“As a kid, I was loud, bossy, and aggressive,” says the Atlanta-based photographer Kate T. Parker. “Those qualities don’t make it easy to be a little girl, but turns out, they make you a pretty good soccer player.” Parker has dedicated much of her career to photographing girls (G&G readers will recognize her work from her photo shoot with the young book lover Daliyah Arana). As a follow up to her 2017 project, Strong is the New Pretty, which celebrated the wild spirit of little girls, her latest book, Play Like a Girl, highlights what they can do on the soccer field.
“The Strong is the New Pretty movement is all about getting girls to care more about what they do and who they are as opposed to how they look,” the photographer says. As a kid, Parker watched her older brothers on the soccer field and knew immediately she wanted in on the action. She played throughout her childhood, in college at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and recreationally as an adult with her friends and two daughters. “I’ve always felt happiest and most fully myself when I’m on the field. I know soccer is not that for everyone, but I want to encourage girls to find whatever does that for them.”
Play Like a Girl shares such personal moments as a three-year-old learning how dribble; an eight-year-old coping with her juvenile arthritis; a sixty-two-year-old retired judge who says she will never retire from soccer; and a thirteen-year-old Kenyan refugee in Atlanta who uses the sport to make friends, learn English, and adapt to life in the United States. Current and former professionals also make appearances, including the 2019 Women’s World Cup champions Megan Rapinoe, Jessica McDonald, and Carli Lloyd.
As she traveled across the country to capture the images, Parker also gathered each subject’s thoughts on the sport. “When I asked about their favorite part of soccer, ninety percent of the girls said it was the team,” she says. “The friends you make through a team are a different kind of friend. You bleed together, you lose together, and you pick each other up. That’s special.”