Julie Foudy Finds Another Forum

Hall of Famer has taken to new roles as ESPN sports reporter and first-time mother.

She's co-hosting MLS games, she's working on ESPN programs such as "Outside the Lines" and during the Women's World Cup in September she'll be in the Bristol studios as well as China. She's on the air, everywhere.

It's Julie Foudy, who else? She first worked for the network as a studio commentator during the 1998 World Cup and will be the lead analyst for this Women's World Cup alongside play-by-play announcer JP Dellacamera.

Once nicknamed "Loudy" Foudy by U.S. teammates for her incessant chatter on and off the field, the former Stanford all-American and veteran of 271 internationals has applied her poise, experience and worldly wordiness to more than just soccer. Foudy has run soccer camps for more than a decade, yet her Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy takes up more of her time these days, and she's also delving into matters far more touchy than a flat back four.

"It was totally different than anything I've ever done," says Foudy, who also worked for NBC during the Winter Olympics last year, of her "Outside the Lines" contribution. "It's a lot of work putting together something like that, getting all different sides, hearing all different perspectives."

Foudy worked as a reporter on the piece, for which numerous officials declined to be interviewed.

"It's one thing interviewing Torino athletes over glasses of Barolo about the Olympics. It's a lot different talking about pregnant scholarship athletes and whether school policy was forcing them to have abortions.

"That's what we talked about when I came into ESPN. I didn't want to do just soccer. I wanted to learn all the different areas of it and try different things. All this is new and challenging. I'll continue to do soccer, that's my passion, but I've always been drawn to the challenge of something new."

Foudy takes up challenges readily. A member of the U.S. women's team from 1988 to 2004, she was at the forefront of players pushing U.S. Soccer for more money, better bonuses, and proper training camps. She traveled to Pakistan to research the use of child labor to make soccer balls. She clashed with collegiate and political leaders while serving on the Secretary of Education's Commission on Opportunity in Athletics, a panel formed in 2002 to assess Title IX, which bans sex discrimination at schools receiving federal funds.

The "Outside the Lines" piece, like her work on Title IX, brought her back into the world of collegiate athletics. Foudy, the first Stanford women's soccer player to receive a full scholarship, graduated in 1993 with a B.S. degree in Biology and was accepted by the Stanford University School of Medicine yet decided soccer appealed to her more.

By then, she had already played in her first women's world championship: the inaugural event held hosted in 1991 by China and won by the U.S. She played at the next three Women's World Cups and in three Olympic soccer tournaments before retiring along with Mia Hamm and Joy Fawcett in December, 2004. Her induction into the Soccer Hall of Fame is Aug. 26.

Greg Ryan, a former assistant coach with the women's team, took over as head coach from April Heinrichs early in 2005. Despite an influx of younger players, many of whom have yet to play in a World Cup or Olympic tournament, Ftoudy believes the U.S. can atone for losing to Germany in the 2003 Women's World Cup and take the title, as it did at the 2004 Olympics.

"I see them dominating over in China," says Foudy, who will cover games and do studio segments in Bristol during the first round, then fly to China for the knockout phases, unless plans change.

"Their preparation and their depth sets them apart. Greg has done a really good job of giving them confidence that they don't need the older group and they can play for themselves. They haven't lost since he took over. They haven't come close to losing really, except to Germany on penalties (in the 2006 Algarve Cup final).

"They're extremely talented and hopefully will get the credit they deserve in the World Cup. There's just so much going on in September: college football, the playoff runs for Major League Baseball, the NFL, everything is happening."

Foudy has added motherhood to her list of tasks. Isabel was born last January and though Foudy's life has changed it's no less busy. She's cut out her work with the Women's Sports Foundation, which she formerly served as its president, and doesn't accept nearly as many speaking engagements.

"It's interesting how your life changes when you have a child," she says. "I get a call: 'Do you want to do a speech in this part of the country?' I say, 'No, thanks, I don't care how much you're paying, I'm not going.'

"I'm trying to stay home more. Whether that actually happens, we'll see."

(This article originally appeared in the August 2007 issue of Soccer America magazine.)
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