When Mira Wilde was 8 years old, she asked her father, Henry Wilde, if she could cut her hair to look like the comedian.
That’s because Mira now also plays for the Under-11 soccer team, the Madison 56ers, in her hometown of Madison, Wis., where she confidently dribbles down the field with her head shaved on all sides and the top part long and flipped over, just like Wambach.
Molly Duffy, who joined the Madison 56ers U-11 team as head coach in 2016, agrees with Wilde.
According to Wilde, the incident was the fourth time in the last 18 months when a parent, referee or coach has accused his daughter and her short-haired teammates of being boys.
I explained to Mira that he only said it because she and the other short-haired girl on her team played so well that they constituted an unfair advantage, to which Mira responded, ‘But that means he thinks that boys are better soccer players than girls, and that makes me even madder.’ Since then, Duffy says she now tells coaches on all the opposing teams, as well as a game’s referees that, yes she has all girls on her team, and yes, there are five with short hair.
In early June, Mili Hernandez, an 8-year-old girl from Nebraska who also has her hair cut short to look like Wambach, caught national media attention when organizers at a youth soccer tournament disqualified her team because they thought she was a boy.
But he’s also quick to add that Mira’s involvement has exposed a complex parallel in youth sports, where a group of talented young girls are willing to play together and support one another, even if not all parents, teams and referees are.
While the support for short-haired girls is strong across the Madison club, as their T-shirts suggest, not all youth players belong to a team where personal appearance is a personal decision, not a universal mandate.
The U-11 team knows this the girls feel it every time they step on a pitch to face an opposing team that may not have the same value for independent identity as the 56ers do.