Soccer, particularly women’s soccer, has been a source of inspiration for me. And spending this past weekend at the University of Miami watching the women’s soccer team play a game, dedicated to their annual “Kick for the Cure” awareness and fundraising campaign, was no exception.

I was a swimmer growing up. I exhaled chlorine. I slept in my bathing suit. I wasn’t the best but I always competed like I could be the best. At the peak of my high school swimming season I discovered that my family was being transferred. I moved from North Carolina to Michigan my senior year of high school. My coaches and my team and my practice pool became my past within a matter of months. I didn’t want to be a swimmer after we moved. I couldn’t imagine swimming for another team after all the years I’d spent with them. So I didn’t.

Quickly and decisively I learned how to play soccer. And by the time I’d moved to Michigan I was ready to find a team.

A new team.

A soccer team.

I sat in my car in the school parking lot talking myself into getting out of the car and onto the field. I can still remember the way my hands gripped the steering wheel of my 82′ mustang.

When you’re in high school relationships with other girls can be tricky. And I wasn’t sure I was up for any trickery. I wanted friends and I wanted to fit in but I didn’t want to change who I was to be who they were.

It was like a scene from a movie. Small town meets new kid. These girls had known each other and played soccer together since the beginning.

I walked towards the field and I realized I was late.


I don’t remember trying out. I just remember being on the team. I think women’s sports are like that.

If you wear the jersey you’re a part of something. Forever.

My niece, Austen Everett, lost her battle with non-hodgkins lymphoma on August 14, 2012. I shared with you guys about her life. I also talked about her foundation which is helping children with cancer create memories with college and pro athletic teams. You can read more about Austen here.

I told you guys that she was an amazing soccer player and goalie for both UC Santa Barbara and University of Miami.

But I left something out.

Something that makes what I’m about to tell you that much more amazing.

Austen never played a game in college.

She was on the roster for years, she wore the jersey, she even went to practice after her chemo treatments.

But she never was able to play.

The University of Miami and the women’s soccer team weren’t just kickin’ it for the cure, they were also honoring Austen and the foundation she began during her 4 year battle with cancer. You can read more about the Austen Everett Foundation here.

And what I find amazing about Austen and all that has unfolded after her death is the mark she left, the memories she gave us, and miracles that continue through her foundation.

Here the current UM team has a moment of silence. Some of them never even met Austen. But it doesn’t matter.

When you wear the jersey you’re a part of something. Forever.

Here’s Donna Shalala, University President with the team prior to the game. I wish I could’ve heard that speech. I mean let’s face it, a pointed finger means business.

Is it Mrs. Shalala or Madam President? I’m not sure. Either way she’s a respected and inspiring woman. When Big Daddy and I spoke with her briefly to share our gratitude for her support of Austen she only said two things. The first was that Austen’s degree was for real and it was earned.

Austen’s mom, June is being presented with Austen’s diploma from the University of Miami. Austen did in fact graduate after she turned in one outstanding paper which was due during one her many cancer treatments. But once she was well enough, she got it done and turned it in. So she was a graduate of the University of Miami but Austen never received her diploma.

I appreciated her candor. It was like she was saying that at no point did the standards to graduate diminish. Not even for those battling cancer. Austen earned it. She deserved it.

The other thing the Pres said to us was that not only did she know Austen well, but she made a huge impact on her. Maybe it’s my background in working in higher education that makes this statement so profound. For years I worked as an administrator at the college level working day in and day out with students. And some students do in fact make an impact on your life. The thing is as an administrator the higher your position is at the university the less face time you get with college students. But somehow Austen charmed her way into the President’s office. And somehow the magic that was Austen’s heart spilled over and into the life of one very important administrator.

The entire day was lovely. The cute t-shirts, the silent auction, the Austen Everett Foundation awareness bracelets, all went to support her cause.

Now it’s our cause.

If you’d like to get involved in the Austen Everett Foundation go here.

*All photos courtesy of

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