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Soccer Star Hope Solo On Loving Lost Parents

Aug 18, 2012
Originally published on August 20, 2012 1:46 pm

Hope Solo is generally regarded as the best women's goalkeeper in the world. Fresh off winning her third-straight Olympic gold medal with the U.S. national team, Solo has been as busy off the field as on it, releasing an autobiography titled Solo: A Memoir of Hope.

The memoir details her rise as an international celebrity, but it also focuses on the complicated relationship she had with her father, who taught her to play soccer.

The man she knew as Gerry Solo was quite the enigma — he had multiple social security numbers and names, even additional children that Solo found out about when she was young. For a time, her father was homeless and even was accused of murder. Although his name eventually was cleared, it's wasn't before his death in 2008.

Solo tells weekends on All Things Considered guest host Cheryl Corley how she came to terms with not always knowing who her father was, and how that shaped who she is today.


Interview Highlights

On her father:

"I think at an early age I learned not to judge people. My father showed me so much love. He showed my brother so much love. He just, he had a rough life. You know, he grew up in a boys home in the Bronx. He didn't really know his own family. So I couldn't hold it against him that he didn't know how to parent. He didn't know how to be the perfect husband. But he loved as much as he could. And that love was pure."

On her mother:

"She struggled, abusing alcohol for quite some time, and so we just kind of drifted apart. I went to college. But I dedicate the book to her because she is the true champion of the family. She kept our family together. She provided us with a roof over our head. She always worked. My father was never around. But I glorified my father, and I was always daddy's little girl. He was my first soccer coach. And I always just had a dream to spend more time with my father. But at the end of the day, my mom was the one who kept me in soccer, who kept me, you know, doing my homework, who provided me with meals on a daily basis. You know, she was the strength of our family, and I didn't realize that until I got a little bit older."

On whether she and her outspokenness are held to a different standard because she is female:

"I've felt that for quite some time. It has been hard, because I have given my life to the game and to the sport. And I put all of my energy into building the game and giving women opportunities and, you know, to put everything into it and then to be deemed selfish or not a good team player or outspoken, it's been hard. But at the same time, I'm going to get the critics and I know that. But I know that I'm breaking down barriers. And I know that in the end I'm doing a great thing."

On her advice to young soccer players:

"I hate the cliche of 'just have fun,' but what I've seen in today's sports, especially with parents, is they put so much pressure on the kids. ... But for me, the reason why I became successful is because I play with passion. And, you know, I let that passion and that fire just build inside of me. And it came out on the soccer field. It wasn't forced, you know, people didn't put pressure on me. I just played for the love of the game."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

CHERYL CORLEY, HOST:

It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Cheryl Corley, in for Guy Raz.

Hope Solo is generally regarded as the best goalkeeper in the world. Solo and the U.S. women's soccer team just won their third straight gold medal at the Olympics, and the soccer champion has been as busy off the field as she has been on. She's just released an autobiography called "Solo: A Memoir of Hope." That memoir details her rise as an international celebrity, but it also focuses on the complicated relationship she had with her father who taught her how to play soccer.

The man she knew as Gerry Solo was quite the enigma. He had multiple Social Security numbers and names, even additional children that Hope Solo found out about when she was young. For a time, her father was homeless and even was accused of murder. His name was eventually cleared, but not before his death in 2008.

When we spoke, I asked Hope Solo how she came to terms with not always knowing what was real about him and what wasn't.

HOPE SOLO: There were definitely a lot of tears growing up. I do remember one time wondering where I really came from. Was my last name DeMatteo? Was it Beyers? Am I really - I'm not even Hope Solo. I don't even know who I am. That is hard as a young girl growing up, not really knowing where your family came from.

But I think at an early age, I learned not to judge people. My father showed me so much love. He showed my brother so much love. He just - he had a rough life. You know, he grew up in a boys' home in the Bronx. He didn't really know his own family.

So I couldn't hold it against him that he didn't know how to parent. He didn't know how to be the perfect husband. But he loved as much as he could. And that love was pure.

CORLEY: Hmm. You talk so much about your family members, and especially about your father in the book, and I was wondering what you learned about him as you wrote this.

SOLO: I started to learn a little bit more about why I have certain quirks, like commitment issues. I always was proud - and I still am proud - but I always would say: You know what? I'm proud of where I came from because it gave me strength. But now I started to see that I also still struggle with certain things because I didn't have a stable family or a father figure around. And one of those main things are my inability to commit. And that was a hard reality that struck me while I was writing this book.

CORLEY: Mm. Mm-hmm. Well, you talk about not only your father but don't want to give your mom short shrift. You talk about her and being able to make amends with her, as well, right?

SOLO: Yeah. I never really had to make amends with her. I think we just - she struggled, abusing alcohol for quite some time. And so we just kind of drifted apart. I went to college. But she - you know, I dedicate the book to her because she is the true champion of the family. She kept our family together.

She provided us with a roof over our head. And she always worked. My father was never around. But I glorified my father, you know? And I was always daddy's little girl. He was my first soccer coach. And I always just had a dream to spend more time with my father.

But at the end of the day, my mom was the one who kept me in soccer, who kept me, you know, doing my homework, who provided me with meals on a daily basis. You know, she was the strength of our family. And I didn't realize that until I got a little bit older.

CORLEY: I'm speaking with U.S. women's soccer goalie Hope Solo about her new autobiography, "A Memoir of Hope." You know, you have the perfect name for a goalie.

(LAUGHTER)

CORLEY: But do you - I was wondering, do you ever get tired of how people try to make different headlines with your name, or do you consider it kind of flattery?

SOLO: Oh, I don't even laugh at the jokes anymore. They're so corny to me.

(LAUGHTER)

SOLO: And I think I've heard everything they could possibly say about my name.

(LAUGHTER)

CORLEY: All right. I won't try. I won't try one, then. Well, in your memoir, you talk about your longtime involvement with the U.S. national team and how training can really be exhausting, not jut physically, but emotionally. And you said it was really challenging socially. How was it challenging socially?

SOLO: You know, you play a team sport. And I don't think people realize how many different personalities are on that team. And you are training day in and day out. You're eating every meal together. You have a roommate. You don't get time alone. And some people don't need it. You know, a lot of people on these - who play team sports are very extroverted.

I need my time alone. I love my down time more than anything, and it allows me to get more strength to continue on to be socially. And that's hard when you're playing a team sport.

CORLEY: Mm-hmm. Well, you do not mince words. Everybody knows that about you. And you detail it in your book how you paid a price for that in 2007 when you were benched and the United States lost the World Cup. You were suspended after telling reporters if you had played you would have made the saves in those games.

Recently, you had a Twitter dustup with former soccer player and now commentator Brandi Chastain over her analysis of the team's play during the Olympics. Do you ever think that you and your outspokenness is held to a different standard because you're female?

SOLO: Absolutely. I have felt that for quite some time. It has been hard because I have given my life to the game and to the sport and I put all of my energy into building the game and giving women opportunities. And, you know, to put everything into it and then to be deemed selfish or, you know, not a good team player or outspoken, it's been hard.

But at the same time, I'm going to get the critics - and I know that - but I know that I'm breaking down barriers. And I know that in the end, I'm doing a great thing.

CORLEY: Well, you became a celebrity in another field when you decided to go on "Dancing with the Stars." And what was that like for you? And did learning all those dance moves help you any way on the soccer field?

SOLO: On the soccer field.

(LAUGHTER)

CORLEY: Yeah.

SOLO: I'm not going to say it helped me on the soccer field. Actually, it felt like I lengthened my muscles, so I lost some muscle. And it took me some time to reach the top level again. But I took time off. You know, I needed a break mentally.

So I guess, maybe - perhaps that's how the show helped. I got away from the field. I got a mental break. But that show is hard because you always have to be on. And I'm a person, like I said earlier, that I have to get away. Turn the cameras off, let me breathe, let me get away. And you aren't really able to on a reality television show.

CORLEY: Hmm. Well, you are quite an inspiration to up-and-coming soccer players. And one of my colleagues' daughters - her name is Mimi - is a young goalie and her friend Maya is a huge soccer fan. And what sort of advice do you have for youngsters who really hope to follow in your footsteps?

SOLO: Mimi and Maya. I love the names.

(LAUGHTER)

SOLO: You know, for me, I hate the cliche of just have fun. But what I've seen in today's sports, especially with parents, is they put so much pressure on the kids. You know, I see kids already committing to universities, and they're 14 years old.

It's unbelievable to me the pressure that they put on these kids. They want their children to pick the sport at an early age and put time and effort into building that skill in hopes to get college scholarships. But for me, the reason why I became successful is because I play with passion.

And I let that passion and that fire just build inside of me. And it came out on the soccer field. It wasn't forced. You know, people didn't put pressure on me. I just played for the love of the game.

CORLEY: And that's Hope Solo, the country's dominant soccer goalie who, hands down, saved the gold for the U.S. in the London Olympics. Her book is called "Solo: A Memoir of Hope." And she joined us from the NPR Studios in New York. Hope, thanks so much.

SOLO: Cheryl, thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.