Brandi Chastain learned the importance of staying active early on. Her parents were busy, but they always took time to go outside and play with her when she was growing up. Their efforts paid off: At 44, Chastain is a legendary name in the soccer world. As a member of the U.S. women’s national soccer team, she won three Olympic medals (two of them gold) and two Women’s World Cup championships. (No one can forget her triumphant jersey-doffing gesture after scoring the game-winning penalty goal.)
Now, as the mother of a first-grade son, Chastain is a soccer mom in every sense of the word. “He joined his first soccer team; he’s had two official matches under his belt,” says Chastain (who also has a stepson in law school). “We’re also into throwing the football around.”
She wants to help other kids achieve that same confidence. Chastain heads up two nonprofit organizations aimed at helping children become active and stay healthy regardless of their socioeconomic circumstances. She also recently partnered with Libby’s to host a youth soccer clinic in leagues in three Northeast markets on behalf of the brand’s Snack Duty Takeover campaign featuring Libby’s Singles Fruit Cups. The leagues each received a $5,000 donation from the company.
“We’re sharing the message about healthy lifestyles and how healthy snacks can help kids perform better,” Chastain says. “As a parent, I want my child to eat well and play hard, and if you have a healthy snack ready for your kids, it improves alertness and they can focus better. To help your child be his or her own best advocate, pack a snack in their backpack. My son enjoys the pear cup most.”
But providing good food is only one of the ways parents can help their children become more active. “Being an active and hands-on role model is the best way,” says Chastain. “I try to do my best. When I pick up my son, we play on the playground together, and we have a group of parents who meet at the park one night a week to play games.”
Being part of a sports team is one of many ways children can get their exercise. Anything from a simple game of tag to relay races, jumping rope and biking are fun ways to get up and moving.
“It’s encouraging kids to understand that they have to take responsibility for their own lives – that being healthy is within their charge,” says Chastain. “Those might be overwhelming words for a kid, but not if you put it in a fun context – letting them make up games and organize activities.”
The soccer star adds that playing games and sports also help children learn about teamwork and the importance of improving through trial and error.
“I’ve seen the changes in [my own son],” she explains. “He doesn’t have that much skill yet, but already I’ve seen how much his demeanor has changed, his confidence has improved.
“My mom always used to say, ‘Just wait till you’re a mom, Brandi – you’ll understand that desire for your kids to do well.’ ”
Bet you do, too!
[Photos: Ryan T. Conaty]
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