Part 7 in a series of articles on the players that make up the 2009 Los Angeles Sol.
To be named team captain for any team means bearing the responsibility of leading your fellow troops into any battleground, be it on the court, the ice, the pool, the track, or the field.
To be worthy of this designation, one must have accomplished a lot while suffering through adversity and long odds.
It means recovering through the pain, toiling through that long trail to triumph known as tribulation, and displaying a competitive valor that courses through your veins like the confidence you have in your team...and yourself.
Shannon Boxx, captain of the Los Angeles Sol, fits this mold.
She has the heart of a champion and has gone through so much in her career playing the game she loves.
She once considered ending her career, even with her best years looming ahead of her, suffered through injury and agony as a member of the national team, winning Olympic gold before being named captain for Abner Rogers's club.
The history of Shannon Boxx begins in Fontana, California, where she was born on July 29, 1977. Sport runs through the veins of the Boxx family: her older sister Gillian was a key member on the 1996 Olympic softball team that brought home gold.
At South Torrance High School, Boxx played softball, volleyball and basketball along with soccer. In 1995, she was named to the Parade Magazine All-America girls soccer team.
As a player competing in the youth soccer leagues, Boxx helped lead the Torrance United Waves to two regional championships in her seven seasons with the club, earning tournament MVP honors both years.
In 1995, Boxx helped lead the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to its very first national championship as a freshman. In a school-record 101 appearances for the Irish, she scored 39 goals and made 57 assists.
Boxx graduated from South Bend with a 69-8-4 record and was named an All-Big East selection in 1995, 1996 and 1997. A class example of a student-athlete, Boxx earned a B.A. in Psychology and African-American Studies, while winning the Big East Scholar-Athlete Award her senior year.
A storied college career gave way to another career for Boxx: as a professional and a member of the US Women's National Team.
In 1999, she played one season with the W-League's Boston Renegades before spending one season with 1.FC Saarbrucken of the women's Bundlesliga, a team who have fared better in comparison to their male counterparts (who are currently competing in the fourth division of the German football pyramid, Regionalliga West, after being promoted this past season).
But for Boxx, her diminutive role brought up the question of whether her footballing career had finished after Notre Dame.
That changed with the arrival of the Women's United Soccer Association. The San Diego Spirit selected her as the 19th overall draft pick in the WUSA Entry Draft. In her first of two seasons with the Spirit, Boxx was named to the All-WUSA Team, and in 2003 was traded to the New York Power.
Throughout her WUSA career, Boxx played in 62 matches, scoring six goals and 15 assists as a defender.
Current Boston Breakers coach Tony DiCicco had rave reviews for Boxx in a interview with the New York Times in 2003. "Shannon is the best in our league at (defensive midfield), physical, strong, technical.
"I was never that big of a Shannon Boxx fan. The league proved me wrong."
But what the league proved the fans wrong in was longevity. After three seasons, the WUSA folded, and Boxx contemplated where the future would lead her.
Her fitness plan led her to a series of swimming, cycling and spinning sessions to treat plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the connective tissue, in her feet.
Shannon Boxx could have been an assistant coach at Cal State Dominguez Hills or a proud Master's Degree recipient at Pepperdine.
But April Heinrichs, who was manager of the WNT at the time, took notice of Boxx's work ethic as a player in the WUSA and named her to the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup squad in August of that year. From that point on, she made a name for herself as a key member of one of the best national teams in the world.
As a defensive midfielder, Boxx led the USA to a streak of five Algarve Cup and Four Nations tournament victories each (2003-2003), victories in the Peace Queen Cup in 2006 and 2008, third-place finishes at the 2003 and 2007 FIFA Women's World Cups and Olympic gold in 2004 and 2008.
In 113 appearances (as of March 11, 2009), Boxx has tallied 19 goals to her name.
At the 2003 Women's World Cup, her goal against Canada in the third-place game gave her Player of the Match honors by FIFA's Technical Study Group, adding that "seized control of the game, spurred on her team-mates and finally scored the decisive goal in USA's victory."
At the Athens Olympics, she was instrumental as a scorer, with a hat trick against Trinidad and Tobago in the qualification stages to go with a goal and an assist against Brazil.
For her heroics, Boxx finished seventh in FIFA World Player of the Year voting. She improved on that the following year with a third place finish behind Germany's Birgit Prinz and fellow Sol teammate Marta.
However, 2006 would prove to be a tough year for Boxx. Torn right hip cartilage repair combined with MCL surgery prevented her from seeing the lioness's share of international action. She would not be able to join the WNT until the 2007 Algarve Cup.
Boxx helped the USA reach the semifinals against Brazil in the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup in China, but was sent off in their 4-0 defeat. She got her sweet revenge by helping the USA defeat Brazil in the 2008 Olympic Gold Medal Game 1-0.
Later in 2008, Shannon Boxx would be allocated to Los Angeles. On March 29, 2009, at the WPS Inaugural Game, Boxx walked onto the pitch wearing a smile...an armband.
It was no ordinary armband. It was a captain's armband.
It was an armband that represented all she had accomplished.
It was an armband that represented all the difficulties and challenges she overcame.
It was an armband that represented the depression and determination and courage she displayed as a member of Torrance United, the Irish, the Renegades, the Spirit, the Power, Saarbrucken and the Women's National Team.
And it symbolized how all these events in her footballing career and her life came full circle.
The match whistle from Kari Seitz blew, and her new role as the captain of the Los Angeles Sol began as the thousands at Victoria Street took notice.