USWNT coach Emma Hayes instilling right mindset ahead of Olympics

uswnt coach emma hayes instilling right mindset ahead of olympics

Soccer field

Emma Hayes is never afraid to tell it how she sees it.

On her first media day as new United States Women's National Team head coach, Hayes said Thursday the "rest of the world do not fear the USA in the way that they once did and that's valid."

These comments are backed by the USWNT's performance in the FIFA Women's World Cup last year, when it finished second in its group and was eliminated in the Round of 16 by Sweden.

In their last Olympic outing, the Americans finished third after losing in the semifinals to eventual gold medalists Canada.

Hayes is looking to restore winning ways to the USWNT – holders of four gold medals – at the Olympics this summer in Paris. The realism in her approach is a critical first step.

Women's world soccer has the greatest parity it has ever had. At the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, teams from all six confederations won a match for the first time in tournament history. New Zealand, Philippines, Zambia, Portugal, Jamaica, South Africa and Morocco all netted their first wins while England and Spain made the World Cup final for the first time, with the Spaniards ultimately winning their first major tournament.

Notably, the historic tournament was the highest-attended women's World Cup to date.

The USWNT has served as a catalyst for the exponential growth of the women's game, suing the U.S. Soccer Federation for equal pay before the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup and reaching a historic settlement in 2022. Its actions laid the foundation for additional investment in teams around the world.

This investment increases the formidable edge of the USWNT's opponents. Seeing so many firsts at the last major tournament should inspire the rest of the field competing in July at the Olympics. Combined with the Americans' lack of recent success (by their standards), it's obvious why aspiration and optimism prevail over fear that dominated the past.

Positively for the USWNT, Hayes knows a thing or two about building a championship environment. In her 12 years as manager of the Chelsea FC Women, she won 16 trophies, including a fifth straight Women's Super League title on the final day of the season.

The world does not fear the United States as it once did. That's a good thing. Hayes' acknowledgement shows the USWNT is ready to embrace that reality. The team's awareness and respect for the growing game it has shaped should equip it with the right approach for the Olympics.

The trendsetters became the hunted and now, for perhaps the first time ever, the Americans are the hunters.

Attempting to win a fifth gold medal will be a difficult challenge, but Hayes started the journey on the right track with a candid message to her players and the world.

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