The Northeast Conference is sponsoring a yearlong celebration of women in sports commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the passage of Title IX. The NEC recently had a chance to catch up with former Monmouth three-sport star Christie Pearce-Rampone, an NEC Hall of Famer and longtime member of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team.
WATCH: Celebrating 40 Years of Title IX - NEC-TV Interview with Christie Pearce-Rampone
Growing up on the Jersey Shore with a soccer ball at her feet and a basketball in her hands it was clear from the first day she laced up her sneakers that Monmouth’s own Christie Rampone was a natural athlete.
Heralded as one of the finest athletes to ever come out of Ocean Country, New Jersey, a young Rampone earned all-league honors in basketball, soccer and field hockey throughout her career at Point Pleasant Boro High School and as a senior was named New Jersey Female Athlete of the Year. Upon graduation Rampone took both her soccer and basketball talents to nearby Monmouth University where the young star started all 80 games in a Hawk uniform and co-captained the hoops team. She even found time to make an appearance in two games for the women’s lacrosse team.
She found her greatest success on the soccer pitch, being named the Northeast Conference Player of the Year in both 1995 and 1996, while also earning first team All-Mid Atlantic Region honors. At 22 years old her soccer resume was already brimming with honors, records and recognition. By the time Rampone was a senior, she was also training with the U.S. Women’s National soccer team.
“It was amazing," Rampone recalled. "I couldn’t have been happier with my experience at Monmouth. Being able to play two sports… it was a great experience.”
But amid all the accolades and success there was an element missing in the young athlete’s world: a female athlete to look up to.
Born just three years after the passing of Title IX, Rampone yearned for someone who had been in her shoes before, a fellow female who knew the frustration of a one-point loss or the glory of an overtime victory. So when the newcomer took the field with the U.S. Team for the first time in 1997, she finally felt like she had found what she had been looking for.
“The most amazing part of where my career started is when I went onto the National Team the role models were Mia Hamm and Michelle Akers and Kristine Lilly," said Rampone. "I was just in the path of not knowing who they were, but knowing who they were. So for me it was such an inspiration the minute I stepped onto the field with them after they won a gold medal in ‘96. To be able to play with Michelle Akers was a dream come true.”
From those first moments on the field with Akers and Hamm, the one-time NEC student-athlete made it her mission to become a role model for the next generation of little girls dribbling soccer balls down America’s fields.
Thanks to Title IX, that's quite a few aspiring soccer stars.
In 1971-72, only 700 girls played high school soccer compared to 78,000 boys according to the National Federation of State and High School Athletics. By 2007 that number had exploded to 330,000 girls participating at the high school level, nearly equaling the boys who totaled 378,000 high school participants.
“I love being a role model especially for the young girls out there,” said the mother of two, who went on to describe how she hopes to inspire to young athletes, “You can be a normal little girl playing all different sports, enjoying sports and having fun. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Enjoy what you’re doing whether it’s soccer or basketball or even if its academics, whatever you want to do.”
Rampone is also quick to remember that, like the establishment of women’s sports and Title IX, the road to World Cup destiny and Olympic gold medals hasn’t always been smooth sailing.
“It’s not always easy," she noted. “I went through some tough times in my career with injuries and obstacles. It’s not always going to be positive. But it’s telling your stories and telling your experiences to kids so they realize you didn’t just wake up one day and become a professional athlete."
As such, Rampone values the day-to-day activities and demands that come with being an elite player, and recognizes how hard work and dedication has given her the opportunity to help influence the next generation of female athletes.
“Touching little girls in things I do every day, of getting up and having to work out, of making myself a better person and a better player for the U.S. and young athletes growing up,” is vitally important to the co-captain of the US Team. “All, especially female, athletes should aspire to be to be that great role model for the girls looking up to us.“
Rampone may not have had a wealth of female sports heroes to choose from growing up, but she has clearly inspired legions of young girls over the course of her storied career.
And what a career it has been for the NEC Hall of Famer...from the Jersey Shore to the world stage.