Getting Their Kicks
People had better be, since Fawcett and teammate Carla Overbeck are giving new meaning to the term soccer mom. Members of the '96 Olympic gold-medal team that won the World Cup in '91 and is favored to capture another in the tournament that ends on July 10, the pair, both married and 31, have somehow managed to train and travel with their children in tow. "You come home dead tired, and these kids aren't ready for bed," says cocaptain Overbeck, raising son Jackson, 23 months, with the help of a nanny who also cares for Fawcett's Katey, now 5, and Carli, 2. "But you get a second wind and just rally." (Rally they surely do. Aided by smothering defense from Fawcett and Overbeck, the U.S. blasted Denmark 3-0 in its opening World Cup game before a crowd of 78,972 in East Rutherford, N.J., the largest ever to watch a women's sporting event in the U.S.)
Careful planning is a must for the two, who spend an average of three weeks a month traveling to games in the U.S. and abroad—when they're not at the team's training camp in Orlando for six-month stretches before major tournaments such as the World Cup. "There's a lot to remember: cleats, shin guards, toys, diapers, wipes, strollers, snacks," recites Overbeck. "Snacks are key. Snacks prevent meltdowns." The arrangement can become a strain, she admits, "but I feel more sorry for our husbands. They're missing so much of the kids' development."
Overbeck's spouse, Greg, 45, a restaurateur, agreed with his wife that their son should be with her and not with a full-time nanny back in their Chapel Hill, N.C., home. He sees Jackson a few days at a time during visits, which the couple alternate, every two weeks. (Fawcett's husband, Walter, 31, in charge of engineering for a software firm in Orange County, Calif., hooks up with his family at least once a month.) "It's really tough being without my family," says Greg. "But Carla has worked so hard and sacrificed everything to be on this team, and I totally support what she's doing."
So does the U.S. Soccer Federation. After Fawcett and Overbeck petitioned it for help last year, the federation began kicking in $750 a week for the nanny. On top of that, teammates pitch in at every opportunity. "It's been great," says Shannon MacMillan, 24, who shared a house near Orlando with Fawcett and her daughters. "I now have an excuse to go to Disney World and feed the ducks."
Even with a nanny and 20 eager babysitters, there's plenty for the mothers to do. "They walk off the field after a rigorous practice and go right into meeting their children's needs," says coach Tony DiCicco, who was initially concerned that the setup might affect his players' stamina. But diaper changes and half-time feedings haven't slowed the women a whit. "If anything," says MacMillan, "they've gotten better."
Credit desire—and diehard conditioning. Overbeck, a Dallas native, "was running stadium steps a week before she gave birth," says husband Greg. "She was lifting weights the day her water broke." Fawcett, the fifth of nine children raised in Huntington Beach, Calif., was back on the playing field three months after Katey's birth.
Although the athletes and their husbands believe the kids are thriving—"They're having a blast," says Greg. "Jackson couldn't be any better"—there are, inevitably, moments of doubt. "Now Jackson associates his father with the telephone," says Overbeck. "The other day my cell phone rang when Greg was with us, and Jackson still said, 'Daddy!' " Adds Fawcett, whose older daughter starts kindergarten this fall: "Sometimes Katey didn't get a nap or ate at random times, and I'd wonder if this is good. But my mom was there for me, and I want that for my kids."
Fawcett and Overbeck expect to stay with the national team through the 2000 Olympics and are hoping someone starts a U.S. women's pro soccer league soon. Meanwhile, they are happy to serve as inspirations to budding athletes—including young Katey, set to play in an Orange County soccer league this fall. "She's starting to talk about how good she is at kicking," says Fawcett, laughing. "She just can't wait."
Fran Brennan in Orlando, Grace Urn in Miami and Joseph V. Tirella in East Rutherford