I got the chance to speak with Brandi Chastain at the New York launch of the Capital One Cup, a prestigious new program rewarding NCAA Division I athletics programs for their cumulative on-field performance across multiple men’s and women’s sports. Read the interview below.
Her nude photos in Gear magazine received much attention, both positive and negative. However, what most people don’t know is that she walked into the photo shoot expecting to do a shot of her back. The magazine blindsided her.
In the end, she chose to go through with the shoot. “I truly needed to be comfortable with who I was,” she said. “I put it all out there. I was vulnerable, but it was about conquering things.”
These days, Chastain is focusing on conquering motherhood and dedicating herself to charity.
Joys of Being a Mother
Chastain’s 21-year-old stepson, Cameron, recently graduated from Santa Clara University, her alma mater. “I had no idea how emotional I would be until I heard his name called out,” she said.
Her four-year-old son, Jaden, has also brought her unmatched joy. “Being a mother is visceral. I have this wonderful opportunity to instill values and become a better parent,” she said. “I am so much more sensitive to the little things now.”
The motherhood role has expanded into becoming a mentor and role model for young women, something she has aimed for ever since she was a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team. “I saw those young girls cheering in the stands. I looked like them, sounded like them. There was this connection,” she said. “I really wanted to use sports to make an impact in the lives of young girls.”
Making BAWSI Successful
In 2005, Chastain co-founded the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative (BAWSI) with former teammate Julie Foudy and former general manager of the San Jose CyberRays women’s professional soccer team, Marlene Bjornsrud.
The goal was to “create programs and partnerships through which women athletes bring health, hope and wholeness to our community.”
In five years, the organization has grown immensely. One of their programs, BAWSI Girls, uses high school and college athletes to mentor elementary school girls in a free weekly after-school program. The curriculum is designed to encourage self-esteem and good health practices in young girls from role models the girls can admire and emulate.
“[The girls] participate in an after-school curriculum of fitness activities developed by BAWSI as well as participate in discussions with women athletes about how to make healthy lifestyle choices, how to encourage others and receive encouragement, how to work individually and as part of a team. They learn from women who were once like them and have gone on to successful sports careers. And they have lots of fun.”
Some of the colleges and high schools participating include Santa Clara, San Jose St., Gavilan, Evergreen Valley, Menlo, Stanford, UC-Santa Cruz, West Valley, Presentation High School, Notre Dame High School, and Gilroy High School.
“We want these girls to become champions off the field. It’s really about inspiring them to reach outside of their box and go beyond what they think they can achieve,” Chastain said. “Our vision and hope is for this to become national instead of just in the Bay area.”
For Chastain, using her influence and name recognition to accomplish those goals has become one of her main driving forces in life. “BAWSI has really helped me grow that vision and dream, and to see the value of young people,” she said. “We are our biggest champion. There are so many amazing things we can do to help the community.”
Chastain’s Reach uP! Foundation
On Saturday, October 2, Chastain will be hosting an all-star soccer match at Santa Clara’s Buck Shaw Stadium to honor her career as well as raise funds for her new Reach uP! Foundation.
The players include: Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Kristine Lilly, Tisha Venturini, Aly Wagner, Eric Wynalda, Tony Meola, Leslie Osborne, Eric Lagopoulos, Marcelo Balboa, Tab Ramos, Brent Jones, Bode Miller, Tiffeny Milbrett, Nomar Garciaparra, Cindy Parlow, and Lisa Leslie.
Chastain will officially close the professional soccer chapter of her life after the match. At 42, she has lived a lifetime of dreams and achieved all of her professional goals. Though she would have liked to continue playing soccer, things did not work out with the FC Gold Pride of the Women’s Professional Soccer league.
“Sports put you on the edge of life,” Chastain said. “In the end, you can only be yourself. Live with who you are and be happy about that.”