Presidio Soccer League Alumni, Shannon Mac Millan has a long list of soccer achievements. She has played and experienced every level of soccer – college, professional, National, and Olympic. And she not only experienced every level, but excelled at it.
While attending the University of Portland, Mac Millan was the highest scoring freshman in the nation, NCAA Division I scoring leader her sophomore year, and her Senior year, Mac Millan received the MAC Hermann Trophy, as well as her fourth consecutive year as an All-American.
In the Fall of 1995, Mac Millan’s Senior year at Portland, it was announced that women’s soccer would be added to the Olympics for the first time — at the 1996 Summer Olympics. Mac Millan saw it as a sign. “It was my dream to play in the Olympics since I was 8 years old,” said Mac Millan. “Kids would tease me and tell me that women’s soccer wasn’t even a sport.” And now, at the end of her college career, it was officially an Olympic sport. “I was ecstatic,” added Mac Millan. “This was my time.”
Olympic team head coach Tony DiCicco held a training camp at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California. And to Mac Millan’s surprise, she did not make the cut. “I was crushed,” said Mac Millan. “My college career is over, there was no women’s professional league to play for – how could my soccer career be over?!”
Naturally, Mac Millan was devastated. Mac Millan’s coach at the University of Portland, Clive Charles, approached the crying and upset Mac Millan and said, “I’ll see you at the field.” Confused, Mac Millan responded with “For what? I didn’t make the team?!” But Charles knew what the young Mac Millan had yet to learn… Not everything will go your way, not everything will come easy. But if you don’t give up and face the setbacks with hard work, you will succeed. And thanks to Coach Charles, Mac Millan did just that. She continued to train.
Just months before the 1996 Olympics, nine U.S. players went on strike over a contract dispute with the Federation. DiCicco contacted Mac Millan and asked if she wanted to be a substitute – as a midfielder. Mac Millan struggled with her decision for two reasons – 1. Does she support the strike and turn down the offer, or seize the opportunity and achieve her lifelong goal of playing in the Olympics? 2. Mac Millan was a forward, not a midfielder.
Torn in her decision, Mac Millan reached out to soccer star and Olympic team player Julie Foudy about the opportunity. Foudy supported Mac Millan and told her she had to take advantage of the opportunity and should absolutely go!
Mac Millan ultimately decided to take the midfielder position and traveled with the team to Brazil. After returning from Brazil, contract negotiations were settled and Mac Millan was sent home but was kept on as a floater. Although just a floater, Mac Millan continued to work hard, pushing herself with the help of Coach Charles. And that hard work paid off. — Mac Millan eventually worked her way up to a rostered spot on the Olympic team.
Mac Millan not only earned a rostered spot on the Olympic team, but was a dominant player on the team. In the semifinal against Norway, Mac Millan scored the game-winning goal in overtime. In the Olympic final against China, Mac Millan collected a Mia Hamm shot that rebounded off the post and scored for the first goal of the match.
Mac Millan ended the Olympics not only as a gold medalist, but as the top scorer of the USA team. That’s right. The player that did not even make the cut at the training camp, not only worked hard enough to make the roster but became the top scorer of the team.
Mac Millan then went on to train with the US National Team, winning the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The moral to all this? Don’t give up! You will come across hurdles during your soccer career, especially if you have dreams to reach the top levels of soccer as Mac Millan did. She could have easily played the sympathy card and given up. Instead, she worked harder. This not only humbled Mac Millan, and made her a better player, but also made her appreciate her accomplishments even more.
Players and parents can learn from Mac Millan’s story. The saturation of youth soccer clubs has softened players and parents. It’s not about working harder and earning more play time any more — if they are not happy about the playing time they think they deserve, they can just move on to the next club and continue to do so, until they find the club that gives them what they want. No hard work or overcoming adversity necessary. This is not what you want.
You dedicate yourself to what you love and continue to work hard, regardless of the outcomes, and eventually it will pay off. It may not be the way you planned it, but that is life. Hurdles will arise – however it’s how you face them that will mold you into the player and person you will become.
Mac Millan is an amazing role model. Her accomplishments reflect the hard work she put in, and she continues to give back to the beautiful game as a coach and Executive Director for a youth soccer club in San Diego, California. On Friday March 24, Shannon Mac Millan will be inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame Class of 2016 at a ceremony held at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California in conjunction with the United States Men’s National Team World Cup Qualifier against Honduras.
Thank you Shannon, for your contributions to the game you love so much.