By Kim Constantinesco

Long before U.S. Women’s National Team and Seattle Reign FC soccer player Stephanie Cox, 28, won an Olympic gold medal as a member of the 2008 team, she was a member of a much larger Olympic-caliber team.

You see, the concept of “team” and “cohesion” have been engrained in Cox (formerly Lopez), starting from an early age in her hometown of Elk Grove, CA.

“When I was in kindergarden, my parents decided to become foster parents,” Cox said after a 2-0 win in a friendly against China. “There were three siblings that they decided to bring into our home. They lived with us until I was a sophomore or junior in high school.”

That was already on top of having Cox and her three brothers to raise.

Rob and Cindy Lopez didn’t stop there, nor did they stop after their own kids grew up.

“They continued to bring in newborn babies just on a temporary short-term basis,” Cox said. “My mom told us that they’ve cared for over 140 babies.”

The Lopez family had to rally around each other in order to have a functioning household.

“My younger brothers have helped with all of those babies, too,” Cox said.

“It definitely stretches your family. My parents are amazing. My dad recently took a picture of my mom holding three babies, and he was joking that she was Mother Teresa.”

With all of those newborns coming through, becoming too attached to the children becomes a potential issue.

“I think with the babies, we knew that we were giving them what they needed at the time,” Cox said. “I think my mom had a limit. Once the baby started smiling, she knew that the case worker finally needed to get a more permanent home for them because then we would start getting attached once their personality started coming.”

Cox and her husband, Brian, had their first child about a year ago and she credits her unique upbringing for helping to prepare her for motherhood.

“I think having them helped me not be so scared of being a mom because I’ve had experience changing diapers and feeding babies,” Cox said.

As for whether Cox wants to follow in her parents’ footsteps?

“[My mom] has an incredible capacity with little sleep, so having a newborn about a year ago, I can’t believe that she does that all the time,” Cox said. “That’s her job. She does that day in and day out. So maybe if I were to be a foster parent, it would be a different age group.”

Nevertheless, Cox is using her platform as a professional soccer player to open her heart to kids.

“I would like to support kids whether it’s coaching or I’ve taken a group of five local kids to Nike Town for Christmas the last five years, and given them a little shopping spree and taken them out to dinner. I try to give back when I can.”

Cox has also helped her parents in leading groups to do humanitarian work overseas. They’ve traveled to Egypt to paint an orphanage, served meals to American missionaries in Mexico, and cleared land for a learning center in the Bahamas.

Teamwork is obviously nothing new to Cox, and her upbringing taught her that there’s strength in unity. It’s a perfect lesson to bring to the soccer field and compete on the highest possible level, where “family” has no size limit or restrictions.