Hope Solo – the Hero’s Voyage

Act III: Rise of the Phoenix and Media figure

When we left our hero, she had reached bottom: her father dead, her team beaten while she was benched, and her teammates shunning her for speaking her mind to the press. Her coach refused to play her and her National Team future was seriously in doubt. From the NYT:

When the 2007 World Cup started, Solo was still grieving. Then she was benched by Coach Greg Ryan for a semifinal match against Brazil. The United States lost, 4-0, with Briana Scurry in goal. Afterward, Solo said that she could have saved the shots that ended up in the net. Her words scattered beyond their aim.

Solo’s teammates took her remarks as a criticism of Scurry, not just Ryan. She was banished from the third-place game and the team flight home from China, ostracized by the women who had played with her and been her friends.

Joseph Campbell has documented the path that all universal tales of the hero take. His book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (first published in 1949) is a seminal work of

“I’ve been prepared for this through heartaches, through personal struggles, It’s about defying the odds for me. It’s about proving people wrong. It’s about playing the game I’m passionate about. This is what I live for. I’ve prepared my entire life for this moment.”

comparative mythology. In it he describes the Hero’s Journey, his theory of the archetypal hero found in world mythologies. He posits that the tales of the hero resemble each other, that they are essentially the same, regardless of time and country of origin.

When I read about the Campbell’s monomyth, it reminds me of Hope’s life. For example, the hero’s voyage often begins with misgiving; the hero doesn’t necessarily want any part of the challenge:

The Monomyth: Call to Adventure

The hero is called to adventure by some external event or messenger. The Hero may accept the call willingly or reluctantly.

From USA Today:

“Hope Solo never wanted to be a goalkeeper. But her competitiveness got the best of her.
( . . .)  “When she was 15, Carl Wheeler, coach of her select soccer team, moved her from forward to goalkeeper to fill in temporarily for an injured teammate. Soon after, he challenged her to make the state’s Olympic development team, in an older age division, at the position.

“‘I didn’t take it that seriously,” she says. “Once I was on the field, I was going to be the best athlete. My competitive nature is deeply inbred. It always takes over.”

“However, the instant she made the team, she had misgivings.

“‘I wanted to start all over and re-try out as a field player,” she recalls. “My picture of my life was thrown out the window and a new path was set.”

Every hero takes the same journey. They hit rock-bottom and then prevail with help from special spirits they meet along the way.

Then there’s the almost supernatural influence of her father. Living mysteriously in the woods he would appear from time to time to counsel her. No one knew his true name or his circumstances. From Campbell:

The Monomyth: Helpers/Amulet

During the early stages of the journey, the hero will often receive aid from a protective figure. This supernatural helper can take a wide variety of forms, such as a wizard, and old man, a dwarf, a crone, or a fairy godmother. The helper commonly gives the hero a protective amulet or weapon for the journey.

Hope said of him, “He always had that street sense in him. In terms of being ‘homeless,’ I’m always very careful not to define it that way. He chose to live in the woods. He enjoyed it. I’d offer him money, and he’d never take a dime. If I looked for him, I wouldn’t look for him at a homeless shelter.” She added, “I always had a very unique, close relationship with my father. He was the happiest man I’ve ever known. He enjoyed the simple life. He never judged another person. His heart was pure.”

A simple, mysterious, pure-hearted man who chose to live in the woods. What does that sound like to you? And as we know, she sprinkled her father’s ashes in the goal area before every World Cup game as part of her mission to take him with her to a world championship. “The only one who really knew me was my father,” she said.

What more significant amulet can there be than her father’s ashes?

Of course, these events had already transpired during the time covered in my earlier post. Now, Hope is at her lowest ebb, like her future-based relative Han Solo when he was encased in carbonite. What does the Hero’s Journey say about this?

It points out that often someone comes to help the hero through difficulty:

The Monomyth: Helpers

The hero is often accompanied on the journey by a helper who assists in the series of tests and generally serves as a loyal companion. Alternately, the hero may encounter a supernatural helper in the world of adventure who fulfills this function.This is the critical moment in the hero’s journey in which there is often a final battle with a monster, wizard, or warrior which facilitates the particular resolution of the adventure.

One type of helper is The Herald: 

Heralds act to signal change and invite the character to answer the call to adventure. Their job is to motivate the hero into action, despite the hero’s frequent desire to maintain the status quo.

Heralds issue challenges and announce the coming of significant change. Something changes the hero’s situation, and nothing is the same ever again.

The herald often delivers the Call to Adventure, sometimes in the form of a letter, a phone call, an accident.

Heralds provide the important psychological function of announcing the need for change, Vogler says.

Hope wanted the pressure on her shoulders. And what shoulders they are.

Enter Pia Sundhage, the new USWNT coach and signaler of change. She was quirky. Even though she’d proved her credentials as a player and coach for Sweden, as the first female to lead the USWNT, she chose to do things her way and had a tough problem to untangle. She had the best goalkeeper in the world but the rest of the team had turned their backs on her.

From a NYT article: “I knew I had to do something, so I pretty much listened,” Sundhage said shortly after being hired. “I asked the players, ‘What do you want to happen?’ The other question was, ‘Do you want to win?’ Yes, of course, they said. Then I said, ‘We need good goalkeepers.’ ”

Simple words but ones that would change the course of Hope’s life. On June 23, 2008, six months after Ryan’s firing and her personal nadir, Sundhage announced Solo would be the starting goalkeeper for the U.S. team at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Brianna Scurry did not make the team, designated as an alternate.

The Monomyth: Climax/Final Battle

This is the critical moment in the hero’s journey in which there is often a final battle with a monster, wizard, or warrior which facilitates the particular resolution of the adventure.

Two months later on August 21, the U.S. women’s team found themselves in the gold medal match against the best team in the world: Brazil. Pia Sundhage who quirkily opened her tenure with US Soccer by singing Dylan’s  “The Times, They Are A-changin'” (Heralds announce the coming of significant change) pulled Hope back into the battle and gave her the chance to make good on the words she had said to the press a year previously.

In the final match Brazil attacked the US relentlessly. The NYT has this to say in its coverage: “Repeatedly, Solo thwarted Marta, the Brazilian forward who is considered the world’s top player and who danced an unending samba through the American back line. Solo came off her line to smother balls, punched away a corner kick that bent nastily toward the goal and dived to deflect a low cross in the final, dangerous seconds of overtime. The game would not have reached the extra period without a point-blank save in the 72nd minute from Solo, who leaned toward her left, reached back and repelled a laser by Marta with her right forearm.”

“The winning goal came in the 96th minute on a wicked, diving shot from just outside the penalty area by midfielder Carli Lloyd , the first and one of the few players to stick by Solo through her widely publicized banishment. Forward Amy Rodriguez, who had failed to score on a breakaway near the end of regulation, shielded a defender and laid a pass off to Lloyd, whose dipping blast skidded past Barbara, the Brazilian goalkeeper.

“But the victory was provided as much by Solo as anyone.”
Hope celebrated the win with her teammates but remembered the struggles of the past year. Referring to the death of her father last year, and the World Cup exile, Solo said she had been ”through hell,” and if ”one gold medal takes away all the pain in the world, then that’s fake.”

But it was a victory and the end of an epic adventure. Even Hope commented, ”It’s like a storybook ending,” Solo said of the vindication that came with the Olympics. ”It’s something you see in Hollywood or in fairy tales. My life doesn’t play out like that all the time.” It was a storybook ending, because Hope was a storybook hero. Her trajectory parallels that of centuries of heroes who have gone before her. Punished for speaking of her

Hope returns to the daylight. Still a competitor.

confidence, for saying she could bring victory, she got that rarest of second chances. And in the final battle she did what few in history have accomplished: she back her words with deeds, defeating the best in the world and vindicating her father’s memory. This is Hope Solo, today’s overnight success and quite beautiful contestant on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. I think if she can learn to dance lightheartedly, she will show better, but it’s not important. She’s fought her battle and this is part of her travel to return to the daylight:

The Monomyth: Return

The hero again crosses the threshold of adventure and returns to the everyday world of daylight. The return usually takes the form of an awakening, rebirth, resurrection, or a simple emergence from a cave or forest. Sometimes the hero is pulled out of the adventure world by a force from the daylight world.

"The return usually takes the form of an awakening, rebirth, resurrection, or a simple emergence from a cave or forest." Hope in her re-birthday suit.


Pia sings for the press:

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