Golden Girl: Cindy Parlow Cone talks youth sports, Olympic glory
By Greg Bach
Cindy Parlow Cone knows how incredibly difficult it is to reach the highest levels of soccer.
She’s been there, done that.
She was a starter on the epic U.S. squad that captivated the nation by winning the 1999 World Cup. She also won two Olympic Gold Medals and three national championships as a player at North Carolina, and three more titles as an assistant coach for the Tar Heels.
And these days she’s focusing her efforts on youth soccer – coaching teams and overseeing a youth program in North Carolina – to help ensure that youngsters have a positive experience in a sport she loves so dearly.
“I think a lot of coaches out there are trying to develop soccer players to be the next national team player and for me, I know the percentages and how difficult it is to get to that level,” says Parlow Cone, who scored two goals during the U.S.’s incredible run to World Cup glory 16 years ago. “I’ve decided to focus my career on the youth game and in doing so I think it’s more important to give them that positive experience and help them and guide them through these life lessons. Along the way, of course, you’re teaching them tactics and techniques and different ways to play the game, but for me my focus is to give them that positive experience and help them lead a healthy lifestyle now and on into adulthood.”
Parlow Cone is also at the forefront of the Safer Soccer Initiative – developed by the Sports Legacy Institute (SLI), a leading concussion research and advocacy nonprofit, and the Santa Clara University Institute of Sports Law and Ethics (ISLE) – to keep heading out of soccer until players reach high school. It’s an initiative that the National Alliance for Youth Sports fully supports, too.
You can read Part I of our conversation with Parlow Cone on the dangers of heading HERE; and in Part II of our conversation below one of the sport’s most decorated players looks back on her youth sports experiences and on the joys of playing on the U.S. National Team.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: How were your youth sports experiences?
PARLOW CONE: I think youth sports taught me a lot, not just all the good parts but also all the negative things that happen within a team or within a game or within a season. You learn from those experiences, whether good or bad, and you take them with you forever. There’s not much that I encounter in my adult life that I haven’t in some way, shape or form encountered as a youth player, professional player or college player in terms of learning how to work together as a team to reach a goal. You may not necessarily love everyone on your team or agree with everyone on your team but you still have to work together to achieve a goal. You learn discipline and so many life lessons that come through playing a team sport.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What’s it like to represent your country on the biggest soccer stages in the world?
PARLOW CONE: To be able to represent your country in any way is amazing. For me, to represent them in a World Cup and the Olympics – I honestly don’t have words to describe it. I just feel so fortunate and so lucky to have had the opportunity to not only represent my country but to travel around the world and be a part of an amazing team with some of the greatest people I have ever met in my entire life.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What made that 1999 World Cup team so special?
PARLOW CONE: On that team, I was surrounded by very intellectual women who were leaders not just on the field but off the field and were just great, caring people. I just feel so fortunate to have been a part of the team and to be able to represent my country and be able to sing our national anthem on the podium – or scream – depending on your take on our singing (laughs). It’s just such an honor.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: You’re doing great work to eliminate heading in youth soccer to keep kids safe but how many concussions did you suffer during your career?
PARLOW CONE: I don’t have a number. I had two where I was knocked unconscious but in terms of all the times I headed the ball and saw stars we would be in the triple digits.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: How have those concussions affected your life today?
PARLOW CONE: I still suffer from post-concussion syndrome. My main issues are I have a lot of headaches, some visual issues and some memory issues to a lesser extent.
University of Tulsa football coach Philip Montgomery on the importance of sending players home in a positive frame of mind
Olympic swimming great Dana Vollmer, winner of five gold medals, challenges coaches of all youth sports to find the most effective ways to motivate all their young athletes
Olympic gold medalist Misty Hyman on empowering and inspiring young athletes
Antonio Pierce, Super Bowl champion and linebackers coach at Arizona State, on pinpointing motives and inspiring young athletes to be their best