The World According to Weimer: Remembering Tony DiCicco

19990704 WNT Tony DiCicco

By TIFFANY WEIMER

On Tuesday, American soccer lost one of the most influential people it has ever had. Tony DiCicco died with his family by his side, and without knowing how the world would salute him only a few hours later.

There aren’t many people in my sphere who haven’t heard of Tony DiCicco. The ones who haven’t are simply too young. Too young to know that their opportunities and paved pathways are part of the design of the man with the awesome mustache who helped change thousands of lives in June 1999.

If you were to ask most of the professional players in the National Women’s Soccer League or ones who came before, they will tell you without a second thought that the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup final in Pasadena, Calif., was the transformative moment in their soccer lives.

The U.S. beat China in penalty kicks on a hot July day when Brandi Chastain smashed home the winning PK to give the title of best in the world to the American team.

They inspired so many people. Maybe we sometimes forget that before they inspired us, they were inspired themselves.

A big part of the way they played and how they handled themselves off the field was because of Tony. He had a way of getting the best out of people and making everyone around him better, something that I’ve yet to see matched in my short 33 years of life.

Those 99ers were the definition of a team and had the hearts and souls of lions. Having to coach some of the best players in the country and in the world isn’t an easy task. The coach has to convince each player that this is the goal, this is the best way to accomplish it and this is your role within the group.

Tony always made teams be as one.

I know from experience.

Tony coached me a lot during my career. On teams, in small group training sessions, at SoccerPlus camps. I’ve known him since I was 15 years old. He was always the same whether he was coaching young players or the World Cup team. There aren’t many coaches like that.

When he coached us at the SoccerPlus CT Reds, a Women’s Premier Soccer League team in 2007 and 2008, he treated us as if we were fully paid professionals. When you treat people that way, they act that way, even if maybe we were still a little immature at times (oops).

He made us a great team. There were no individuals. There was no success for one without the other. There was no disappointment for one without the other. He did this by treating everyone fairly, holding people accountable and being hard as hell on us.

I’ll never forget a time when Tony screamed at me during one of our matches. He yelled (loud enough for the fans to hear) “if you defend like that, you’ll never make the national team.”

That was a hard pill to swallow (though he was obviously right).

The next day, he called me into his office. I thought he was going to continue to berate me and tell me how important it is to defend as a center mid.

Instead, Tony apologized for the way he spoke to me on the field. He said he was sorry that he handled it that way.

I was in shock. A coach just apologized to a player? That has never happened and has yet to happen again. But when someone does something like that, you know damn well that they want what’s best for you.

He made people better and in turn, made people want to be better. Tony’s success as a coach and mentor has done more for women’s soccer than we will ever know. Yesterday, social media blew up and gave us a small glimpse of the impact and reach he had.

All I know for sure is that everywhere I go and everyone I meet has a little bit of DiCicco in them … and let me tell you, our game is lucky to have that.