82 episodes

As the world tunes in for the ninth Women’s World Cup, it’s hard to imagine a time when professional women’s soccer didn’t exist. In 1985, 17 of the best soccer players in the United States formed the first US Women’s National Soccer Team. Their story has never been told. Until now…

In this new season, cohosted with FIFA Player of the Century and '85er, Michelle Akers, we bring you the stories of resilient women who launched what has become one of the most impressive sports dynasties the world has ever witnessed. The Women’s World Cup didn’t exist until 1991 and women’s soccer wasn’t an Olympic sport until 1996, but a Flame Bearer isn’t a Flame Bearer because of who is watching (or not), but rather because of who she is when the world isn’t watching… Historical lack of opportunity and structural support make these athletes’ stories that much more important, especially as we look back at the legacy they helped launch. So many of us today stand on their shoulders, and because of women like them, the flame has never burned brighter for women in sports.

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Flame Bearers Special Edition: U.S. Women's Soccer Originals Jamie Mittelman

    • Sports
    • 4.9 • 68 Ratings

As the world tunes in for the ninth Women’s World Cup, it’s hard to imagine a time when professional women’s soccer didn’t exist. In 1985, 17 of the best soccer players in the United States formed the first US Women’s National Soccer Team. Their story has never been told. Until now…

In this new season, cohosted with FIFA Player of the Century and '85er, Michelle Akers, we bring you the stories of resilient women who launched what has become one of the most impressive sports dynasties the world has ever witnessed. The Women’s World Cup didn’t exist until 1991 and women’s soccer wasn’t an Olympic sport until 1996, but a Flame Bearer isn’t a Flame Bearer because of who is watching (or not), but rather because of who she is when the world isn’t watching… Historical lack of opportunity and structural support make these athletes’ stories that much more important, especially as we look back at the legacy they helped launch. So many of us today stand on their shoulders, and because of women like them, the flame has never burned brighter for women in sports.

Tune into all podcast episodes, wherever you get your podcasts including:
-Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast...
-Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/7sLW663...
-Google Podcasts: https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0...
-Castro: https://castro.fm/podcast/f31308b5-4c...

Learn more about Flame Bearers here: flamebearerspodcast.com

Social Media Handles:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/flamebearer...
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FlameBearers...
Twitter: https://twitter.com/flamebearers
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/flam...

    Special Edition: U.S. Women's Soccer Originals (Kim Crabbe)

    Special Edition: U.S. Women's Soccer Originals (Kim Crabbe)

    Kim Crabbe was the first African-American to roster on the USWNT. She was on the 1986 team, but given that we've been telling the stories of the original USWNT trailblazers, Kim needed to be celebrated. According to longtime friend and soccer leader, Samuel Okpodu, Kim is the "Cinderella of soccer...Today everybody's enjoying it, but nobody remembers how it all started. Kim started it all" at a time when black girls didn't really play soccer.

    According to sister, Kacey, while their Mom originally wanted them to play more "girly girl sports," soccer was what the siblings were into, so "Kim led the way" and Mom was incredibly supportive. And while Kim tore it up on the field (first for George Mason University and then the USWNT), she's never hung up her cleats because for her, the game is a means to serve. As the Outreach Program Director, Wilmington Hammerheads Youth Football Club and more recently Founder and CEO of her nonprofit, Outreach of Cape Fear, Kim has used soccer to support thousands of youth. Her nonprofit bridges the gap for disadvantaged and at-risk youth in Southeastern North Carolina through soccer and mentorship. As Kim shares, "Soccer has been my tool for reaching people and my overarching calling is service." This rings true to sister, Kacey, who shares, "our mother raised us with great integrity in finding your sense of purpose, and then passing that on to others."

    Kim was inducted into the Virginia-DC Hall of Fame (2016), received the Black Soccer Coaches Advocacy Group Award of Excellence (2018), Centennial NAACP Youth Services Award (2019), and the Youth Coach of the Year Award (2021). Most recently in 2022, U.S. Soccer established an award in her name: The Kim Crabbe Game Changers Award celebrating diversity, inclusion, and belonging within the soccer community.

    Contributing guests include Kacey Crabbe Jefferson (Kim's sister), Laurie Curry (Kim's best friend), Richard White (Kim's Coach growing up), Logan Martinez (Coach Kim's soccer player), Jazmine Crabbe-Harris (Kim's daughter), Samuel Okpodu (longtime friend and soccer leader), Sully Hamid (longtime friend), and Lisa Pittaro (George Mason and USWNT teammate).

    Learn more about Kim's nonprofit here: http://outreachofcapefear.org/

    Join the Outreach of Cape Fear Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/902619116834747

    Media used in this production:
    -38 years after making history, first USWNT to be honored at Asheville City regular season finale, Chris Womack, June 29th 2023,
    -The Forgotten Early History of Women’s Soccer, Laurent Dubois, January 22, 2016
    -ESPN YouTube Channel, 'USWNT win the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage | 2023 ESPYS (📍 @CapitalOne)'

    • 28 min
    Special Edition: U.S. Women's Soccer Originals (Denise Bender)

    Special Edition: U.S. Women's Soccer Originals (Denise Bender)

    Denise was a swimmer, diver, gymnast, and track and field athlete before becoming a soccer player at 14. That said, Washington had strong support for women's soccer at the time, so once she was hooked, she was all in on soccer. Hilariously, Denise and Michelle have a moment where they both share how they felt playing against each other. Hint: they were both intimidated. As Denise offers, Michelle and others were her "idols back then...I tried to get my game up to be able to handle them." Michelle replies, "you and your team were so good. I might've not looked like I was intimidated, but inside I was like, 'holy shit.'"

    Flash forward to 1985, and Denise became one of the captains of the first USWNT, not surprising as leadership was and still is a trait Denise is known for. We hear from former teammate, Jan (who speaks with us live from the Women's World Cup) who describes Denise as "very intense and focused" with "exceptional leadership" and "loads of fun." And Denise's dedication to the sport didn't end with her professional retirement. She became a commissioner because she wanted to "promote competitive play for younger people"

    In this episode, Denise shares about Walking Soccer. Learn more here: https://www.whatcomadultsoccer.com/walk-soccer

    • 18 min
    Special Edition: U.S. Women's Soccer Originals (Pam Baughman-Cornell)

    Special Edition: U.S. Women's Soccer Originals (Pam Baughman-Cornell)

    Pam was working in the credit department of JCPenney when she got a call from The Washington Post asking her about making the first U.S. Women's National Team -- she hadn't heard from U.S. Soccer yet, so she wasn't sure what was happening. The Post had the scoop -- she was on the team. The first USWNT.

    Flash forward and though she's no longer a professional player, she's held onto her competitive spirit. Over the years, she's hiked the Appalachian Trail. 3 TIMES. She jumped into coaching young girls, always emphasizing "playing for the love of the game." She adventures in a camper van and runs competitively in road races, a love that her son, Nick shares (he's an ultra marathoner). Despite all of the incredible accolades and adventures Pam has wracked up, she cites her marriage with husband, Glenn (her #1 fan) and their two sons as what she's most proud of. "That's what I lead with," she says, often not sharing the USWNT part of her life with newer friends. Fear not -- Glenn makes sure everyone knows... And he's been with Pam every step of the way.

    Glenn recalls hearing Pam's name being read off every morning in school assembly because "she was so good at every sport." They finally met in P.E. class and the rest is history. When asked why the world needs to hear Pam and her teammates' stories, Glenn offers, "It's so important to always think back about the people that were the first." Pam was one of those pioneers.

    Media used in this production:
    -38 years after making history, first USWNT to be honored at Asheville City regular season finale, Chris Womack, June 29th 2023,
    -The Forgotten Early History of Women’s Soccer, Laurent Dubois, January 22, 2016
    -ESPN YouTube Channel, 'USWNT win the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage | 2023 ESPYS (📍 @CapitalOne)'

    • 15 min
    Special Edition: U.S. Soccer Originals (Cindy Gordon)

    Special Edition: U.S. Soccer Originals (Cindy Gordon)

    *Content Warning: This episode includes stories of sexual abuse. This production contains material of a highly sensitive nature including stories of sexual grooming and manipulation that may be triggering. Resources provided below.*

    Cindy remembers going to her brothers' soccer games to watch. "They didn't have girls soccer then, and I was dying to play... I remember standing on the sidelines thinking, 'Oh, well, maybe somebody will get hurt and they won't have enough players and the coach will look over and say, you. Girl. You look like you could play. Do you want to join?'" That never happened. But Title IX did, and then there was a girls team. Cindy immediately signed up.

    And from the start, soccer was clearly Cindy's game, as sister, Valerie describes Cindy as the "sporty tomboy." While Cindy went on to break countless records and play on the first USWNT, her story isn't only one of success. Her story is also one of suffering, warning, and solidarity. Cindy's youth soccer coach sexually abused her. When asked if she's comfortable sharing, she thoughtfully replies, "Of course it's uncomfortable, but I feel it's really important to share because I think that's another epidemic: sexual abuse of female athletes." In this episode, Cindy shares what she wants the world to hear.

    Contributing experts include Amy Carnell (Cindy''s friend and survivor, sexual abuse) and Valerie (Cindy's sister).

    RESOURCES ON SEXUAL GROOMING:
    -Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)'s Warning Signs of Sexual Grooming: https://www.rainn.org/news/grooming-know-warning-signs
    -RAINN'S 24/7 sexual assault hotline: https://www.rainn.org/resources
    -Overview from the American Bar Association on Understanding Sexual Grooming in Child Abuse Cases: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_interest/child_law/resources/child_law_practiceonline/child_law_practice/vol-34/november-2015/understanding-sexual-grooming-in-child-abuse-cases/
    -Victim Support: https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/you-co/types-crime/sex-crimes/grooming/

    Media used in this production:
    -38 years after making history, first USWNT to be honored at Asheville City regular season finale, Chris Womack, June 29th 2023,
    -The Forgotten Early History of Women’s Soccer, Laurent Dubois, January 22, 2016
    -ESPN YouTube Channel, 'USWNT win the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage | 2023 ESPYS (📍 @CapitalOne)'

    • 21 min
    Special Edition: U.S. Women's Soccer Originals (Kathy Ridgewell-Williams)

    Special Edition: U.S. Women's Soccer Originals (Kathy Ridgewell-Williams)

    While Kathy (or Ridgey as she was called) had older sisters, she grew up playing with the boys, and doing so in what SHE wanted to wear. Just as Kathy started public elementary school, the rules changed to allow girls to wear pants (Kathy's older sisters had been required to wear dresses or skirts). As Kathy shares, Mom "tried to get me in dresses on picture day, and I would sneak out my brother's hand me downs." Michelle can relate...

    By fourth grade, Kathy was faster than all of the kids in her school. She "always had speed on her side." She cites the "old man on the bicycle" as one of the most influential people on her game sharing, "He was just this old soccer guy and because there was no soccer anywhere, and the kids were playing, he gave me a couple of pointers on how to do one on ones." And that changed everything. To the "old man," wherever you are, thank you for coaching and inspiring one of the legends of the first USWNT.

    We hear from soccer teammate Diana Inch, who played with Kathy for years and against Michelle, so was along for the "rollercoaster of soccer." Flash forward to today, and Kathy is the Assistant Director, Innovation and Performance in the Washington State Office of the Governor. She explains what that means but essentially, she holds state agencies accountable for "moving towards equitable solutions." Takeaway: Kathy hasn't only broken barriers in soccer, but also in the statehouse.

    Media used in this production:
    -38 years after making history, first USWNT to be honored at Asheville City regular season finale, Chris Womack, June 29th 2023,
    -The Forgotten Early History of Women’s Soccer, Laurent Dubois, January 22, 2016
    -ESPN YouTube Channel, 'USWNT win the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage | 2023 ESPYS (📍 @CapitalOne)'

    • 17 min
    Special Edition: U.S. Soccer Originals (Ann Orrison Germain)

    Special Edition: U.S. Soccer Originals (Ann Orrison Germain)

    Nobody in Ann's family played soccer, so at 12, she went to the town firehouse to sign herself up -- she strategically jotted down "goalie" because she thought it increased her odds of making the team. Flash forward to UVA, and Ann is playing field hockey to help with the costs, yet she returned home on weekends without games to play soccer. UVA didn't have a women's soccer team at the time. After making the first USWNT in 1985, Ann became an engineer, partially because of the work-life balance, so she could spend evenings playing soccer and coaching. By now, she's coached the game at every level possible and her players and daughters have the stories to prove it. We hear from her former player, Anna, daughters, Kim and Kelly, and friends Helen and Matt, all who share their love for Ann...and a few funny stories about her climbing trees, be it to get a better view of a soccer match or just waiting for a daughter after practice.

    Media used in this production:
    -38 years after making history, first USWNT to be honored at Asheville City regular season finale, Chris Womack, June 29th 2023,
    -The Forgotten Early History of Women’s Soccer, Laurent Dubois, January 22, 2016
    -ESPN YouTube Channel, 'USWNT win the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage | 2023 ESPYS (📍 @CapitalOne)'

    • 24 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
68 Ratings

68 Ratings

LizMom of boys ,

Such an inspiring podcast

I love Flamebearers! It is honest, educational and so incredibly inspiring. I am not an athlete but the themes Jamie talks to her guests about, being present, living in you body, self care and the importance of determination and grit are such important lessons for everyone. Thank you for the amazing work you are doing!

@jkwalnuts ,

Flame Bearers

Well done. Nice to hear real life stories of athletes especially form diverse countries.

time to believe ,

Open and Honest and Awesome stories!

Love the transparency and willingness to share these stories!

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