Joanna Lohman and Paul Tukey had "really ambitious" goals for their book. They were planning to celebrate the legacy of female sports legends who overcame the challenges of gender, orientation and discrimination that paved the way for an authentically fearless generations to emerge.
They wanted to interview all 241 U.S. Women's National Soccer Team players (when the book was written) who have worn the red, white, and blue, dating back to 1985.
But then the pandemic hit, resulting in mixed results for the book.
They had more time to write it and to interview players, past and present. They just couldn't get out too much, like everyone else.
A year later, their project is published: Raising Tomorrow's Champions: What the Women's National Soccer Team Teaches Us About Grit, Authenticity and Winning. The 256-page, photo-heavy book offers life lessons from some of the greatest players of all-time, including Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe, Michelle Akers, Carli Lloyd, Hope Solo, Briana Scurry, Alex Morgan and Julie Foudy, among others.
Of course, it includes Lohman as well. She was the first four-time First Team All-Big Ten selection in Penn State University history and a four-time Academic All-American (2000-03). Lohman made nine appearances for the United States' national team, and ultimately retired from the sport in 2019 after 52 games (and six goals) for the Washington Spirit of the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL), which also features the Chicago Red Stars.
"We are both very happy with the way it came together," Lohman said in an exclusive interview about the book from her home in Washington, D.C.
Their plans for the book were launched in January 2020. By last March, they were full speed ahead on interviewing. With the pandemic, they had the time, energy and motivation to write the book, she said.
"We wanted to interview the players who really made a significant impact on women's sports overall, not just women's soccer, including global culture, gender norms, equality and equity," Lohman said.
They delivered an easy-to-read, entertaining, informative bookwith a foreword by Lloydthat isn't a standard fare. Readers easily can skip around to read about a certain player or subject. The index is invaluable.
The book is perfect for youth players and parents, and it has comments and stories from parents of players, too.
The first three chapters of the book are based around social justice, including gender, LGBTQ+ issue, and race. In fact, the table of contents waves the rainbow flag.
Lohman is out and goes by the nickname, "Rainbow Warrior." She is a vocal advocate for the community, specifically LGBTQ athletes.
"We really wanted to address issues that kids face today, and if you play sports, LGBTQ issues are front and center," Lohman said. "You will have teammates who identify as LGBTQ, as well as friends, coaches and teammates. Sexual orientation was something that we really wanted to discuss honestly and openly. We also wanted to address the evolution of the USWNT in terms of how the team is received, in particular, players who identify as LGBTQ because now, those individuals are adored and respected for living openly and honestly."
Although they didn't hit their goal of talking to everyone who has ever played for the national team, the book tells life lessons of numerous legends from the field of play, dating back to the days when women's soccer had considerably fewer fans.
They interviewed about 150 people in total for the book, including players, parents and coachesincluding Wambach, a two-time Olympic gold-medal winner and the all-time leading goal scorer for the national team. Wambach also is openly lesbian.
"[It] was a really powerful interview because she has such a unique perspective on the game," Lohman said. "She was one of the most dominant players in the history of the U.S. Women's National Team and now she watches her children play from the sideline. She gave some incredible answers. She talked about what you say to your kids after a game when you drive home with them, for instance."
Another must-read: the insight from April Heinrichs, a former star player in the early days of the U.S. National Team and a former head coach.
"She was so utterly competitive. She was the one who set the tone," Lohman said. "Back in her day, it wasn't really accepted that women could be competitive. But she just brought an edge to everything she did. She revolutionized women's soccer. She was an absolute beast [on the field] and it gave a model for women to aspire to."
The book truly does what it hypes, telling the tales of legends who changed the rules, challenged gender norms, discrimination, and had the courage to transform the face of professional sports to pave the way for the girls of today to become the champions of tomorrow.
"The team has consistently fought for equity, inclusion and equalitysince the first existence of the team in 1985 and you have seen that carry through to the current team." Lohman said.
The U.S. Women's National Team "has shown the world that you can compete as your authentic self and can be a better person, a better athlete for living your truth. They have inspired millions of young girls to dream," she added.