Scurry, Briana 1971–
Briana Scurry 1971–
She has been called the “Jackie Robinson” of soccer. Like Robinson, a world famous athlete who broke down racial barriers in professional baseball, Briana Scurry has broken down a few barriers of her own. As the only African-American starter for the champion U.S. women’s soccer team, Scurry became the first goalkeeper, male or female, black or white to play in 100 international games. Along the way she also became a role model for African-American youth. Soon after the U.S. women’s team won the 1999 World Cup, Scurry told Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated “My role is to introduce choices to African-American girls.” She takes this 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.” Considered one of the best goalies in the world, Scurry is in a position to do just that.
On September 7, 1971 in St. Paul, Minnesota, Briana Collette Scurry became the youngest of nine children born to Robbie and Ernest Scurry. The first few years of her life were spent in Dayton, Minnesota, part of the inner-city sprawl of Minneapolis. When the family home began to sink into the filled-in lake beneath it, Robbie and Ernest Scurry decided it was time to move the family to the suburbs. It was not the first time the Scurrys had lost a home to nature’s whims. In 1960 Hurricane Donna had destroyed the family home in Galveston, Texas prompting the Scurrys to flee north. This time, however, the family was not just fleeing disaster, but moving towards opportunity. If it had not been for the hurricane’s furious wind and the lake’s thirsty revenge, Scurry might have never made it to the trim-lawned, lily-white suburbs of Anoka, Minnesota where soccer is as common as summertime barbecues.
In Anoka, Scurry became what she calls “the fly in the milk,” referring to her family being the only African-American family in a four town radius. For the athletic Scurry, this did not make much difference. “I never got singled out,” she told Sports Illustrated, “My parents never let me think that I was alone in anything. They taught me that I could do whatever I wanted to do....,” she continued. The young Scurry found herself a
At a Glance…
Born Briana (bry-ANN-ah) Collette Scurry on September 7, 1971, in St Paul, Minnesota; parents are Robbie and Ernest Scurry, Education: bachelor’s degree in Political Science, University of Massachusetts, 1995.
Career: Women’s U.S, soccer team, goalkeeper, 1994-99; U.S. Olympics Women’s Team, goalkeeper, 1996, 2000; U.S. Women’s World Cup, goalkeeper, 1999; Women’s United Soccer Association, Atlanta Beat, 2000-; in 2000 became the first U.S. goalkeeper to play 100 International matches.
Awards: U.S. Olympics, gold medal, 1996, silver medal, 2000; U.S. Women’s World Cup, gold medal, 1999; named to the Women’s World Cup All-Star Team, 1999; named Most Valuable Player of the Chiquita Cup, 1994; named National Goalkeeper of the Year by the Missouri Adidas Athletic Club, 1993; Minnesota’s High School Female Athlete of the Year, 1989.
Addresses: Team —Atlanta Beat, 1400 Lake Hearn Drive, Atlanta, GA 30319, (877) 762-2371; League— Women’s United Soccer Association, 614 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10022, (212) 548-5860.
member of the team—or teams as she played football, basketball, softball, and ran track before seeing a flyer for soccer try outs when she was in 4th grade.
Scurry started out playing goalie on an all-boys team. It was a position that the other players did not want and that the coach thought would be safer for a girl. She soon learned that from the goalie position, she could control the game as long as she blocked the opposing team’s balls from scoring a goal in her net. “The other team can’t win if they can’t score on me,” she later explained to The Washington Post. Scurry was not content to just play one sport and also embraced basketball with a fury. She was so good at both positions that by the time she graduated high school she had been named All-American goalkeeper, All-State basketball player, and Minnesota’s High school Female Athlete of the Year. Though she still considers basketball her first love, she was better at soccer and of the 70 universities that courted her, 55 wanted her for soccer, while just two pursued her for basketball.
Scurry chose University of Massachusetts and started kicking her way towards fame. She was twice named Collegiate Goalkeeper of the Year and in 1993 was named National Goalkeeper of the Year by the Missouri Adidas Athletic Club. With Scurry as goalie, the University of Massachusetts’ Minutewomen went all the way to the NCAA Final Four. Along the way, she also caught the eye of Tony DiCicco, coach of the U.S. women’s soccer team. “I look for two things in a goalkeeper: athleticism and mental skills and she epitomizes both,” DiCicco later told Sports Illustrated.
In 1994 she donned the national team jersey with number one as her jersey number and played her first international match. She announced her presence on the world soccer scene by securing a shutout in that first game—not letting a single goal pass her net throughout the whole game. This impenetrability prompted the team to nickname her “The Rock” and “The Wall.” After returning to Massachusetts to finish her degree in political science in 1995, Scurry put her plans for law school on the bench and went on to become the U.S. team’s number one goalie from 1994 to 1999.
Still the “fly in the milk” as the United States’ only African-American starting player, Scurry became one of the most important members of unarguably the most popular women’s sports team in the country. Wins and shutouts began to rack up. She became known for her calmness under pressure as well as her athletic ability. As goalie, balls come right at you, sometimes at ferocious speeds. Scurry did not flinch or panic, she just did what was needed to stop that ball. Her prowess helped lead the women’s team to Olympic Gold in 1996. Scurry played every minute of all five games on the path to gold, allowing only three goals to pass her. After the United States won their medal, the first ever gold for the U.S. women’s soccer team, Scurry took a victory run through the streets of Athens, Georgia wearing nothing but her gold medal. It was the fulfillment of a promise to run naked through the streets if the team took the gold. True to her word, just hours after the game she went to a desolate part of town, stripped down to her shoulder tattoo of a black panther and streaked down the street. “We videotaped it for proof,” Scurry told NBC-TV, “but no one is going to see that tape,” she continued.
After the Olympics, more wins were to come. In 1999, with Scurry on goal, the U.S. Women’s team won the most important series in soccer, the World Cup. With 90,000 fans watching in the Rose Bowl—the largest crowd ever for a women’s sporting event—the United States went into overtime with China. The game would be decided by penalty kicks. In penalty play, each team is given five chances to kick a goal. Five of China’s best kickers would send balls flying straight at Scurry. A penalty kick is one of the most difficult to block because of the sheer intent of the kicker. As quoted in The Boston Globe, Coach Tony DiCicco told Scurry, “Make one [save] and you’re a hero.” With a flying horizontal dive, she stopped one of China’s balls, allowing the U.S. to clinch a victory.
After the World Cup, Scurry’s celebrity status shot up. She appeared on “The Today Show,” “The Tonight Show,” and “Good Morning America.” She signed endorsement deals with Nike and Pepsi. She and her teammates appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as “Sportswomen of the Year.” Still, many African Americans felt that Scurry’s performance in the World Cup had been overlooked for the accomplishments of the team’s white players. Her mother, Robbie, was particularly upset at how little television coverage her daughter received during the medal ceremony. Scurry did not buy it, noting that goalies never receive much attention. Dismissing the controversy, she was quoted in The Black World Today as saying, “I hope that my performance will encourage other young African Americans to take up the sport.”
In 2000, as the U.S. team geared up for another shot at Olympic gold, Scurry, still wearing her number one jersey, found herself in the unusual position of number two. Out most of the year with shin injuries, she was replaced by Siri Mullinix in the goalie position. Mullinix not only took over the position, breaking Scurry’s record of 12 shutouts in a single season, but she also changed the style of play. Unlike Scurry, Mullinix charges out of the box (the area in front of the goal) to meet her challengers head on. “I had to rehab my style,” Scurry told NBC-TV about her return to the team. Unfortunately it was too late. Mullinix went into the Olympics as starting goalie and Scurry took the bench.
“It was very, very hard for me at first,” she was quoted as saying to NBC-TV, “I’m upset about it, but that is not what it’s all about. It’s about helping the team,” she continued. Instead of helping her team, Scurry could only sit by helplessly as the United States lost to Norway in the final medal game in Sydney, Australia. The U.S. team, the golden women of soccer, took home the silver.
Due in large part to the media frenzy stirred up by Scurry and her famous teammates during the 1999 World Cup and the 1996 Olympics, a professional women’s soccer league formed in the United States— the Women’s United Soccer Association, WUSA. With the first season kicking off in April of 2001, WUSA will provide an opportunity for Scurry to get back on the field. “What I am looking forward to most is the challenge of defending my goal against such superstars as Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain,” she said in a WUSA press release. Playing for the Atlanta Beat, Scurry will continue to kick down barriers and reach out to youth. “The best thing you can do for kids, especially African-American kids, is to give them options,” “The best thing you can do for kids, especially African-American kids, is to give them options,”
she told The Orange County Register. As an original member of this groundbreaking new league, Briana Scurry may just achieve that goal.
The Black World Today, July 12, 1999.
Boston Globe, July 7, 1999.
Boston Herald, June 28, 1999.
Ebony, January 2000, p56.
The Orange County Register, June 29,
Sports Illustrated, July, 12, 1999, p36.
USA Today, July 7, 1999.
The Washington Post, June 30, 1999, pD4.
Additional information was obtained at: www.msnbc.com/news/45762.asp.
American soccer player
As the only African-American starter on the U.S. women's national soccer team in the 1990s, Briana Scurry revolutionized the way young black children looked at soccer. Her tenacious goalkeeping and unflappable demeanor provided a rock-solid base for the women's triumphs in the 1996 Olympics and the 1999 World Cup, victories which catapulted soccer to new popularity in the United States. Scurry later was one of the founders and most popular members of the new women's soccer league, the WUSA.
Against the Odds
Ernest and Robbie Scurry had already started their large family when Hurricane Donna destroyed their home in Galveston, Texas, in 1960. They moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, but an underground lake started undermining their home shortly after Briana, the youngest of their nine children, was born. The family then moved to Dayton, Minnesota, a nearly all-white Minneapolis suburb where they were some of the first African-Americans. But instead of prejudice, Briana found only encouragement.
"I never got singled out," Scurry later told Sports Illustrated. "My parents never let me think I was alone in anything. They taught me that I could do whatever I wanted to do, and the odds against that didn't matter." Her first love was football; when she was 11, she scored nine touchdowns in a boys' league. Scurry also competed in softball, basketball, and track. She first played on a soccer team when she was 12, and that was a boys' team, because there was no girls league. The coach put Scurry in goal because he thought she would be safest there, but she hated not being able to score. After one season in goal, she played the field for three years, then returned to
goal. "I realized I could control the game from the goal," she later explained to Sports Illustrated for Kids.
At Anoka High School, Scurry played softball, ran track, was an all-state basketball player, and became a high-school All-American in soccer. As a senior, her team won the state championship and she was voted the state's top female athlete.
Scurry earned a soccer scholarship to the University of Massachusetts, where she refined her game under coach Jim Rudy. As a sophomore, she started in goal in all 19 of her team's games, allowing just nine goals all season and recording 12 shutouts. In 1992, her junior year, Scurry posted seven shutouts in 13 starts and also played three games as a forward. To cap her collegiate career, she started all 23 games as a senior and blanked opponents another 15 times, giving her 37 shutouts in 65 starts and an average of 0.56 goals allowed per game for her college career. Scurry led her team to the semifinals of the NCAA championship tournament after winning both the Atlantic 10 conference and tournament titles. She was named to the All-New England first team and the All-Northeast Region first team and to the All-American second team. Scurry graduated in the spring of 1995 with a degree in political science and planned to go to law school, but playing soccer put those plans on hold.
After college, Scurry joined the U.S. Women's National Team, and in her first game, against Portugal on March 16, 1994, she allowed no goals. She immediately became the National Team's number one goalie and kept the job for six full seasons. In her first year with the U.S. team, Scurry started 12 games and had seven shutouts, and she was named the Most Valuable Player of the Chiquita Cup.
Scurry was a stalwart in goal as the women's team won the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying championship in Montreal in 1994. In the World Cup the following year, played in Sweden, she was the keeper as the U.S. finished a disappointing third. After cup play ended, Scurry was in an auto accident and hurt her back. She was unable to play in the U.S. Women's Cup later that year.
But Scurry bounced back the following season, starting 16 games and allowing only 11 goals with two shutouts. Her team lost only one of the 17 games she appeared in. Also in 1996, she played every minute of the U.S. team's five matches at the Atlanta Olympics, allowing only three goals as the U.S. women won the gold medal.
Scurry became the player that every teammate depended on to keep the match close. One of the world's most athletic goalkeepers, she possessed quick hands, great leaping ability, and an intimidating presence. Scurry seemed to play even better under pressure. In an online chat in CNNSI.com, she said she tried to use nervousness as a tool to help her play. "I try not so much to worry about being the last line of defense, I try to stay in my game and I make the plays I can make, and a few of the ones I shouldn't, and deep breathing—that also helps." She always seemed unflappable, even in adversity. "I don't like the other team to see me upset," Scurry aadmitted to Sports Illustrated, "because I like to win the psychological battle in a game. Being ice cold is the way I do it."
"Playing against Briana is like rock-climbing a slap of marble," former coach Rudy revealed to Sports Illustrated. "There are no weaknesses in her game."
The Big Save
Scurry continued to star for the National Team, posting a team-record 12 shutouts in 1998 and 11 more in 1999. During her six-year run (1994-99) as the U.S. national team's starting keeper, Scurry started 95 of the club's 132 international matches and appeared as a substitute in three others. In more than half of those games, 54, she held the opponents scoreless, and she allowed an average of just 0.6 goals per game. During the 2000 season, Scurry became the 11th U.S. women's player and the first goalie to appear in 100 international games. She had started more than three times as many games as any other U.S. goalie.
In the 1999 World Cup Scurry played every minute of the six games, posting four shutouts and allowing only three goals. She made six saves in an incredible performance against Brazil in a crucial semifinal game, including stopping a couple of point-blank shots. Coach Tony DiCicco said "Scurry was awesome, and she was for sure the number one star for us today." Scurry called it the best game of her career.
Thanks to Scurry, the championship game against China remained a scoreless tie through regulation and two overtimes. The World Cup would be decided on five penalty kicks for each team. On China's third penalty kick, by Liu Ying, Scurry moved immediately to the right and made a save that sent the largest crowd in women's sports history, more than 95,000 fans, into a frenzy. "I went fully on instinct," she was quoted in the Washington Times. "I had a feeling when she was walking up that I would get that one.… And I knew I just had to make one save, because my teammates would make their shots." Recalling it later for CNNSI.com, she said: "I experienced an almost indescribable calmness during that situation. I always believed I would make at least one save. I guess you can call that being in the zone or divine inspiration of whatever you want to call it."
Replays of the save showed that Scurry appeared to move forward off the goal line just before the kicker struck the ball. A kicker is allowed to move only laterally before a penalty kick is made. But goalies are at such a severe disadvantage during penalty kicks that most of them try to "cheat" a little, and referees often allow the indiscretion.
In 2000, Scurry battled injuries and lost her starting job to Siri Mullinix. She did not appear in the 2000 Olympics, even though she was healed from her injuries, and played in only five games all season, slipping to a 1.19 goals-against average. After that year, Scurry's career totals for the National Team included records for most appearances by a goalie (103), most wins (79) and most shutouts (54).
|1989||Member of state championship high school team in Anoka, Minnesota|
|1990-93||Stars for University of Massachusetts|
|1994||Blanks Portugal in first appearance for U.S. National Team|
|1995||Plays in Women's World Cup|
|1996||Plays on U.S. Olympic gold medal team|
|1999||Keeper for U.S. Women's World Cup champions|
|2001-02||Plays for Atlanta Beat in WUSA|
After the Olympics, Scurry said she wanted to try something new and seriously considered joining the Women's National Basketball Association. Instead, she became a founding member of the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA). In its inaugural season in 2001, Scurry was assigned to the Atlanta Beat. She held opponents to 0.82 goals per game that season, the league's best average, and won nine games, losing three and drawing six. Her eight shutouts was the second-highest in the league, and after the season she was named goalie on WUSA's Global 11 second team. In the Founders Cup championship game, Scurry got an assist on a goal by Charmaine Hooper.
In 2002 Scurry added five more shutouts to take over the WUSA lead with 13 career shutouts. She allowed 1.33 goals per game, with nine wins, eight losses and a tie. Again, she was named to the league's second team. Scurry also played two more games for the U.S. national team, but she was unable to regain her starter's job from Mullinix.
Awards and Accomplishments
|1989||High school All-American|
|1989||Top female athlete in Minnesota|
|1993||All-New England, All-Northeast Region teams and second team college All-American|
|1993||National College Goalkeeper of the Year|
|1994||Most Valuable Player, Chiquita Cup|
|1996, 2000||Olympic Gold Medalist|
|1999||Member of Women's World Cup champions|
|2001-02||WUSA Global 11 second team|
Scurry donated volunteer time to promote awareness of AIDS and for the Make a Wish Foundation, and she visited many U.S. cities to try to spark interest in soccer among inner-city girls and boys. "I am proud of my heritage," she told Knight Ridder Newspapers in 1998, "and I take very seriously my role of showing African-American youth and people in general that we can excel in any sport or anything."
Christopher, Matt. In the Goal with … Briana Scurry.
Little, Brown, 2001.
Foltman, Bob. "Fire goalie Zach Thornton gives his take on Briana Scurry's penalty-kick save." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, (August 2, 1999): K5608.
Hinnon, Joy Bennett. "Soccer Star Boomlet in Black America." Ebony, 55 (January 2000): 56.
Hruby, Patrick. "On Top of the World: Scurry Saves Day, Chastain Wins it for U.S." Washington Times (July 11, 1999): 1.
Ponti, James. "Get Out of My Net! A Shot has no Chance with Briana Scurry in Goal." Sports Illustrated for Kids, 8 (November 1996): 36.
Smallwood, John. "Goalkeeper Takes her Role as African-American Role Model Seriously." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (August 4, 1998): 804K6896.
Tunstall, Brooke. "U.S. Women Scurry into Final: Goalkeeper Brilliant vs. Brazil." Washington Times (July 5, 1999): 1.
"Wahl, Grant. She's a Keeper." Sports Illustrated, 91 (July 12, 1999): 36.
"Briana Scurry." "SoccerDivas.com. http://www.soccerdivas.com/brianna_scurry.htm (January 19, 2003).
"Briana Scurry." WUSA. http://www.wusa.com/players_coaches/players/briana_scurry/(January 19, 2003).
"Chat Reel: Briana Scurry." CNNSI.com. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/your_turn/news/2000/11/15/chatreel_scurry/(January 19, 2003).
"Scurry, Briana." Women's Soccer World Online. http://www.womensoccer.com/biogs/scurry.html (January 19, 2003).
"U.S. Teams - Goalkeeper." SoccerTimes.com. http://www.soccertimes.com/usteams/roster/women/scurry.htm (January 19, 2002).
Sketch by Michael Betzold