- Crystal Dunn’s parents out in France to support USWNT
- They discuss disappointment of Crystal not making 2015 squad
- Vincent and Rhonda outline their pride at her role model status
It’s the news no parent of a sporty child wants to hear. Your kid has been cut from the team. How do you console them, help them get over it? Millions of families the world over can empathise with this scenario, but very few have been in the particularly tough position of the Dunns.
Vincent and Rhonda were picking Crystal up from the airport in mid-2015 when the US Women’s National Team star got a phone call – from head coach Jill Ellis.
“The tone with which she was speaking on the phone, we knew exactly what it was,” mom Rhonda told FIFA.com. “As a parent, my heart dropped because I knew how hard she had worked for it.”
Crystal had not made the squad for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015. It became apparent that she was the unlucky ‘24th' player – effectively the closest to being in the final 23. But not close enough. She then had the bittersweet sensation of seeing her teammates – some of her closest friends - lift the trophy in Vancouver after an outstanding tournament.
“I would come up with these corny phrases,” dad Vincent told FIFA.com. “In the morning, I’d text her to say: ‘See, the sun came up today!’ Just to say life isn’t over, it’s another day – trying to encourage her.”
“Of course she was happy for her friends but… it’s a tough thing,” he continued. “It’s easy for people to just say ‘I hope they lose’, and that’s it. She’s not that type of person at all though. For that team to win, I knew she would benefit from it. It was hard to see it then, but it comes full circle.”
Dunn’s parents choose to focus on the positives – even with a situation as emotionally difficult as those two months or so in 2015 – and that attitude is clearly reflected in Crystal’s actions after that disappointment. She has become a key part of the USWNT since 2015, adapting her game several times to eventually become the starting left-back – despite playing her club football further up the pitch.
Now, she’s in France, ready to play a Women’s World Cup semi-final.
“It’s been a long, hard journey for her and to see it all come to this culmination is just wonderful,” Rhonda added.
Crystal may have her parents as outstanding examples to follow, but she is now very aware of her own position as a role model.
“When I put on our U.S. kit, I do it for my family and for my country,” she wrote in The Players’ Tribune. “But I understand now that I also do it for every single American girl out there who wants to see someone who looks like them — someone whose story reminds them of their own — when they watch their women’s national team.”
Vincent tells a story that reflects this.
“We were sitting having lunch with her a few days ago,” he said. “We felt someone over the corner of our shoulder staring and it’s a young African-American girl, about ten years old. She finally came over, spoke to her – Crys just engaged with her for ten minutes, she came back and asked for a picture. I think Crys seeing that young girl from a different background, she was very excited.
“She knows her role in this, and the impact she has,” he concluded – the pride in his voice palpable. “Being on the US Women’s National Team, you have a big influence on a lot of people.”
After an outstanding performance against France – in which Crystal’s French husband Pierre and extended family were in the crowd - the Dunns are headed to Lyon to cheer on their daughter in a monumental semi-final against England. The mission to emulate the class of 2015 is almost complete.
Win or lose, the sun will come up the next day. And there’ll be a hug from mom and dad waiting.