WWC, WPS and Supporting Women’s Soccer

First of all, thanks everyone for the positive comments on my last post on the USWNT. I’m relieved I wasn’t eaten alive! I’ll try my luck with one more women’s soccer post.

Before the Women’s World Cup, the coverage of the upcoming tournament was pretty shitty (other than this article by Anna Clark). People barely knew it was happening, and many who knew didn’t really care. I talked to a friend who played Division I soccer in college, and she said something like “Women’s soccer just isn’t as fun to watch as men’s soccer. They’re not as talented and there isn’t a big enough difference between the college level of play and the professional level.” Ugh. As someone who played in college — though at NYU where no one knew there were sports teams — and as someone who’d dreamed of playing professionally when I was a little girl, this didn’t add up to me. There was a HUGE, ENORMOUS difference as far as I was concerned, or else I’d be a professional athlete (maybe there’s still time). But I worried she was right. The Women’s Professional Soccer league was struggling, teams were folding, people weren’t going to games, fans barely filled stadiums, and subsequently the media wouldn’t cover it. Though I appreciated Anna Lekas Miller’s post on soccer and sexism, I didn’t think the reason people weren’t watching was because they didn’t want to see athletic women. Maybe they just weren’t into women’s sports, and people are entitled to their interests?

Then the Women’s World Cup began, and I noticed a little turn around. It started with backhanded compliments in Facebook statuses, such as “I can’t believe I care this much about women’s sports” and “I am literally in love with Hope Solo” and turned into legitimate interest. Twitter blew up, Buzzfeed covered the WWC frequently, and the USWNT were on the front page of the New York Times (and the Boston Globe). To me, it seemed like it used to be kind of cool, like middle-school cool, to look down on women’s sports, but then once the “cool kids” started getting into it, then it was alright.

Now, even after the USWNT’s loss in the finals, Abby Wambach’s mere appearance yesterday at the magicJack-Western New York Flash Women’s Professional Soccer game brought in a record-breaking 15,404 fans. So many fans that they had to bring in temporary benches to make 1,500 more seats! The coach for the Flash, Aaron Lines, said “This is massive for WPS. It’s taken WPS to a whole new level.” Hell yeah it has. The best part is this little nugget:

“This is very exciting,” 11-year-old Emily Brown said, noting that she’s had a Wambach poster on her wall since she was seven. “She’s in my opinion the best soccer player in the world.”

So, let’s keep up this momentum for women’s soccer. Check out the WPS online, follow the league on twitter (and individual teams and players, if you’re hardcore), look into attending a match sometime, and join this Facebook group pledging to attend a professional or collegiate women’s soccer sporting event:

This is a community of fans of women’s sports. While this world is full of people who appreciate the idea of women’s sports “in theory,” we put it into action. Everyone who becomes a fan of this page is pledging to attend at least one professional or collegiate, women’s sporting event each year. (Our first round of pledges was in 2010.) By demonstrating a force of passionate fans who are eager to show up and talk it up, we are proof of the worth of increased thoughtful media coverage of women’s sports and female athletes. And, of course, we have a hell of a lot of fun along the way.

Tweet at me if you live in NYC and want to go with me to see a Sky Blue game!

One more thing for New York women’s soccer fans: Brian Kuritzky and Susan G. Komen for the Cure are hosting a coed soccer tournament, Kicking it in Pink, to raise money for breast cancer research. It’s taking place on August 20th, from 12-6pm on the Lower East Side, Grand Street and Chrystie. If you’d like to participate, donate, or just come watch some soccer, let me know.

Keep the women’s soccer love alive!

This entry was posted in Sports and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to WWC, WPS and Supporting Women’s Soccer

  1. Sid says:

    If memory serves, there was this same initial post-WC surge interest in women’s soccer leading to the WUSA formation and fairly decent attendance; I watched a few early Freedom games. But I think the lack of media coverage and bad marketing really did them in. And even now, after 15 years the MLS is really struggling; its better than it was, but I’m just skeptical of any kind of mass market for soccer here yet. Rising TV ratings for soccer games and CL finals on major networks are great, but there still needs to be far greater nurturing of soccer culture/athletes. It hasn’t helped that the Beckham experiment has been a complete failure, and I’m fairly sure most New Yorkers couldn’t tell Thierry Henry from a random Urban Outfitters model.

    I’m kind of afraid this women’s world cup set the bar extremely high for women’s soccer. Nearly all of the games in the knockout round were riveting dramas; I’m not sure any world cup men’s or women’s could match it in terms of competitiveness. I think the WPS will be hard-pressed to maintain that quality.

    I think one thing Sunil Gulati and the USSF have to prioritize is minority recruitment and retention (for both men and women, but especially for the development of interest in the women’s game). There are tons of minorities who come from soccer-entrenched cultures whose women could become valuable contributors and whose families could be easily counted on support; and obviously many women who come from minorities with little soccer exposure but who possess world-class athleticism and/or other traits which could make the team even better.

    In any case, I’m optimistic, and hope DC gets back a franchise.

    Also, have a friend who played for the NYU men’s side who graduated several years ago, go Bobcats!

  2. Tony says:

    Great post. I think USians just like to see it whenever our country is dominating the world in something. And since soccer is a much more international game than football, baseball or basketball, and lots of countries have developed their womens’ teams strongly over the past decade, it’s easy to overlook that the US is a traditional superpower in womens’ soccer. The USWNT is in a sweet spot where their league is international enough but not so strong than the US can’t rise to the top consistently. It provides for great drama. And as one columnist pointed out, USians actually spend more time playing soccer than they do playing more traditionally ‘American’ sports.

    But it is such an international game. Looking at it from that perspective, my heart goes out to the Iranian players in particular, who never even got the chance to prove themselves. Womens’ soccer in Iran is not being killed by lack of interest but by the fact that displaying interest in it is a political crime:

    A female sports photojournalist who had campaigned for Iranian women to be allowed to attend men’s soccer games is missing amid reports she has been taken into custody in Tehran, RFE/RL’s Radio Farda reports.

    Maryam Majd, 24, was supposed to go to Duesseldorf on June 17 to prepare for the women’s soccer World Cup in Germany… [Majd] was about to get on the flight, but the airline has since confirmed she never boarded.

    “four men, most likely from the Intelligence Ministry, went to Majd’s father’s house on June 16 and arrested her after searching her room.”

    Womens’ soccer, sadly, is political. The right of women to be athletic, to participate in world class competitive sports, is political too (sadly). Let’s not forget it.

  3. m says:

    Women’s soccer less fun to watch?!

    The talent is fantastic and they aren’t diving around like they do in men’s. Pretty good I’d say…

  4. Pingback: WWC, WPS and Supporting Women’s Soccer – Feministe (blog) | Watch Soccer Live Online

  5. Glauke says:

    I will :) Mostly watching, though. Women’s soccer is the fastest growing sport over here in Holland, so I have hopes for the future…

  6. saurus says:

    One thing about women’s soccer is that they seem to simulate (pretend or exaggerate injury) on the field much, much less than men’s soccer. So the flow of the game is more interesting to me, because it doesn’t stop every two seconds so that you can watch some guy roll around on the ground in exquisite agony like he was shot and then immediately get up and jog happily back into the game.

  7. titleixbaby says:

    One of the reasons women’s soccer doesn’t seem as “exciting” on television is that the networks carrying the games are using far fewer cameras than they do for a men’s match.

  8. I think sometimes that we can’t always plan for what will make a sport or subject huge. There’s a certain amount of chaos theory present, much like a viral video. But this is a step in the right direction.

    Soccer runs contrary to lots of typically American sports because it’s low-scoring. Most people are indebted to high scoring sports like football and basketball, and even though baseball is a relatively low scoring sports, a typical soccer score would be often unusual.

  9. Susie says:

    Great Post! I have been a fan for years and will continue to be. I am happy to see heartfelt posts from fans of the game over theoretical analysis of why people may not be watching. I posted in my blog before the tournament began as well.. just for fun!

  10. ch says:

    @saurus and m, yeah, I love that there’s way less diving in the women’s game, and also, when a player accidentally trips or pushes someone from the other team (that is, not an on-purpose, yellow-card-level offense, just a “I was trying to get to the ball and so were you and I tripped you kind of thing), she often apologizes! I’ve never seen that in a men’s game, and it really improves the spirit of the game, even in a game as contentious and nail-biting as the final or the US-Brazil quarterfinal.

  11. DouglasG says:

    [Great post. I think USians just like to see it whenever our country is dominating the world in something.]

    Many do but personally I don’t – if anything, I enjoy events much more if US players lose early, but that’s mostly because the coverage is generally so skewed that I quickly get sick of how certain players are ridiculously overhyped.

  12. Fake Sigi says:

    Kate, I’ve really enjoyed the last two posts. I’d love to see more posts about soccer here. Lots of issues to be unpacked in the game.

    For those interested in learning more about women’s soccer post-world cup, I suggest patronizing All White Kit by Jenna Pel and her crew, and Jennifer Doyle’s From a Left Wing. Pel in particular is hard working and very knowledgeable about the game. Yesterday AWK published a nice rundown of what’s going on in WPS right now.

    -FS

  13. Kate Goldwater says:

    Thanks everyone for the nice words! I’m glad people have been enjoying the soccer posts. I want to respond to each and every comment, but I suppose that would be too much. Anyway:

    If memory serves, there was this same initial post-WC surge interest in women’s soccer leading to the WUSA formation and fairly decent attendance; I watched a few early Freedom games. But I think the lack of media coverage and bad marketing really did them in.

    @Sid- Your memory serves, from what I remember that’s exactly what happened. Hopefully it’ll be better this time around – I think the internet, social media, and blogs, and the media in general will really help. If the WWC final was the most tweeted event in Twitter history, maybe that will encourage the media to cover more Women’s Professional Soccer. Though I do think the WPS could use some marketing help – their website is subpar in my opinion.

    I’m so with you on recruitment and retention, especially minorities. I also think starting from a young age is key — the WPS camps are great for fostering talent in youth but they’re only available for those who can afford them. Maybe they could consider offering scholarships? All of this talk is making me want to market the WPS!

    And speaking of DC’s franchise, is the magicJack, formerly Freedom, technically still DCs even though they play in Florida? The team website is still backslash DC: http://www.womensprosoccer.com/dc. Super confusing.

    As for the Bobcats, haha, I think we also went by the “Fighting Violets!” We were a very tough and intimidating group of flowers.

  14. Kate Goldwater says:

    @Tony – The Iranian women’s team and the headscarf issue breaks my heart. It’s depressing enough that Iran makes it a crime for women to play, and FIFA only makes it worse. I highly, highly doubt their headscarves-turned-spandex-balaclavas would endanger anyone. And now that I’m on a FIFA rant, did you hear about when Sepp Blatter, the president, said that women would attract more fans if they played in tighter uniforms and spandex shorts like volleyball players?

    @titleixbaby I hadn’t thought about the use of cameras! So true!

    I am happy to see heartfelt posts from fans of the game over theoretical analysis of why people may not be watching.

    @Susie – Yes! I just read this piece the other day on how fans only watched the WWC because people like cheering for America and not women’s soccer (or for Michael Phelps and the US swim team over swimming in general): http://aol.sportingnews.com/soccer/story/2011-07-21/world-cup-about-patriotism-not-interest-in-womens-soccer#ixzz1SqDp9foX and I thought to myself, even if that’s true, why the need for all the negativity? Why can’t we just keep up the hype and keep talking up women’s soccer so that it hopefully CAN translate to enthusiasm for the professional league here?

  15. Kate Goldwater says:

    Fake Sigi:
    I’d love to see more posts about soccer here. Lots of issues to be unpacked in the game.

    For those interested in learning more about women’s soccer post-world cup, I suggest patronizing All White Kit by Jenna Pel and her crew, and Jennifer Doyle’s From a Left Wing. Pel in particular is hard working and very knowledgeable about the game. Yesterday AWK published a nice rundown of what’s going on in WPS right now.

    -FS

    @FS- I’m eating up all of your links – these are great resources! Unfortunately I have to run to work soon or I’d be reading your blog all morning! I just started following you on twitter, looking forward to more.

  16. Amy AuH2O says:

    As a soccer Mom (Kate’s actually) who finally figured out what offsides was after 20 years of watching, I’m loving seeing the sport become a tiny bit more mainstream. We owe a lot of that to Title IX, which gave opportunities to girls/women in competitive sports that previous generations (mine) got screwed out of. So for me it’s a good sign that people are debating over whether the team is being coddled for getting so far or scolded for choking because we’ve come very far to even elicit articles that dis the team (which is rude and uncalled for). And big ups to the team for not blaming Jesus for making them lose…

  17. shark fan says:

    m:
    I talked to a friend who played Division I soccer in college, and she said something like “Women’s soccer just isn’t as fun to watch as men’s soccer. They’re not as talented and there isn’t a big enough difference between the college level of play and the professional level.”

    sounds like someone has a case of the sour grapes.

    i don’t think there are any problems with the quality at the international level, but i can’t speak to the club level (yet). in fact, there are a number of aspects that i find make women’s soccer more entertaining – a lack of flopping being a major one.

    not that the quality is an issue, but it only stands to get better (and more importantly, top quality in greater numbers) as long as the WPS takes advantage of the opportunity to capitalize on the popularity of the WWC. hopefully they’ve learned something from the WUSA, they’re already a leg up just by calling themselves the “WPS.”

  18. Pingback: Weekly Feminist Reader

  19. StarCityFan says:

    Sid:
    If memory serves, there was this same initial post-WC surge interest in women’s soccer leading to the WUSA formation and fairly decent attendance; I watched a few early Freedom games.But I think the lack of media coverage and bad marketing really did them in.

    What did the WUSA in more than anything else was delusions of grandeur. They expected the same sort of response and spent accordingly. When they didn’t get it, they lost money by the bucketload, going through $100 million in a mere three seasons. If they’d had that amount of money but spent it the more frugal way WPS has been, they’d still be around.

  20. WookieMonster says:

    StarCityFan: What did the WUSA in more than anything else was delusions of grandeur. They expected the same sort of response and spent accordingly. When they didn’t get it, they lost money by the bucketload, going through $100 million in a mere three seasons. If they’d had that amount of money but spent it the more frugal way WPS has been, they’d still be around.

    Yeah, what the WPS has going for it, is that it is a much more sustainable model now. It’s able to suffice on 2k fans per game as opposed to 20k. So that’s promising.

    @sharkfan–the level of play in the WPS, at least in my opinion, is at a much higher level than the World Cup, because instead of the best players on the world devided amongst 16 teams–they’re divided amongst six. The games are incredibly fast-paced, with good touches, and some just mind-bending goals (see USWNT stud Alex Morgan’s goal here (it was on ESPN this morning): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6WStEeJSvs).

    And the best part? No flopping!

    “Sky Who?”

  21. shark fan says:

    WookieMonster: @sharkfan–the level of play in the WPS, at least in my opinion, is at a much higher level than the World Cup, because instead of the best players on the world devided amongst 16 teams–they’re divided amongst six. The games are incredibly fast-paced, with good touches, and some just mind-bending goals (see USWNT stud Alex Morgan’s goal here (it was on ESPN this morning): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6WStEeJSvs).

    that’s a great point. i hadn’t thought about the talent being distributed between fewer teams. i was really impressed during the WWC, so i’d imagine the WPS is great. going to try to catch a game this weekend.

    and that alex morgan goal is ridiculous. she’s going to be in the spotlight for the next decade.

Comments are closed.