Today, the US Women’s soccer team celebrated an unprecedented back-to-back championship and their fourth world championship overall. This team captured the attention of our nation and the hearts of many. Their determination and bravado will be long remembered, and I think there are some investing, financial planning and life lessons that go hand in hand with Wednesday’s ticker tape parade.
The Long Game. Many would say this team was born out of the accomplishments of a previous generation. It probably isn’t a coincidence that many of today’s stars including Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd, and Megan Rapinoe were inspired during their formative teen and pre-teen years by the first famous women’s national team – the ‘99ers. Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, Julie Foudy and a team of legendary women’s players laid the foundation for this generation’s success with inspiring play on home turf and a never-to-be-forgotten shootout in the finals. While this generation’s success would seem likely to provide for golden years after, that team struggled with disappointing fits and starts with the US women’s professional game and little compensation beyond a few famous stars. Nonetheless, those women continue to represent the game as ambassadors and favored fans.
Investing lesson: Don’t expect success to be simple or easily accomplished in the short run. Ups and downs and time are necessary for long-term results.
Determination and resilience. Some of this year’s impact players were disappointingly left home or yet to be fully discovered. Crystal Dunn was the last cut from the 2015 world championship team. She used her disappointment to vault into a starring role in her professional league and kept her eye on her goal of getting caps internationally and on the team in 2019. Breakout star and Big 10 alum Rose Lavelle watched the 2015 World Cup final in a pizza shop along with her summer team. Christen Press struggled with the loss of her mother this year. Countless players battled back from persistent injuries. This team also filed a lawsuit against their federation suing for equal and better pay all while defending their world cup title. While the results of their legal actions are not yet determined, the impact on conversation of the team’s determination to move forward on the front for equality has heightened conversation within soccer, sports, and society in general.
Financial planning lesson: A focus on a singular goal or goals can pay off. Sharing your focus and expanding and amplifying the conversation has the power to reinforce your commitment to your plan.
Everyone’s a critic. The US team manager, Jill Ellis, has never gotten the credit she deserves. She’s only the second coach, male or female, to defend a title in World Cup history. After dominating in 2015, Ellis faced criticism from both the peanut gallery and soccer insiders like former player Hope Solo. Whether it was substitution decisions in the huge victory against Thailand, her willingness to give loud voices to her assistants, or the constant evolution of her lineup prior to the start of the tournament, Ellis quietly accepted the wrath of US supporters. Meanwhile, she managed to put together a body of work in this tournament that might be peerless in recent international memory. The team’s ability to face pressure and change to meet the needs of the team against each opponent was a magnificent feat.
Investing lesson: Your strategy may not be the same as others. Managing behavior to stick to your plan in the face of critics and self-doubt can pay off with success.
Shared values prevail. In the face of criticism about their on-field celebration and off the field causes or comments, the US Women’s Team did not blink. Upon reflection, I suspect this came from both individual conviction and a team character that was intentionally brash. Willing to articulate their confidence and dominance both on and off the field, the team refused to apologize for their personal and team perspectives. When given opportunities to distance themselves from comments or stances, the team chose to “Lean In”. Through the weeks of the tournament, the team built momentum and a spotlight they were more than ready to live with.
Life lesson: Every person and successful team has defining qualities and values that define them. When defined and articulated, these unifying and grounding characteristics that help create purpose become a companion on the path to success.
We won’t reconvene for a Women’s World Cup for four years, but I have a feeling the US Women’s National Team will be part of our collective conversation for the months and years in between. Reflect on their accomplishments with your own personal goals in mind and pull out some lessons from their successful playbook.
Melissa Joy, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner and founder of Pearl Planning.