Three-time Olympic gold medalist Hope Solo: “Quiet people are not going to create change in the world”

07/14/2017 12:09 pm ET

Hope Solo normally isn’t a name that proceeds a long introduction. She is a decorated athlete- three Olympic gold medals and a World Cup gold medal hang somewhere in her trophy case- and an undisputed number one goalkeeper for the United States Women’s National Team. But if it’s one thing that receives little mention, it’s Hope’s undying commitment to social change through her advocacy for the betterment of women and girls around the world.

Hope is a supporter of several charitable organizations- including Epic!- where she uses her platform to advance the lives of girls through the power of sport. Having come from a time when women’s professional soccer was nearly nonexistent, she understands the importance of female athlete role models for young girls who aspire to pursue their sport as a career. Beyond that, she is an outspoken critic of wage disparities between male and female soccer players in the United States, noting that the women’s soccer team has even excelled further on multiple fronts.

I’m so happy to have Hope on our side, fighting against the injustices that affect too many young people. I had the chance to catch up with her on some new initiatives and am excited to share them with you all below.

“Adversity when faced with unbreakable commitment and a fighting spirit will always define a person much more so than perceived success.”

© EARCHPHOTO, Los Angeles, California

Playing with the pros or playing with your friends?

With friends

World Cup or Olympic Games?

World Cup

Ronaldo or Messi?

Messi

Hope or faith?

Hope

Solo or duo?

Duo

You’re a three-time Olympic gold medalist and World cup gold medalist. How has your success provided a platform to voice your activism in the fight for women’s rights and equality?

One of my three gold medals is from the 2004 Athens Games when I was a team alternate. I am very proud of that medal because being an alternate was very difficult. During the Athens Olympics, I told myself that I absolutely would be on the field the next time around. In the next major tournament, the World Cup in 2007, I stood in goal as the starter. I proved a lot to myself, including what it means to keep my own word. Being honest is not easy and is often the more difficult path. Each medal and tournament I participated in represented a different struggle and a different accomplishment for me. Each one allowed me to experience life in a full and different way.

“I proved a lot to myself, including what it means to keep my own word. Being honest is not easy and is often the more difficult path.”

Both the significant professional and personal experiences have paved the way for me to build insight into bigger aspects of life. I have seen so much beauty as well as as so much pain and I understand how short life is. But through both the incredible and painful moments, through victories and losses, I’ve learned there are opportunities to make our world better, more forgiving, more understanding and more equal for all individuals. I am grateful for the insight and experiences I have gained through both sport and in life.

What inspired you to expand your focus from athletics to doing good?

I have lived through successes and failure. I have seen inequities. Because of these experiences, I have always been motivated to do better, to teach, to inspire and to use my voice. But it was my experience as a Counselor at the One Young World Summit in 2015 that pushed me to become even more active in social issues. The Summit brings together some of the brightest young leaders from around the world who are using their voices to tackle the most important issues of our time — from the refugee crisis and climate change to terrorism, poverty and gender equality, and it is such a powerful experience. My role, as a counselor was to help shine a spotlight on their extraordinary work. It was a transformational experience and a reminder that we all have the capacity to do more. I will be attending this year’s summit in Bogota this fall and I know I will again come away even more inspired and motivated.

“We must overcome the history, habits, and mindset in order to have equality.”

You’ve spent over 15 years on the field playing professional soccer, which is an incredibly impressive accomplishment. Off the field, what accomplishment are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the sacrifices I have made to build a new life with my husband. I put my life’s energy into football and lived a very selfish lifestyle in order to be the best, to focus on myself, my body, my training, winning medals, etc. I now have taken more risk than I ever have before and I have done more in this short time since the Olympics to build my future in a selfless way. It feels like one of the most courageous things I have ever done.

You’ve always said that you made it so far in soccer by following your childhood dreams even though at the time, professional soccer wasn’t open to women. What advice do you have for anyone facing adversity?

Adversity when faced with unbreakable commitment and a fighting spirit will always define a person much more so than perceived success. We must never put limitations on ourselves and I’m so proud that I believed in the impossible at such a young age. I must give credit to the very strong women role models in my life for teaching me to never settle — my mother and grandmother.

What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned during your longstanding professional soccer career?

Greatest lesson? Be true to yourself, fight for what you believe in and never compromise your values. Sometimes it’s easier to be inauthentic — to do what others want you to do, act the way others want you to act and stay quiet instead of speaking out in order to avoid discomfort or conflict. Quiet people are not going to create change in this world.

“I have always been motivated to do better, to teach, to inspire and to use my voice.”

In an interview on CBS This Morning you said that it’s a long road to achieve equality in soccer, but people are starting to open their eyes. How are you and your teammates pushing the importance of gender equality in not just soccer, but all sports?

True equality will be an uphill battle for many generations to come. The equal pay act was passed in 1963 and it was aimed at abolishing wage disparity based on sex. Yet in 2017, over 5 decades later, there are still very few CEO’s who are women, and women still get paid only .79$ to the dollar; and in our case, it’s a whopping $.25 on the dollar. We even have a president — whether you agree with his policies or not — who spoke so poorly of women, and went on to become the face of our country. This can only happen because sexism, as well as racism, is institutionalized in the workforce. We must overcome the history, habits, and mindset in order to have equality. The law has proven through the equal pay act, that it is not enough. Thankfully I have seen the hope of our future, and I am proud that the younger generations are much more inclusive.

“Sometimes it’s easier to be inauthentic — to do what others want you to do, act the way others want you to act and stay quiet instead of speaking out in order to avoid discomfort or conflict. Quiet people are not going to create change in this world.”

Finally, do you think by doing good, you’re more successful?

Without a doubt. Success on the field has given me the platform to affect change and create impact. And this work has opened up so many opportunities, connected me with so many incredible people and enriched my life in ways I could not have imagined.

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