All eyes are on the U.S. women’s national team as they prepare to go nose-to-nose with the Netherlands on Sunday. While the bulk of the attention has been on Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan (and rightfully so), there’s another side to these athletes that makes the world brighter than any World Cup gold medal.
In late 2015, Purpose2Play videographer Brittany Alvarado and I had the privileged of spending the day with backup goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris in Satellite Beach, Florida, documenting her story off the pitch. She not only captured the hearts of thousands, but she made an incredible impact in viewers’ lives going forward.
“Thank you so much for putting this video up. I have been battling depression and suicide for the past two years after my friend died on the 9th November 2013. But after seeing this video I will get help for me and my 3 year old son,” one person said on YouTube.
“I’m gonna watch this every time I feel like I’m struggling too hard, to remind myself that is okay, and it will be okay,” another person commented.
While Harris’s story has changed lives, what many don’t realize is the impact she made while the camera was down that day.
We had already been filming for three hours under the hot Florida sun. While we could have just wrapped up our time outside and gone back to Harris’s home to shoot one final sit down interview, Harris insisted we go to the skatepark where she spent so much of her youth working out her frustrations in life.
It would have been easy for Harris to just skate around some rails, sit on top of a few ramps and let us capture b roll shots before wrapping up at that location. Instead, she went the extra mile.
When a young skater dropped in from the pipe and fell, he looked up with shame and doubt written all over his face.
“Try again. You got it, buddy,” Harris said among other encouraging words all while demonstrating on her own board what technique to use.
He was a stranger, but his attempt felt all too familiar to her.
He dropped in a second time, stayed on his feet and rode it out like the pro he was dreaming of becoming.
The lesson that Harris casually left him with? That failure is just feedback that makes future success that much sweeter.
She was an anchor for a young boy that day, a buoy for a kid who felt “sunk.”
While the skater may not have known who she was on the soccer field, he walked away knowing that a stranger was rooting for him. He realized that people care for him.
So, as we watch these fierce women take the field on Sunday, and celebrate their strength and success, remember, the real story lies in their ability to champion others.
After all, life can be hard. But, we’re all it together.