FOLSOM -- Before she could dribble her way to a World Cup title, Megan Rapinoe got her “kickoff” in Elk Grove.
“She was one of those people that, you know, as a parent you wish that was your daughter,” said soccer coach Danny Cruz.
The U.S. women’s national soccer team co-captain played for coach Cruz in high school on the Elk Grove Pride youth league. He handpicked Megan and her twin sister, Rachael, after his team played them in their hometown of Redding.
“Just said to myself, ‘I have to get these players on my team. They are phenomenal players,’” Cruz told FOX40.
With some convincing from Cruz, the Rapinoes agreed to drive their daughters from Redding four times a week, which was roughly 300 miles roundtrip.
“I’ve been doing this 40 years and I’ve never seen parents more so committed to do what’s best for their child,” coach Cruz said.
He’s thrilled, but not surprised, that both Rapinoe sisters went on to play professional soccer. He said growing up, the twins made each other better players.
“Megan had to go against one of the best defenders in the region, in the state, every training session,” Cruz recalled. “There were times where the team stopped training and just looked at them because we thought they were going to get in a fist fight with each other.”
Cruz said that competition is what molded Megan, both on and off the field.
“She has never turned herself away from speaking her mind,” he said.
As an openly gay athlete, she’s a fierce supporter of LGBTQ rights.
She's also an outspoken advocate for gender equality. She filed a lawsuit with her teammates to fight for equal pay.
“Here’s a time in her life where she can speak up, the world can hear her,” Cruz said.
Cruz said he couldn’t be prouder to see his star player both scoring and achieving her goals.
“She’s living the dream,” he told FOX40. “They're a phenomenal family and they deserve everything they get.”
On top of the World Cup title, Rapinoe also won top scorer and best overall player.