My Story: How Soccer and Being LGBTQ Has Led My Life, On and Off the FieldJun 23, 2022
I grew up in a special place and at a special time. Title IX went into effect the year I was born, and in 2022 we are celebrating 50 years of girls and women being given sports opportunities our mothers and grandmothers were not provided. I was given the opportunity to start playing soccer at the young age of 7 in Southern California – one of the hotbeds of soccer at the time.
As a little girl, I was better than most boys and girls my age at many sports. I fell in love with the game of soccer. I played in rec, club, state and regional Olympic Development Program (ODP) teams, 4 years of varsity at the high school level, and eventually earned a full 4-year scholarship to Cal Berkeley- a soccer journey I am beyond grateful for today.
Unlike today’s players who are now given opportunities to play professionally, I had no other option to play at a higher level than the one I had left. With the fight for equal pay finally coming to fruition for the best of the best to play the sport, I was in the 98% of players who would not continue a sporting career at a Professional, National, or Olympic level after college. College soccer was my peak and when I left on my own accord during my senior year due to conflict with the coach and a betrayal by my teammate, I found myself floundering emotionally, despite looking like I had it “all together”.
Soccer had provided another space for me aside from just playing a sport I loved. It allowed for me to understand who I was as a lesbian and gave me a safe space to meet other lesbians. I was able to accept myself as LGBTQ as a teenager, going to peer groups from age 15-17 and then I was able to embrace my sexuality at the same age as my heterosexual cohorts were exploring their own sexual identities.
Coming out 30+ years ago is very different than it is today. While I had safe spaces amidst my soccer teams and in the safety of the SF Bay area, I felt like I lost both once I left my sport and moved to Michigan for graduate school. Michigan was a culture shock for this 21-year-old. I worked hard to fulfill the void of leaving soccer behind as well as my LGBTQ haven of the bay.
When we are little kids, we are constantly asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and depending on our upbringing, we rattle off various job titles that hold prestige, etc. Today, young women can say “I want to play sports professionally” and get paid for it. When I was pursuing my master’s degree, I was doing what was expected of me as a young woman by continuing my education and obtaining a worthy career.
I chased my graduate degree and career with the same eagerness and pursuit I had chased soccer, obtaining my master’s degree at 25 years old. But I still felt like something was missing.
I ended up leaving my first career as an in-home family therapist after 7 years, moved across the country to Colorado and spent 7 years in the sales industry for various companies. After being disappointed with the corporate world and feeling like I didn’t fit in, I took a giant leap to quit and became an entrepreneur.
12 years ago, I started a company with zero background in business. My soccer background came in handy. I built my company based on soccer principles and relationships, using all the skills I had learned to become a teammate and a leader to pursue the road less traveled. Being given the opportunity to play sports as a little girl had put me on the trajectory to succeed at whatever I chose to do.
Being a lesbian also allows me to view the world differently. Instead of chasing other people’s dreams and doing what is expected, I have chosen to live my life out loud in every capacity. I have used my athletic journey to design the life I want to live instead of settling for less. I fight for equal rights for women and girls as well as for LGBTQ people by continuing my advocacy each day since I came out myself as a teenager.
The pursuit of sport and of accepting myself as a lesbian has allowed me to succeed beyond the field. I sold my first company after 10 years of ownership in 2020 and published two books, Get Stuck In- Lessons from the Pitch to Build Your Business and Forever Athlete (a collaboration with 17 other athletes) to share my journey of how soccer taught me about business and how my soccer career allowed me to accept who I am as a lesbian.
I now help other athletes make the difficult steps to leave their sport and move into another path as an Athlete Transition Coach and Business Coach. I work with people to design the life they want, not what is expected of them. I want people to pursue their life after sport with the same love and work ethic as when they played their sport.
We all must “hang up our cleats” at some point and life doesn’t end when a sporting career does. It is important to embrace who you are as a person, recognizing your sport is what you do, not who you are. To share my story around the 50th anniversary of Title IX as well as during Pride month is a full circle moment. My hope is that others can recognize themselves in my journey and pursue their goals and dreams, taking us even further. Celebrate yourself for who you are. Remember to Get Stuck In!™ and to Live Your Life Out Loud!™
To learn more about Kim’s work or to grab a copy of one of her books, visit her website at www.kimbradybusinesscoaching.com. You can also connect with her on LinkedIn here: www.linkedin.com/in/kimbrady.