you want to be a good goal scorer, but it was way too far over the top.
And what I learned through some very brilliant lessons, some very, very simple was that it wasn't about me. It was about me giving back, and how could I impact those around me? So, I'm going to tell you a few stories from when I was young to coming to Santa Clara that helped me solidify these beliefs and to grasp on to them now as a parent of two boys - sorry, one man and one boy.
The first came from my grandfather who used to sit right over there in that stadium watching me on this field of my dreams. When I was a young girl, he knew that I loved to score goals, but he was trying to help me learn the lesson of giving.
So, he said to me one day, "Brandi, for every goal you score, I'm going to give you one dollar."
I was like, "Yes! I'm going to be rich."
"But for every assist you give, I'm going to give you $1.50."
"Hmm. All right. That will make me more money. All right. I'm going to do that."
So, for me, that was really powerful and impactful. If I gave something to somebody else so that they could do something great, it would come back twofold to me. So, I thank you, my grandfather, for that lesson.
My mom, who used to sit right up there at the top of the stands, and when I was young, she carried a megaphone that was about four feet tall when twelve people were on the sidelines, and she would yell through it, "Go, Brandi!" and she would then cheer for the whole team.
And I would say, "Mom, that is so embarrassing. There's 12 people on the sideline."
She goes, "I know. Isn't it great? They love it."
And I was like, "I don't know if they love it," but, OK. It made her very happy. But I will tell you, her leadership, her exuberance, and her enthusiasm for everybody getting involved, for everybody being cheered for, for everyone being included in the pre-game and post-game party; she changed my life. And when, in 1999, we played that final in the Rose Bowl against China, I could hear her voice in 90,000 plus people. Thank you, Mom.
And to my dad, who was my coach. He didn't know anything about soccer. But I'm grateful to him because he was willing to be uncomfortable. He was willing to learn. He was willing to take me to the library. My father was a Marine. He knew push-ups, sit-ups, run around the field in two neat lines. But he was willing to go out of his way to learn this game that his daughter loved so much, and he did so for eight years. And without him and his guidance about teamwork, family, I wouldn't be here. Thank you, Daddy.
Coming to Santa Clara University was a saving grace. I was a transfer student. Yeah, transfer students! That's the great thing, right? All of our paths are different. But, as a transfer student, I was coming into a program that had established players, and I had to find my way and fit in, and that was not easy.
Prior to coming to Santa Clara University, I had torn two ACLs and had missed almost two-and-a-half years of collegiate soccer. So, sitting on the sideline was a big lesson, a good lesson in perspective about what the game actually meant to me, and who really were making the impact plays. And I soon realized from that egomaniac that I was as a younger person, that everybody matters, not just the players that score the goals, not just the 11 that get to be on the field, and not the substitutes, but every single player. The ones that are on the bench make the team great.
That's why I'm so proud to be a part of Santa Clara University because we have these core values that we believe in, that every single opportunity we should embrace as a chance for growth and success. Women soccer players, give me a woot-woot! Yeah, you know what I'm talking about because we ask that of you every day. Today is another opportunity for growth and success.
Now, I think when people hear "World Cup champion, Olympic gold medalist," they think, "Boy, that was an upward trajectory." Injuries, kicked out of school, on the team as a world champion, cut from the team as a world champion. It was here at Santa Clara University that I decided that I wanted to be back on the national team after being cut. And actually I think right under these very seats was our practice field. Raining, dark, cold, by myself, I learned a lesson about perseverance and making a dream come true.
So, when it came time for 1999, when we played China and the game went 0-0 in 90 minutes and then 0-0 in the next 30 minutes, and we're all feeling about how you're feeling right now - very hot. Yeah. It was a wonderful opportunity to embrace a moment for growth and success because earlier in my career, when playing for Santa Clara University as the undefeated team and No. 1 ranked team in the country in the national semifinals, I stepped up as the penalty kicker, and the goalkeeper made a save, and we went on to lose that game.
Fast-forward to 1999 earlier, before the World Cup. We were playing China again. I put the ball down. I looked up, and the goalkeeper was standing there, and she unnerved me. She got me out of my zone, and I missed, and we ended up losing that tournament.
So, stepping up in 1999 to take that penalty kick, no fear, no reservation because I have leaned on the lessons I learned here at Santa Clara University. I have leaned on the lessons that my mom and dad and my grandfather taught me. And you, too, are going to lean on those lessons that you've learned here, and you're going to share them with those that you come in contact with.
Please remember that every day is an opportunity to be an impact player. Prior to the penalty kick, we played Germany in the quarterfinal. Now, this is a win-or-go-home situation, people. This is the biggest game of your life. And about 20 minutes into the game, I think, I'm going to make a very simple play, and in this Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, it was very loud; 75,000 people. I passed the ball back as the goalkeeper came out, and it went into the goal. Germany 1, USA 0.
Immediately, our captain, Carla Overbeck, came over and said, "Don't worry. It will be all right. There's a lot of game left, and you will be part of the reason why we win."
And in that moment, I thought, "OK." It could have been, "I lost the game. This is terrible. What's happened?" but she didn't allow that to happen to me. She gave me courage and strength. She was my impact player.
Little did I know, later in the game, that I would actually score another goal, this time for our team, whoo! And we would go on to that great final in the Rose Bowl.
So, I ask you: please to be ready to be that impact player. You never know when you're going to have the opportunity to change someone's life. As Mary said, I helped co-found the Bay Area Women's Sports Initiative, an initiative that brings the collegiate female student athletes to elementary schools around this Bay Area. Our mission is to impact young girls' lives in a positive way about health and wellness, about the way they see each other, about how they feel when they go out into the world to see beyond their immediate present, to look toward a potential future that maybe they had never seen.
And I'm going to tell you one story about one girl and two big brown eyes that I will never forget. The girls are playing on the playground, and it's sort of lackluster, and I [whistle] call the girls in. Yeah, wake up, everybody who had too many drinks last night.
And I call the girls in. I call the girls in and I said, "Hey, our acronym BAWSI is BAWSI [pronounced "bossy"] Girls." I said, "Hey, BAWSI girls. I don't see the fire. I don't see the pizzazz. I don't see the spunk in which BAWSI girls play and BAWSI girls live." I said, "I'm going to tell you a little story."
They're in a circle, about 85 girls.
I said, "You are too young to know, but once I scored a goal, and at the end, after I scored, I celebrated" and they're looking at me like "Yeah?"
I said, "Does anybody out here have a celebration dance that when they feel good, they do?" and one girl shot up her hand in the air. I thought, "Oh, thank goodness." I said, "Come to the middle. Will you show everybody?"
So, I stepped back, and she froze. And I walked up and I said, "Do you want to do this?"
"No," she said.
Now I'm panicking. What should I do? What should I do? I said, "Would you like me to do mine first?"
She said, "Yes, I would."
I said, "OK." So, I jumped up. I pumped my fists. I let out a "Woo hoo!," and the girls were like "Yeah!" They were cheering. It was great.
I said, "Are you ready now?"
I stepped back, and here she pulled off this double handspring flip split cartwheel thing, and the girls went berserk, and I said, "Now that is the spirit in which BAWSI girls play. Now go," and they ran like their hair was on fire.
At the end of that session, everybody's leaving, picking up their backpacks, going in all different directions, and I turn to walk away, and I felt a tug on my sleeve. And that's when I turned around and saw these brown eyes. I looked down. I said, "Yes?"
She looked up at me and said, "Thank you for not giving up on me."
I'm sorry. I get emotional because I think if that was - how easy - "Thank you for not giving up on me."
All I had to do was be there for her, to support her, to encourage her, for her to something so spectacular that would send her classmates into a frenzy.
That is the kind of impact we can all have on our community. Light a fire under someone, please. And ultimately we are going to do great things in our lives, and you are going to come back to Santa Clara University having done great things in your lives.
So now, when you leave here, is the time to be passionate, have dreams, follow your heart, and, at the same time, be flexible because things do change. Be willing to adapt. And when you or others do good things, it's time to celebrate. And celebrate with a pumping of the fist.
And a woo-hoo. And it's OK if you feel like ripping your shirt off. (I have to be somewhat respectful.) And whip it around your head! But remember, remember, remember no ripping off your shirts up here today, but remember to celebrate with that enthusiasm, to celebrate the big and the small victories that you make and to encourage others around you to celebrate.
We will do great things here, and forever you will be Broncos. Thank you so much and congratulations.
And in the spirit, and in the spirit - this is the number. This is the number I wore here at Santa Clara, and in the spirit of soccer, since it's the World Cup time. Mary doesn't know this, but (she's not going to exchange shirts with me). But you've changed jerseys, and I want to give this to Mary Stevens for what she's given to Santa Clara University as a memento of thanks for what is to come in the future here at Santa Clara University. Thank you.