Trinity and Dennis Rodman: Why the NWSL star deserves to be free from her father's shadow

Trinity Rodman

As the 60th minute approached in Washington Spirit’s NWSL Challenge Cup game against North Carolina Courage, Natalie Jacobs looked up, saw a runner and knocked the ball over the top.

Rushing on to this pass was Trinity Rodman, still 18-years-of age, who expertly brought the ball down with her first touch, before slotting it home with her second. These were her first two touches as a professional footballer, five minutes after coming on for her debut.

The goal made Rodman the youngest scorer in NWSL history, adding to her honour of being the youngest player to ever be drafted in the league.

Without playing a single minute of university football, the teenager was selected as the second overall pick by the Spirit and has already made an immediate impact.

What’s so unbelievable and saddening about all of this, is that despite being a history maker, a trendsetter and a young superstar in her own right, it’s questions regarding her famous dad that continue to reverberate.

Rodman’s father is Dennis –– a famous basketball player in the NBA throughout the 1980's and 90’s. “Dennis Rodman’s daughter” is hence a title which she’s carried around unwillingly her whole life. Friends have asked her about him, coaches have mentioned it and now a barrage of journalists relentlessly persist with this line of questioning.

If the pressure of becoming a full-time athlete wasn’t enough, the constant strain of being compared to your father rather than an individual would take its toll on any person.

This is not to say that Rodman is not proud of her upbringing and grateful to her father. Of course she’s thankful. “He was an amazing athlete, and I got those genes from him,” she says.

Yet, if anyone in her family is a role model, it’s her mother. Speaking to The Guardian, Rodman revealed that no reporter had ever asked about her mum Michelle, but that she was her “support system in everything in life,” as well as her “best friend.”

It’s exactly this reason that discussion related to her father deserves to stop. Just because Dennis was a famous athlete, does not necessarily mean he has been any more influential and any better of a role model than a non-famous parent.

With such a renowned name, there were always likely to be comments about Rodman’s route to the top. Did she only get this opportunity because of who she is? Does she have the talent to be a footballer? As Rodman herself put it though, the only thing handed to her by her father is good sporting genes.

Her ascent to the professional game may well have come at an unprecedented speed, but this is because of pure, genuine footballing ability and nothing else. Indeed, she has already played for National team age-group sides, scoring nine goals in the Concacaf Women’s Under-20 Championship last year as the US won the title.

Following this, she was one of three nominees for the US Soccer Young Female Player of the Year, narrowly losing out to fellow teammate Naomi Girma.

And if you needed yet more proof –– Rodman showcased her speed, control and composure in equal measure against the Courage at the weekend, proving that she is already capable of competing with the very best in the game.

If she continues on this path and develops as anticipated then there is every chance we are witnessing the birth of an all-time great. Another name to add to the conveyor belt of spectacular US stars. And, with women’s football continuing to grow as a sport, young fans of the future will remember Rodman in years to come –– not as the daughter of a sporting icon, but as an icon herself.

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