Christie Pearce Rampone & Dr. Kristine Keane, BE ALL IN

Christie Pearce Rampone & Dr. Kristine Keane, BE ALL IN

Zibby Owens: I did a joint interview with Christie Pearce Rampone and Dr. Kristine Keane about their new book called Be All In: Raising Kids for Success in Sports and Life. Christie Pearce Rampone is the most decorated American professional soccer player, male or female, of all time. She is a 1999 and 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup champion and a three-time Olympic gold medalist. She’s currently an active speaker, coach, and sports commentator, a sports mom of two girls, and has coached professional, high school, and club soccer teams as well as youth basketball teams. She paired up with sports psychologist Dr. Kristine Keane to share the best practices that athletes, parents, and coaches can use to turn good sportsmanship into a lifelong skill. Listen to our conversation now.

Welcome to Christie and Kristine to “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” This is so exciting.

Christie Pearce Rampone: We’re excited to be here. Thanks for having us.

Zibby: Of course. Two at once, we’ll see if we can tell your voices apart on the audio. You guys have written Be All In: Raising Kids for Success in Sports and Life, which is so needed for so many people. Thank you for the gift that you just gave the entire parent community and everything else. That’s awesome. What inspired the two of you to collaborate on this book and write it together?

Christie: That’s a great question. This is Christie. Dr. Keane and I had met through our profession in sports. We did a lot of speaking engagements together. Through our talks, we just realized sports is kind of getting carried away. Being moms, being a coach, being a player, all encompassing, we were like, how do we educate parents about what youth sports is really about? It’s really about the life lessons that they can learn through sports more than just winning. We all want to win. We’re all competitive. I was very competitive throughout my sports career. As a mom, it’s a whole different perspective and an outlook. We thought through Dr. Keane’s profession — I was playing with the national team for over seventeen years and going through that and all the pressures and everything it takes. In talking to Dr. Keane on the mental side, we just thought together the book would be more powerful and more inspirational for parents.

Dr. Kristine Keane: One of the things we talked about a lot were injury and concussion. I would tell Christie that I was very surprised about how when parents would come to me and seem to be more concerned about getting to the next tournament or when the concussion would be over than the head injury itself. That set off some alarm bells. Parents seem to be more anxious about playing time and getting to that tournament and not missing out. It’s not that the parents don’t care about their children or the head injury, but there’s clearly a lot of anxiety around getting to the tournament, getting to these games. That’s what spurred us to, we could probably collectively be very helpful in terms of — Christie’s story, so many stories in the book, absolutely amazing, about how she came up. She didn’t come up playing on elite travel teams and having multiple trainers. She played multiple sports. She had a lot of fun. She had some really great stories. It really serves to maybe calm down some of the pressure that we put on ourselves to be sure that our children — are we doing enough for them? We hear a lot of parents talking about that. Am I doing enough for my child? Am I putting them in the right opportunities? We wanted to help parents out with that, give back that way.

Zibby: Thank you. That’s nice. Christie, I couldn’t believe reading some of the stories from when you were growing up about your coach in ninth grade who told you to try not to be as good a soccer player on the team and said something like, it’s not like you’re going to end up in the Olympics. Did you just want to take your metals and throw them in the coach’s face?

Christie: I used that kind of statement, it’s always been in the back of my head for motivation. When somebody of that stature — that’s somebody I looked up to as a teacher and an educator. When she said that to me, you almost look back into yourself. Is that the way I’m perceived? Is that the way other people think of me? There’s a lot of inner voice going on at that moment. I just had to self-reflect and realize I loved being on the field and playing. That’s where I became me as a person. I made sure not to let that affect me. I also did use it as motivation because I did want to kind of prove her wrong. Obviously, at that moment I didn’t perceive myself playing in the Olympics, but I definitely wanted to make something out of myself as an athlete. It definitely resonated with me. I used that as motivation.

Kristine: One of the things that’s really cool about her story, I don’t know if you remember this, but at the end she said, “I listened to her. Maybe I didn’t score as much, but I made sure I helped my teammates score more.” She’s played just as hard. You credit it as — that’s what helped her become a leader.

Christie: I would say maybe it’s negative information, but it’s information that you got to decipher how much you’re going to listen to it. It also is, it’s a learning lesson. You don’t expect to have it at that age or someone with that authority to say that to you, but it happens. It’s something that you’re going to face in life. I faced it a little bit too early, I think.

Zibby: That’s funny because I feel like some parents fall in the bucket of excessive praise and thinking their kids can do no wrong and just building them up, especially in the sports arena, so to speak. Yet you came from the opposite. I know you mentioned in your book how when you were growing up you were more a shy, quiet child. Then you ended up becoming such a leader. It also speaks to the fact that you don’t have to be the most outgoing, rah-rah, I have the wind behind my wings, or whatever you want to say, to achieve those types of goals too, which is such an important message. Did you feel like when you were on the field, I know you said how much you loved being just out there, is that how you found, not your voice, but your way to not feel that anxiety?

Christie: Absolutely. I felt like I expressed myself through my play and through my hard work and just the passion that I had behind the sports that I loved playing. I didn’t have all those other pressures like, am I going to go to college and get a scholarship? Am I going to play on the US team? I didn’t really have those in mind because I was just enjoying it. I was in the moment. It definitely is a tough time at that time. At the same time, that’s who I was. I just found myself. It was a process. I’m quiet. I’m shy. I only speak when I want to be heard. I learned that when I did speak, my voice was heard and I was respected. The more you do it, it becomes instinctual, a better habit. Just saying the first word is part of it, and then slowly getting there. There’s all different ways to lead. That’s something you definitely learn through sports because you always look at, the loudest person is always the captain or the loudest person is always heard. That’s not necessarily the case. The more you experience sport, the more you go through different teams, different sports, you realize every voice matters. As long as you speak up and communicate, you are contributing to whatever’s going on within that time period.

Zibby: Now look, now you’re a commentator. Who would’ve thought?

Christie: I know. I went from not wanting to public speak to commentating. Another message I’ve learned through that is being comfortable with the uncomfortable. I was very uncomfortable on camera. I was very relaxed and confident in my messaging and how I would see soccer and understand the sport and what I was watching. As soon as those cameras come on, it’s a whole different ballgame. It was just pushing myself past that comfort zone. I can do this. That’s part of what I learned. Yet I couldn’t work hard like on the field, I couldn’t push through something, so I had to find different tactics in the next chapter of being a sports commentator. In the beginning, it was tough, but again, a process. By the end, I was loving it.

Zibby: I feel like pushing past your comfort point could also by the title of this book. You started the whole thing off with being pregnant and having an operation. Oh, my gosh, if I went for a walk — I think I went to a spin class my whole pregnancy and I was like, that was too much, I have to sit down. Your ability to talk yourself through the most excruciating pain, it’s impressive.

Christie: I think that’s the mental side of what sports gives you. You’re constantly hearing all these voices. There’s so many distractions, especially nowadays, that can defer you from that dream and the decisions you’re making. You just have to keep pushing through it.

Kristine: I want to add something so you know about it. She actually works out with no music because she wants to feel her body and deal with that pain and how her body is reacting to pushing herself while she’s exercising.

Christie: It’s become a habit because now when I run every day with my dog and I get that time to myself as a mom, I’m just enjoying all the sounds around me, the environment, just being able to wave to people and connect with the world and hear myself. How’s my day going? I actually kind of talk to myself. That’s the mental prep that you learn through sports. You’re not avoiding. Don’t avoid.

Zibby: I think that’s why I like swimming laps, not that I do it that often either. It’s the one time where all the rest of the noise stops, not just actual noise, but all the demands and all the rest. Even running, you still have your phone. People keep interrupting the best songs while you’re — anyway.

Christie: You can put it all away and just have that time for yourself, especially as a mother. We’re so busy. We’re so hectic. The schedules are so crazy. It’s that time to take for yourself and really enjoy it. I will credit sports to that. I would credit that preparation so that I knew how my body was feeling. I could listen to my breathing. That inner voice is so important. Parents don’t realize through sports, the whole mental side of it. That got me through those big moments of winning World Cups and Olympic gold medals because you’re only listening to yourself at that moment. Even though there’s ninety thousand fans, you hear your own voice. That’s what you have to listen to. You have to respond and react to those messages. When you can talk yourself out of a negative situation, make it positive, that’s what you’re doing during those last laps when you’re running or those interval trainings. I credit that.

Zibby: It seems like one of the big differences in true success as an athlete is the ability to withstand pain. I know that’s not talked about as much. There are so many great tips in the book. My world is one of, I felt bad that I didn’t have my kids playing soccer three times a week in first grade. Three other parents did that in my class. I had to be like, no, I really don’t think this is important. It’s hard to buck that trend and feel like, why am I the only parent who’s not doing travel baseball? I know you had this whole thing on early specialization in the book, which I also found super important because I feel like people keep thinking they’re going to get a leg up if they get their kids early, early into these sports. Mind you, that was in first grade for my older kids. Now they’re thirteen. Not one of those boys is still playing soccer, PS, of course. Maybe instead in first grade they should just find a way to teach pain management because that’s really the skill that they need more than how they dribble.

Christie: Absolutely. Part of it is as you get older, that’s the good education piece that I can give back to the kids. I didn’t really know how to necessarily push through the pain at a younger age or what my limit was. You feel like your legs can’t go anymore. You can’t breathe. There is that extra push that you have in you that as parents we try to teach our kids. They also have to experience it. It’s making sure that they understand that sports is hard work. You’re going to have push outside that comfort zone. You’re not always going to feel the best. There’s moments where you’re not going to want to get up and go to training, but you committed. It’s those little messages that we can continually talk to them about. I credit a lot to my parents and how they raised me. It was like, you committed to it, you’re in it. That’s why I have this whole philosophy of being all in. You’ve got to be present. When you’re there, don’t worry about anything else. Don’t worry about your social life and what your friends are doing or you have a lot of homework. Just enjoy being at practice. Enjoy your friends. I think we get so caught up in this lifestyle now of onto the next, onto the next, onto the next. That’s what’s refreshing about sports and making sure you understand what sports is all about. I have two completely different personality children. I have the one that’s motivated, outgoing. I have my introvert and needs to be pushed. Especially during this time that we’re experiencing, we’re just taking a break right now. One is loving it. One is struggling with it. It’s identifying your children and what their needs are. You can find that through sport.

Zibby: I have the same thing. I have one kid who I have to basically drag by the collar to get him to do anything. Then my other kid is TikTok-ing fifty-seven hours a day and just wanting to be around people. That’s the other thing about parenting that I didn’t realize before I had kids. I don’t know about you. We have far less effect than we think we do. They come out the way they are. They’re going to be that way. All we can do is help them. I feel like all the tools in your book are really helpful, not just in sports, but there’s so much to take away from the book about just life in general, even what we’re saying about pain. The more you can deal with pain on the sports field or on the tennis court or wherever, the more you deal with pain in life, that’s what makes you a better person. Pain is what makes you who you are after a while, all the loss or the grief or the injuries or whatever. That’s going to make you an interesting person in the end of it. The ability to withstand all of that, it’s just so key. I feel like your book speaks to that so much.

You talked a lot in the book too about how parents overidentify with the success in sports with their children. If their child is starting whatever, I can’t think of anything clever to say, but then you feel like that’s your accomplishment as a parent when it is not your accomplishment at all. It’s the child. Maybe speak to that. Hopefully, some parents, maybe the parents who really need to hear it who you worried weren’t going to buy the book because obviously self-help books, if you’re buying it — not that it’s self-help, but I’m hoping that the right parents will hear the right messages. What can they do? How can parents remember that their kids are their kids, and their success and failures are not theirs?

Kristine: I think it speaks to what you said before about you’re overidentifying with your child’s success. We mentioned FOMO. On Facebook, you’re seeing other teams, elite teams, training. Am I doing enough? Our messaging really is to find that balance. When we’re talking about early specialization, we’re advocating for multiple sports. Obviously, there’s other sports like ice skating and gymnastics that you do need to start early. It’s not that we’re saying don’t ever specialize in one sport, but there’s clearly a trend towards — it is very difficult to play multiple sports. Both of our daughters play soccer on the same team. They both love to play basketball. Christie’s the coach. Even as the coach, we find it difficult to manage playing two sports because there’s so much demand for training in both and so many kids are specialized in basketball. It’s really about trying to find a balance that works for your family. The book’s really about taking a step back and going, does this work for my family? Is this working for my kid? Is this truly our intention? Is it fitting my child’s personality, or am I getting swept up in this whole thing and feeling like I’m just following somebody else’s script here?

Christie: It’s ultimately trying to have a better relationship with your child through sports. The bottom line is we just get so caught up sometimes in the wins and losses or how they’re individually performing. It’s their journey. You’re just the partner in it. You’re just there to help them navigate those tough times. Keep the communication alive and just make sure that you have the same values and the trust between each other so that they can go out there and be the best kid that they can be and having the most confidence that they can have. They’re going to lose confidence, but you’re there to help pick them up and make them continue on and let them know that this is just part of life. Life’s a rollercoaster. You’re going to have some ups and downs. It’s how we react and respond to it. We found through all of our research and talking that parents and kids are kind of battling over sports rather than just enjoying it, embracing it together.

Zibby: Totally. I love all the little specific actionable tips you include like even what to say in the car ride home and just how to talk more nicely to the coaches and what topics to bring up and what not to do here. It’s super user-friendly. On the specialization note, my husband actually grew up playing lots of sports like baseball, and then he was a high school quarterback and started playing tennis to work on his footwork for football. He ended up loving tennis. This was in high school. I feel like in today’s day and age you’d be like, forget it. Not that he didn’t play tennis, but he hadn’t really serious. Then he ended up being in professional tennis for fifteen years. He never would’ve tried it. Even though he’s not that old, I feel like today those things don’t happen as much. I think it’s a shame because then you miss out on your potential as an athlete if you don’t try it. As parents, which is I think what your book speaks to, it’s our responsibility to continue to help the kids foster that love of just movement and your body and teams too. The importance of being a part of a team I think is one of the best things you can give kids at an early age. What do you think about that?

Christie: Team sports is huge. There’s so many life lessons that you grab from just how to work with others, how to use your voice, how to be a leader when asked upon. It’s difficult situations with wins and losses, position change. That’s what’s so great about sports. Like you said with your husband, I went to college on a basketball scholarship. Look, my path went down the soccer route. You just never know because we all develop at different times. I was, as you consider, a late bloomer. I was athletic, but I didn’t really have a skill set for soccer. I developed that when I almost made a national team. You don’t know what course your kid is on. Just allow them to express themselves. Allow them to choose what they want to do. We also found that if kids actually picked the sports rather than the parents forcing them into it, there’s more dedication. There’s more commitment. There’s more passion behind it. They feel like they’ve made their own choices. That’s what’s exciting to see.

I’ve seen that through my own kids of just, here, play soccer because Mom played it. One loves it. One is like, I’m going to try something else. I’m okay with that because I want it to be about her. I experienced this amazing journey through sports, but she has to experience her own journey. If it’s through dance or swimming, she’s trying it all right now because we’re just trying to figure out, what’s her motivation? What is she going to get up in the morning and want to do? I told her, you have to choose, but you have to do something. Dr. Keane and I talk about it a lot because she has a son the same age as my daughter Reece. We have the same kind of child, so we’re always bouncing stuff off each other. It’s that motivation factor, but they have to find it. They can’t do it because their older siblings do it. A lot of times, the younger sibling’s tired of sitting on a soccer field or tired of going to a basketball court. They want their own story. It’s easier for parents just to keep them doing the same thing in the same sport or the same club, but no, let them be who they are because you don’t want them to regress and turn into something that they’re not capable of being.

Kristine: They’re professional spectators right now, the two of them. They’ve been dragged to every basketball and soccer game possible.

Zibby: I used to drag my kids with me when I would take tennis lessons. I was like, I’m going to make sure they play tennis because, what a skill. I love tennis. They’re going to love tennis. I shouldn’t even tell this story, but this is actually how I met my husband. When I met him, he had been coaching professional tennis. Then he was also doing kids’ lessons at times. I brought my son who loved football, hated tennis, was wearing head-to-toe Broncos gear, didn’t like tennis at all. I had to drag him to this lesson, get him out there. That’s when I met my husband Kyle. He was his teacher. He calls me out to the court after five minutes and is like, “Hey, you know, your son doesn’t like tennis.” I was like, “Yeah, I know that.” He’s like, “I don’t think he should be taking tennis lessons.” I was like, “I do.” He’s like, “Well, he’s not going to be taking tennis lessons from me.” I was like, oh, okay, who is this guy? Now we’re married, so whatever. The point is, it’s such a parenting fail of mine. I just assumed if I loved it, he’ll love it. Now that I’m not forcing him to play tennis, he plays tennis. He’ll be like, “Yeah, let’s just play.” The advantage of having multiple kids is I won’t mess up my little kids as much. Just because I haven’t interviewed any other Olympic athletes, I don’t think, what do you think is the key to attaining that level of success? Then I just want any advice to either aspiring athletes or aspiring authors. Just to get to that level, what’s the advice there as a parent or as a player?

Christie: To get to that level, you have to have the passion for it. You have to love it and want to get better each and every day. The key to get there is that competitive edge to want to push not only yourself, but everybody around you. I look at it right now — a lot of parents will always ask, especially during this time. Is your kid self-motivated, or are you pushing them to do something? If they really truly love it and can’t wait to get back on the field, the court, the ice, whatever it is, they should be out there inspiring themselves and pushing to get better. Then you really truly know they love what they do. I do love the competing aspect. The skill set was always tough for me. I never wanted to disappoint my teammates. I always had some type of motivation, whether it was for myself or my teammates, to keep me going during those tough times. To get to that level, it’s a huge commitment.

I would say it’s a lot more mental than a lot of people think. They just look at the TV and they see the physical side of it. They see the technical side of it, what they’re watching. There’s so much of the mental side that goes into it. You have to be mentally strong and tough to compete at that level. Understand you’re going to make mistakes. You’re not going to be perfect. I was always trying to be perfect in the beginning. That was tough. I didn’t do well when I was always comparing myself to others or trying to be perfect. Then I realized the mindset I had to switch to. I was always the best in every sport I played at a young level, but not when you get to the national team. You have to change a little bit. It was more of striving for that excellence. I will say the mental side is what keeps you there. I think everybody has the ability. Not everybody, but there’s a good percentage that has the ability to get there, but the mental side is what keeps you there.

Zibby: What about having the endurance to write a book?

Christie: Through all of my experience, I’ve always been someone that loves to educate and give back. What better way to write this book when I’ve had nineteen years of experience at the national team? I’ve been through a couple years of professional. I probably have had twenty head coaches. You’re just hearing such different information, different strategies, different techniques. It was like, I have all this information. I need to express it and help because the sports world is getting a little bit crazy, I will say, as a coach and hearing what I hear on the sidelines and parents freaking out about getting scholarships and what they need to do and are they in the right place? My, always, message is as long as they have a good coach and they’re learning and growing and you see them developing, they’re in a good place. You don’t want to put them in a place just for a label, just for the name. That’s not going to get them anywhere. Again, it’s about your individual child and their mental side of it. If they don’t really enjoy what they’re doing, it’ll come out in the end. The message isn’t going to be good in the end because the child is not really going to be happy. When you’re confident, that’s when you’re playing the best. Confidence comes from the belief you’re in the right place and doing the right thing to help.

It’s all-encompassing. I think that’s why it was so neat to write this book and the two years of banter back and forth with Dr. Keane. I would say, “Before games, I’d feel this way.” She’s like, “That’s because…” She would throw the whole brain development. It drives me nuts when parents are screaming at their kids to do something when they’re not capable of doing it. I know that as a coach. She knows on the mental side their brain and the processing is not there. It’s just trying to say, hey, take a step back. When you’re screaming at your kid on the sideline and they’re getting information from the coach, parents, and then they have their own self and what they want to do, it’s tough. I don’t think parents really embrace the whole concept of sport. We’re getting caught away with the money part of it and less of the enjoyment. We hopefully can bring back a little bit of the love for playing and why we play sports versus just being all about money and putting them in the sport for the wrong reason.

Zibby: Everything you’re saying relates to every part of life. I keep thinking, oh, I could extrapolate this to everything. This is for kids and grown-ups. It’s such just great life advice. Do what you’re passionate about. Enjoy it or you won’t be that good at it. It’s just so true, but it’s so good to hear.

Christie: I think we just don’t take the time to listen to ourselves. That’s one of the biggest lessons I learned as a captain. You have to be a good listener. In order to be a good leader, you have to be a good listener. We get so caught up in stuff. Listen to what’s going on in life and body language like we talk in the book. Nonverbal communication is huge. If you actually take a step back and are aware of what’s going on in life with your child, you’ll be able to tell everything. They wear it. That’s why I hope people read this book. Yes, a lot of the message is — I could relate that to a lot, but it’s just, are you? That’s the question to parents. Yeah, we all know the answer, but are you listening to yourselves? This is just different ways of self-reflecting and looking at yourself as a parent. Can you help? What can you do in your busy schedule?

Zibby: I’m glad you mentioned the body language part because I loved that chart, like what exactly your position, if you’re doing this and if you’re looking down and all the rest. I was literally thinking to myself, I should put this on the fridge. This is your attitude towards everything, really. It’s not just on the soccer field. Super useful, especially for kids who might not have that level of emotional intelligence to perceive that that’s what it means when they do certain things.

Kristine: Really, teaching them, they can change the energy of a game by changing their body language. A lot of kids don’t understand that. The coaches may not tell them that. As a parent, that’s where you could come in and explain that and teach them how powerful they can be that way.

Zibby: Now I feel like I need to sit up straighter talking to you guys as I’m all slumped. What is it saying about me? This is my soccer week. Yesterday, I interviewed Glennon Doyle who’s married to Abby. It’s so funny. Now I feel like I should go outside and just start kicking the soccer ball around or something. Anyway, do you have any parting advice to aspiring authors? Then I will let you go. I know it’s gone long.

Christie: For other authors who are aspiring, it’s very similar to sports and using your voice. Just start writing it down. Just get your thoughts. That’s what we did. We were talking so much, writing stuff down. Then we’re like, let’s just write a book. Let’s go for it. It is a process like anything else in life. After we wrote it, I didn’t realize how much goes into it afterward. It’s just an amazing time over the last two years of being able to go back through all our thoughts and getting it down and feeling accomplished. After sports, I was like, what is my purpose? This helped with my purpose. Now it’s about serving and giving back. All the experiences I had, I don’t want it to go to waste. Same thing with Dr. Keane, she’s got such an amazing brain. She understands the whole aspect of sport and where kids should be and just hearing — that’s why I love the connection we have. She is able to talk about things that I can’t even understand of why my brain is thinking this right now. How do I stop my anxiety? How do I stop with always overthinking? It’s a good combination of sports and the mental side of it. We helped each other push through it.

Kristine: Definitely. Allaying my fears like, well, if Christie Pearce Rampone doesn’t have her child in four nights of training and she can be relaxed about it, I can take a cue from that as well. For aspiring authors, I’d go back to what Christie said before. Obviously, writing a book’s going to take a pretty long time. It takes a lot of perseverance and determination. I think they say a lot of people, they’ll start writing. They’ll stop after three months. That’s usually where people cut it off. We were so passionate about the topic. We love talking about this. We love to help. We interact with youth sports parents all the time. Our passion for the topic, we felt like it was an important topic. That was always the feedback. People get excited to talk about it. Then maybe we can make a difference and change youth sports landscape by doing this.

Zibby: Every team should get every player a copy of this book. That should be the distribution strategy.

Kristine: That would be amazing.

Zibby: Not that you need my help on this, I’m sure you two have a zillion ideas, but I think your next book should be about what happens after you stop playing competitive sports because I don’t think there’s enough out there to help people who used to be a really high-level athlete and then they have to just be regular adults. Anyway, if you’re looking for another project, I would suggest that one.

Kristine: Who are we after sports?

Zibby: Yeah. What does it mean?

Kristine: That happens to kids when they get hurt. Kids are out for six months or a year. Then they’re like, who I am? They have to redefine themselves or maybe friendships and social circles. That’s something we address too in the book.

Christie: We’re taking your advice.

Zibby: Good. Go for it. Goodbye. Go get working. Thank you so much for all your time. Thanks for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Christie: Of course. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Christie Pearce Rampone & Dr. Kristine Keane, BE ALL IN