Sam Cary: Unapologetically Yourself

For Katie Meyer:

Like so many others, last week the sudden passing of Stanford keeper Katie Meyer struck me deep. I was not a teammate of Katie, I never had the honor of knowing her or being in her presence, but like a lot of other people, I knew her from her historic match in 2019 at the NCAA Women’s College Cup Final. I vividly remember watching the game in my dorm room– slightly bitter because my team got eliminated in the round of 64– but being mesmerized as Meyer made save after save and seemingly glowing more after each one. In my cramped dorm room with 4 women’s soccer players and 5 other male athletes, there was a vast array of opinions on Meyer’s actions: too cocky, overly dramatic, and full of herself were all things said out loud; I simply remember being proud. In huge moments that every soccer player dreams of, Katie was being unapologetically herself. She was strong, bold, confident, and passionate. She was everything that so many women fear to be.

It is my opinion that women’s athletics has a plague going through it. There are so many moments in a young athlete’s career where we try and bring her down, we teach young girls that they need to all look, act, play, and speak a certain way and strip them of individual drive and passion. Personally, I can think of a countless number of times in my career where I felt ostracized for being bold, being myself, and being confident. 

Confidence is something that is so heavily celebrated in the men’s area. As a society, we love talking about the goal celebrations, the bold quotes after a game, the massive blowouts in a score, and we should, these are people doing extraordinary things and believing in themselves. However, as soon as women act in this manner it becomes cocky, or bitchy. This is the double standard that makes women second guess how to act. This attitude against confident women comes in all forms from parents to coaches, teammates to opponents, and mostly, social media.

 I hear in college athletics all of the time that players need to be more confident, they need to drive at people and play with a chip on their shoulder and I completely agree. But what isn’t being understood is that quality is trained out of girls at such a young age. We are raised to always pass the ball, not celebrate big moments, and try to fit in; and this creates an extremely hard habit to break out of. 

In my experience through life, athletics, and now being a power 5 athlete, it is the culture of being against women who are unapologetically themselves that shuns, hurts, and ultimately strips this beautiful quality out of them. The culture of rejection over empowerment creates loneliness, anxiety, depression. 

This is something seen all the time in athletics. I remember seeing tweets and posts about Meyer for weeks after her insane performance in 2019 calling her names and adding derogatory opinions. Currently, I see it happening all of the time to Iowa superstar Caitlin Clark who is single-handedly bringing massive attention to college women’s basketball. Constantly I see and hear comments about Clark’s “cockiness”. Simply put, if I were as talented and elite as Clark, I would be CONFIDENT too. She owns who she is and embraces the power of being herself, and not enough women athletes are able to do this.

So thank you, as someone who aspires to be me: a strong, confident, bold, and passionate woman, I appreciate all of the people who are fighting and excelling in this battle themselves. Thank you for ignoring the people trying to pull you down and continuing to harness the power and passion that you provide to your team, sport, and the world. Thank you for being brave and inspiring a younger generation to want to be bold and use that as a positive characteristic.  

To the women who are on edge about this battle, it won’t be easy, it won’t be popular, and it won’t always be fun. But it will be freeing. It will be a weight lifted off you when you are no longer forced to worry about what other people think and just be you.

And to Katie, thank you for being a leader in this charge. You inspired so many young girls to channel their power and own who you are. Your passion, dedication, and confidence will forever live on the field and be the standard of what other athletes aspire to be. You inspire me. 

Sam Cary is a soccer player at The University of Iowa

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