On Sept. 7, 1971, Olympic gold medalist in soccer Briana Colette Scurry was born, the youngest of nine children in Minneapolis, Minn., to Ernest and Robbie Scurry.

The first few years of her life were spent in inner-city Dayton, Minn. But when the family’s home began to sink into the unstable earth beneath it, they moved to Anoka, a suburban area where soccer was a common pastime.

The Scurry family was the only African American family in a four-town radius, but Scurry never felt singled out.

In her early years, she played almost every sport before trying out for soccer in the fourth grade.
When she finally got on a team, she was offered the position of goalie on an all-boys team. The coach thought it was a safer position for a girl, but Scurry flourished there.

She embraced the position and eventually went on to become an All-American goalkeeper in high school. Scurry also kept up her athleticism in basketball, becoming an All-State player and Minnesota’s High School Female Athlete of the Year. Basketball was her first love, but she was better at soccer.

Seventy universities sought her. She chose the University of Massachusetts where she was twice named Collegiate Goalkeeper of the Year, along with several other titles.

In her international debut in 1994, she stunned the crowd by securing a shutout in the first game.

In 1995, she completed her degree in political science with plans to go to law school, but was persuaded to join the U.S. women’s soccer team.

She went on to become the team’s top goalie, and the first African American starter.

She was also the first goalkeeper Black, White, male or female to play in 100 international games.

Along her journey, she helped the women’s U.S. team win the 1999 World Cup.

She told Sports Illustrated, “My role is to introduce choices to African American girls.” She takes the role seriously, embarking on tours of inner-city playgrounds, giving soccer clinics, and encouraging the U.S. Soccer Federation to invest in developing the sport in underprivileged neighborhoods. “Soccer [in the U.S.] is pretty much a suburban elitist sport,” she told Ebony, “Girls in the inner-city aren’t exposed to soccer … I want to give them options.”

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