Atlanta Beat plays first home game today

Brett Maron’s fifth grade yearbook listed her top two choices for what she wanted to be when she grew up: a professional soccer player, or a doctor.

“By the time I was 18, it was pretty apparent that I was closer to being a professional soccer player,” Maron laughs.

Now 23, Maron has fulfilled her childhood dream. She’ll take the field as goalkeeper on May 9 when the Atlanta Beat, the city’s new professional women’s soccer team, plays its home opener against Sky Blue FC at its state-of-the-art field at Kennesaw State University.

The Beat’s inaugural season has gotten off to a slightly rocky start, to be expected for a new team. Their April 11 debut ended in a 0-0 tie with the Philadelphia Independence. They have since lost two close games, and face Philadelphia again May 1 before heading back to Atlanta for their first home game.

“Everything is going very well for us; it’s just the little things aren’t falling together for us right now,” says Maron, who moved to Atlanta from Boston. “But once the little things are clicking, we will be unstoppable.”

Atlanta Beat
Home opener vs. Sky Blue FC (NY/NJ)
May 9, 7 p.m. at KSU Soccer Stadium
3200 George Busbee Parkway Kennesaw, GA 30144

“Unstoppable” could apply to Maron herself.  Women’s professional soccer wasn’t really on the horizon when she was a small child, but she never doubted she could achieve her dream.

“I was fortunate to have strong women around me growing up who made me believe I was powerful enough to do whatever I wanted,” she says. “So there wasn’t a thought in my head that it wasn’t a possibility.”

Coming out also didn’t limit Maron’s options.

Homophobia, once rampant in women’s sports, has kept many athletes in the closet. Lesbian athletes may be pressured to keep their sexuality secret in order to avoid reinforcing the stereotype that all female athletes are gay.

“I can only speak from my perspective, but I have been openly gay since I was a teenager, and I have never had an inkling of a problem or anything that was homophobic,” Maron says. “I’m either lucky or things are changing.”

Maron says she has “never been pressured to stay in the closet.”

“Especially with the Beat, everyone is so accepting of everyone — not just sexuality,” she says. “They are just all around good people.”

The team’s management agrees.

“WPS [Women’s Professional Soccer] is 100 percent inclusive of all people no matter what their orientation may be,” says Christa Mann, media relations manager for the Beat. “We embrace both teams and fans from all backgrounds, beliefs, and interests.”

The Beat, now in its second incarnation in Atlanta, also hopes to be embraced in return.  The former Atlanta Beat, which played from 2001 to 2003, was part of the Women’s United Soccer Association. The team reached the championship game twice in three years, but ended when the league fell apart.

Women’s Professional Soccer, a new league, launched in 2009, and the Atlanta team is debuting for the 2010 season.

Head coach Gareth O’Sullivan says fans can expect an exciting experience.

“The strength of the team is made up of the different characters we have and the high-level of technical play,” he says.

Maron was goalkeeper for Fairfield University, and then played for two international teams — Kristianstad FF (Swedish Women’s Premier League) and Afturelding FC (Icelandic Women’s Premier League).

Now, she’s excited to be back in the United States, helping soccer gain the notoriety and respect here that it enjoys in other countries.

She also wants to send a message to other young girls, to let them know that their dreams, like her own, can come true.

“I think it is unbelievably important that young girls know they can do anything they want, especially now,” Maron says. “If they want to play soccer, they can.”


Photo: The Atlanta Beat. Goalkeeper Brett Maron is on the far right, at the end of the bottom row. (Courtesy Atlanta Beat)