On collegiate credentials alone, Cindy Parlow Cone would warrant serious consideration for selection to the North Carolina Soccer Hall Of Fame. A native of Tennessee, she was a four-year starter for the University of North Carolina dynasty, itself inducted in 2014 into the NC Soccer Hall of Fame’s National Champions Hall Of Honor, and helped guide the Tar Heels to NCAA titles in her sophomore (1996) and junior (1997) seasons. Her individual honors include two Hermann Awards, given to the nation’s top college female soccer player, and she amassed 68 goals and 55 assists, ranking in the top eight in both categories in UNC Women’s soccer history. Yet there is much more to her story and it highlights her recognition as a member of the Class of 2017.
Parlow Cone was training with the U.S. National team as early as 1995 and within a year had made her initial playing appearance at the age of 17, scoring her first professional goal against Russia, and continued to play for 9 years. She would go on to start all six games and score twice for the 1999 World Cup champions, including the game-winner in the semi-finals against Brazil. There would also be three Olympic team experiences (1996 and 2004 gold, 2000 silver) and another World Cup berth in 2003. Her national team career statistics include 158 appearances, ninth most all-time and 75 goals, a fifth-best record. She is the youngest player to ever win an Olympic gold medal and a World Cup Championship.
Upon retiring from the US Women’s National Team, Cone returned to UNC to complete her degree and immediately began coaching at the youth and collegiate level. Cone won 4 NCAA Championships in 7 years as an assistant coach for the women’s soccer program at UNC; was a member of the USSF U14/15 coaching staff; served on NCYSA’s ODP Select Committee; was 2012 NCYSA Classic Coach of the Year; and 2012 US Youth Soccer Region III Girl’s Competitive Coach of the Year.
Parlow Cone was also a founding member of the Women’s United Soccer Association (2001-2003) and led her Atlanta Beat team to playoffs all three seasons. But in 2006 she would retire from professional play, noting that she was dealing with what is known as “post-concussion syndrome,” an issue that would influence her direction in soccer in later years. Today, in fact, she is part of an initiative called “Safer Soccer,” begun in 2014 in conjunction with the Concussion Legacy Foundation and the Santa Clara University Institute of Sports Law and Ethics. Together with former National Team members Brandi Chastain and Joy Fawcett, Parlow Cone is seeking to inform the soccer public about the need to delay the implementation of heading in youth soccer until the high school years.
Apart from this mission, so important to her, she has also been incredibly busy in the last decade in the coaching and advising of young girl players, with North Carolina as her base. Currently Cindy is Associate Director for Triangle United Soccer Association, with her focus being on the girls program. Meanwhile, she is also International Outreach Director for a program called Goals for Girls, which uses soccer as life-skill instruction for young women, and it has taken her to South Africa (2010), Peru (2012) and India (2013/14). In a US State Department capacity, Parlow Cone has been a sports representative to Bahrain, El Salvador and Azerbaijan and has also hosted and coached girls from Iraq (2013) and Jordan (2015) as they traveled to Chapel Hill. To complement all of this, she is also involved with the North Carolina Special Olympics, where she organizes soccer clinics, and has served in various capacities with USSF and NCYSA, being named the 2012 US Youth Soccer Region III Coach of the Year.
She briefly left North Carolina to become head coach of the Portland (OR) Thorns in the inaugural season of the National Women’s Soccer League (2013) and she would lead the team to the first championship of the NWSL in August of that year, becoming the youngest coach to win a professional championship in any sport. But she would resign soon after, citing family reasons, as she and her husband John, a sports science director for the Portland Timbers, wanted more time together. North Carolina became the beneficiary.
Cone has served for the past 20 years on US Soccer Federation’s Athlete’s Council, which oversees the rights of all soccer players in the United States. She currently serves on US Soccer Federation’s Board of Directors as co-chair of the Athlete’s Council.
A common theme in NCSHOF membership revolves around how individuals represent the game so well. This is certainly Cindy Parlow Cone’s legacy. The North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame is honored to include her as a member.