In 1999, Christie Rampone was a fresh-faced 24-year-old ingénue when she stepped onto the soccer field for the Women’s World Cup. It would be the first time she became a world champion, but it wouldn’t be the last.
Less than a week ago — but nearly two decades into her time on the U.S. Women’s Soccer team — Rampone, team captain, snagged her second World Cup and the first for our country since ’99.
“That moment was amazing,” Rampone told SheKnows. “Once that final whistle blows and you know you’ve won a world championship, it’s unbelievable.”
The moment was also bittersweet, as this will likely be the last experience of its kind for Rampone, whose incredible career also includes three Olympic gold medals.
Kicking off her time on Team USA with a World Cup win and ending it with one, too? Well, Rampone considers it the full circle. “I was just kind of running around the field with my teammates and, after we hoisted the trophy, I was able to bring my children down on the field,” she recounts. “That was even more special, being able to do that at my age and as a mother of two. It brought it all together for me.”
Don’t count her out just yet, though.
Rampone’s 80th minute entrance during the team’s tournament victory over Nigeria may have earned her the designation as the oldest player to appear in a Women’s World Cup game, but the seasoned athlete still has life left in her cleats.
In addition to a 10-game victory tour spanning through the end of the year (and possibly even one more Olympic bid), Rampone is taking her game to new places by partnering with Jif as part of the 2015 Kick It Tour to raise $25,000 for Boys & Girls Club of America.
Through Aug. 9, Jif will donate $1 to the Boys & Girls Club for every photo taken at one of the Kick It Tour stop’s Jif To Go tents and posted on social media with the hashtags #JifToGo and #PromoEntry.
It marks an important shift for Rampone, who plans to channel her considerable skills toward helping kids after she retires.
“I’m so excited about the partnership because, well you know, being a mother of two we eat a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” she says, laughing. “And having peanut butter on the go at all of the soccer games has just been awesome. But I’m really excited too because my next path is to help youth and be around young kids, teaching them soccer. That’s what we’ll be doing at the end of July in Vail with this 3v3 tournament, where the Kick It tour will culminate and I’ll be hosting a clinic.”
Of course, Rampone has two budding athletes of her own to practice with until then — her daughters, soon-to-be 10-year-old Rylie and 5-year-old Reece.
So how does she keep her girls from feeling too much pressure to follow in their world class mom’s fleet footsteps?
“I think it’s within them. They’re just happy playing soccer and other sports, and they’re excited for me to come watch them,” says Rampone.
Still, she acknowledges that a certain amount of undue pressure is inevitable — but not on her account. “Obviously there’s a lot of pressure on them,” she says, “more so from other parents and from people always watching them and being like, ‘Oh, who’s Christie Rampone’s daughter?’ But I tell them they are who they are — they’re their own individuals. Mom’s just looking forward to watching them play and grow. There are no expectations.”
Plus, they’ve had a pretty stellar role model. Scratch that — role models.
“They’ve just been very fortunate and I’ve been very fortunate as a mom to have them around so many powerful women… they couldn’t have had better role models as females growing up,” Rampone says of her daughters’ interaction with her teammates.
Having traveled with the team since they were six weeks old (amazing!), it’s safe to assume Rylie and Reece have been instilled with an unflappable sense of self and strength of character. This is not to say, however, that the girls won’t stumble in doubt occasionally.
Like, perhaps, when they realize their mom and her teammates were only paid a small fraction for their World Cup win as their male counterparts — who lost.
For their historic win, the Women’s U.S. National Soccer team was awarded a $2 million prize by FIFA. Meanwhile, every team that just so much as takes the field at the Men’s World Cup receives a $1.5 million participation prize. Last year’s winning male team, Germany, landed a whopping $35 million for first place.
Rampone, who is known for being fair and measured in response, already has an answer prepared should her daughters ask about the disparity.
“It’s a work in progress. We’ve been fighting since ’99 — we went on two strikes when I was at the beginning of my career. Just to get where we are today has been tremendous, but I just hope that in the future as we grow and get more popular and people pay more attention that, financially, you’ll see the rewards too,” she explains.
For now, the girls seem content to revel in the long-deserved recognition of their mom’s greatness.
“After the World Cup, the girls were like, ‘Mommy, you get recognized in regular clothes now!'” Rampone shares. “And I told them, ‘America is watching. They know these 23 players and, especially when you two are with me, you get recognized as well.’ They’ve definitely embraced it and understand that it’s going to be crazy for a little bit.”