Shannon Boxx enters the Soccer Hall of Fame! (Applause!) — Boxx speaks — Links!
The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, May 16, 2022
One of the classiest athletes to ever play the game, Shannon Boxx, enters the National Soccer Hall of Fame on Saturday.
Her sister, Gillian Boxx, an incredible softball player who I actually wrote about when she was at Cal, will introduce Shannon at the ceremony. The Boxx sisters both have Olympic gold medals.
Probably my favorite thing that she said: “I think my non-traditional way of playing, it wasn’t pretty but it was it was effective.“
Yep. Boxx was an innovator when it comes to the defensive midfield position. She was tough but technical. Smart as well as aggressive. And all the while she struggled with autoimmune disease.
But more than that, Boxx was a role model at a time when they’re weren’t many women of color in the game. On that 2015 World Cup team, there were just three BIPOC players on the roster. That’s changing, but even Cindy Parlow Cone said at the recent Let Them Play summit that access is still an issue. The pay-to-play model isn’t working.
Boxx founded an organization here in Portland, Bridge City Soccer, which seeks to empower young women and remove some of the barriers to playing.
“We’re going into communities that girls are not even offered the chance to play soccer, and we talked to all these parents and they’re like, `Thank you so much. There’s nowhere we can go that’s free to play soccer.’ And that’s what we’re doing. We’re in a four week clinic and all these kids are coming for the very first time and they’re never played soccer before this and they’re loving it. And parents are just so happy that we’re coming in into a community that wants to do this. They want to provide this for their children, but they have no means for it. So I think it’s about just making things a lot more accessible. And realizing that pay to play is not the only means to get somebody to play soccer.”
One other thing. The Thorns and Reign played to a 0-0 draw on Friday night in a really soggy Cascadia match. Rocky Rodriguez played in her 100th NWSL game.
Afterward, I asked Rodriguez about her favorite moments over the stretch of those 100 games. She also spoke about the players’ meeting with supporters.
Also, important programming note for October!
The Alyssa Thompson 21% Off Sale
At The IX, we deliver a newsletter to your inbox six days a week across six sports, with original reporting, analysis, interviews with newsmakers and links to work being done across the women’s sports media landscape. With so much going on in the world of soccer — between the upcoming World Cup and the ongoing NWSL regular season — subscribe now and save 21% for your first year. That’s 21% as in rising star and No. 21 for Angel City FC, Alyssa Thompson.
The Athletic’s Meg Linehan from today on NWSL expansion.
A few words with SHANNON BOXX
Question: Who is going to introduce you?
Boxx: It’s going to be my eldest sister Gillian Boxx. She is four years older than me. We were raised together in a single parent household and she was the reason why sports became so important to me. She was already into sports and I was like the little kid trying to catch up to her and everything that I ever did. She is a gold medalist in softball in 1996. And that was kind of the point that I said, `Wow, she did this I can do this.’ She honestly was the one who challenged me my whole life to be the best that I can be and just excited that she gets to speak.
Question: When we talk about women’s soccer players is that there is not necessarily this linear history to women’s soccer. We’re trying to make sense of different leagues, gaps between leagues, and it’s a little bit tougher sometimes to compare. How do you look back at your career?
Boxx: I think that’s one thing that’s so amazing about elite athletes, everybody has their own journey of how they became successful. Mine is definitely not your typical path. But I would say, even just to think about my legacy — I think my legacy really holds around the idea that I’m that poster child for women’s professional leagues here in the United States. If we did not have a professional league in 2003, I would never have been noticed. I would have gone to a great school, Notre Dame, I did well there. I went, played in Germany and I came home to nothing. And so I think for me, I am that person that’s showing, if you invest in the women’s game, and you create opportunities for us to be successful.
Question: What were your main takeaways from the league part of your career, in terms of your accomplishments. What what is the thing that you will look back on most fondly from from the league side of things?
Boxx: I think just the resilience that I showed, I think that is always something that comes through to me is, that’s something I teach my own daughter, is that resilience really helped me get to where I am. In the first year of the league, I started and played in every game I come into the second year, I’m starting playing, I get benched. I went from the lowest point of my career to the highest in one year. And that was just from me having that resilience to say, `I know I believe in myself, what do I need to do to get to the next level?’ I think the league created that situation for me. I think I could have just kind of coasted and said, I’m starting every game I’m pretty good and left it at that, but it was actually great for me to fail. And I don’t think up until that point, I’d really had failed. I’d been successful in high school had been successful in college. And it was the first time that I was like, wow, like, there is a whole nother level that if I really want to be successful, I’m gonna have to do these things to get there. And the league did that for me. So I would say that’s a big one.
2009, playing in Los Angeles, I think really showed me too. I was a captain for that team. The first time I have that role, really in the professional world, and I thrived in it. I love being a leader of that team. I love the players that were around me. But I guess the other thing too, is just having a league in the U.S., being half black, I think that really was a chance for me to be in front of all these young girls and boys of color and say this is what you can do if you really put your mind to it.
Question: At what point did you know that soccer was your pathway?
Boxx: Soccer was always my love. I played for sports in high school. But soccer always held this different competitiveness for me. I loved the challenge of it. I loved how aggressive it could be. I just I loved that you’re always in the action. It wasn’t slow. It was fast-paced, so it was always there. I think I did struggle in high school. My my mother, being a single parent, was like `Unless you get a scholarship, you will be going to JC.’ My sister had a scholarship and softball to go to Cal Berkeley and was like `That’s your ticket. I think that there’s not that many scholarships in soccer at this point.’ Which, obviously if anybody wants talk about Title IX this is perfect for that. But for me, the fact that my mom said `You should probably start playing club softball, you should focus more on softball because that’s where your opportunity is.’ And I tried and I did and I went and started doing both and realize I don’t love this. I love soccer. And so I think that was the moment. It was about my junior year in high school that I said, this is what I want to go for and I’m going to do everything I can to make it successful. And I’m so glad I did obviously.
Question: Was that your first year where you really thought that you were you were like really good at the sport?
Boxx: I mean, I knew I was good. I knew I had the ability to go play in college. I was watching college soccer at that point and I knew I had the ability to go play. I don’t think I even knew I had the ability to play on the national team until 2003, when I made it, because I knew I was always a good player but I struggled in certain things, fitness, and other things … I am skilled, but in college, I never thought I was the best player. I knew that there were players that were way better than me. But one thing that I always had, that I knew I had, was that I was consistent. I was consistently a good player. I was tougher than most. I had a skill set that a lot of other players didn’t have and I knew I had a value there. And I think that continued on even on the national team. I think my non-traditional way of playing it wasn’t pretty but it was it was effective.
Question: The national team has really been knocked for a lack of diversity. What was your journey like as a woman of color getting to that level? Who are your role models and are you encouraged now with the the diversity that the team has shown in recent rosters.
Boxx: Yes, I am very proud and privileged and excited to see that the diversity is growing. You know, there were definitely times when I was on the national team that I looked around and I was like, I’m the only person here of color right now, in certain moments on the team. For me, it was just a big weight that I was willing to have, but I remember feeling like, OK, when we’re signing autographs, I’m searching for those kids that are of color because I want them to know that they can do this, and I might be the only one right now but that’s not going to be the way it is in the future.
And so I think that was a really big thing for me. I am biracial and so I think a lot of times I had issues and problems with a lot of people that didn’t actually associate me to my black half and I think that was really hard for me to deal with. It’s like Hey, you know I am Here I am representing and I would love that everybody else recognizes that too. So that was important for me. I think the biggest thing was, I would always find myself drawn to all the little kids that had signs that were, you know, excited about being there and they saw that they could be exactly what I’m doing. So that was the biggest thing for me.
Question: Who were your role models?
Boxx: I mean, people on the team before, Bri (Scurry). I mean, she was amazing. She was also talking about being the only one at certain points, right? So she was a big one for me. My sister, breaking boundaries there. I would say those were probably the two, just because they were more close. I felt like I could touch them. I think that’s important too is not to feel like you’re trying to emulate someone who’s so far off from you. So I think those two would probably be some big ones that I really looked up to.
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