WALNUT CREEK -- When two young female athletes collide on a field, it's called an accident. When the ideas and skill sets of a (relatively) young soccer mom and a young woman collide during a job interview, it's called the "Taking the World by Storm" soccer clinic.
The fourth annual event is a partnership of Assemblywoman Susan A. Bonilla, D-Concord; California Storm, the Elk Grove-based semiprofessional women's soccer team; and the City of Walnut Creek. The free four-hour clinic on Saturday, July 26 at Arbolado Park will give 200 girls, ages 8 to 16, an opportunity to drill their skills, hear about health from U.S. Olympian players, and draw empowerment from sharing a scrimmage with players of all abilities.
Katie Hardeman, a 28-year-old center midfielder in her fourth season with the Storm, recalled how the clinic was born.
"I was interviewing for a job working for Assemblywoman Bonilla.
"The first thing that came up was that I played soccer," Hardeman said. "She started talking about how it would be cool to do a clinic in our district."
Bonilla, who has four girls who all play soccer, said,
"It seemed like an obvious need to me. I was a soccer mom. I played basketball and ran track, so I did feel that team sports were a great way to build a girl's self-confidence."
Hardeman grew up in San Diego, playing soccer from the age of 5 and preferring the sport's nonstop action to T-ball and other athletic endeavors. A soccer-playing graduate of Sacramento State University now working as a K-12 educational consultant in the Assembly Budget Committee office, Hardeman continues to thrive on the quarterbacking duties of her position with the team Jerry Zanelli founded in 1995. Head coach of the Storm, one of six original Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL) teams, Zanelli now doubles as the commissioner of the women's league he established in 1998 that today boasts 70 teams and more than 2,000 participating female athletes nationwide.
Hardeman said her time on the field translates directly to the office. "You can tell the people who've worked together before. As part of a team in an office, hard work I've done (playing soccer) helps me in a new job where I don't know everything."
And having female role models from quality teams that dominated in the 2011 Women's World Cup, she said, elevated young female athlete's interest in the sport.
"The first year of the clinic, we saw a boost: this year, even with the men's (World Cup), there'll be more interest," she predicted.
Bonilla said soccer and other sports build social capital. "As they go through adolescence, at a time when they are struggling, the association with a team gives them a stable base." She said inviting young women in their 20s playing on college teams or who have continued to play after college to speak at the clinic, sends a clear message that athletic achievement needn't stop in middle or high school.
"Kids who stay engaged -- in sports, band, student government or anything -- learn life skills and that experience fixes the future and all its options before them," she said.
Bonilla attributed her adult sense of leadership and her ability to be disciplined, and function in a group, to her experience on sports teams. She said the foundation of a firm, confident self-identity is critical for young women and has led her to take risks that get results. During Taking the World by Storm's three-year history, she's noticed the way in which the clinic differs from a regular practice.
"They're not being told how to do it better. Here, they are getting inspired," she said.