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Why Girls Need Women’s Professional Soccer to Survive

Why Girls Need Women’s Professional Soccer to Survive

As a former soccer player, I was saddened to hear that the Women’s Pro Soccer league might not make it to a fourth season.

Even now, with only five teams (instead of the eight required to be sanctioned by the U.S. Soccer Federation), the league exists because of a FIFA waiver. It doesn’t make outrageous amounts of money and it doesn’t pay its players the extravagant salaries other pro athletes get.

But New York Flash player Yael Averbuch knows that women’s soccer fans are passionate, and I know that, too. Playing soccer growing up, I idolized players like Brandi Chastain, Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy (she was #11 and a midfielder, and so was I!). These players were on the team that won the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup and went on to play for the short-lived Women’s United Soccer Association.

I hope the WPS doesn’t go the way of WUSA because I believe it’s important for girls — all kids, really — to see women playing sports. I don’t think I need to remind anyone of America’s current childhood obesity epidemic, and how important it is to get kids up, outside and exercising. But women’s sports, and I think especially women’s soccer, are particularly important. They show boys and girls alike that women can be tough, get dirty, get crazy and be [awesome] “ladies.”

From my own anecdotal observations and experience, princesses and pop stars still seem to be the top role models for young girls. While these figures have their value — they certainly left a mark on me, as I routinely burst into song and always, always drink with my pinky out — girls need athletes for role models, too.

America is full of soccer moms, and soccer moms have soccer kids, including soccer girls. There’s no shortage of soccer-playing girls (although we can always have more — girls grab yer shingaurds and get thee to a soccer field!). Players like Foudy for me, or Hope Solo or Abby Wambach for today’s young players, show girls that being a princess, girly pop star, or someone else who seemingly never goes without makeup or gets mud on their hands/legs/face/butt isn’t the only way to be a woman. Women sweat, yell, run, care about winning and losing, and battle ruthlessly till the finish.

At least, that’s what it meant to be to be a girl athlete, and what I see when I watch women’s soccer. I got smelly. I got dirty. I got my butt kicked, and one of my proudest soccer moments was earning a bruise the size of a grapefruit on my thigh. The blood ran down my leg and pooled in my foot until one side of my leg was completely black and blue.

After I was done running and sweating and panting — and then high-fiving my fellow players, be they teammates or opponents — I scarfed down a big plate of spaghetti or pizza or some other food that women are commonly groomed to believe is an unladylike no-no that will make you be (sin of all sins) fat. Girl athletes use their bodies to push physical limits, as instruments of glory. We make our bodies strong. They’re our tools. They’re not for shrinking or weakening or acts of disrespect.

I was a kid who wore pink nail polish and dresses and could spend an hour finding the perfect way to arrange butterfly clips in my hair. But I also ran around, wiped mud off my face and got down and dirty with my soccer team. I knew I could be all of these things, in part because of women’s soccer. Girls need these role models as constants in their lives, not just a spectacle for every four years, and they can get that through WPS.

Please sign our petition to keep Women’s Professional Soccer around for our daughters and the rest of America.


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15 comments

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4:41AM PST on Dec 14, 2011

Wow

8:19PM PST on Dec 7, 2011

Women's Soccer Rocks the House!

11:14PM PST on Dec 6, 2011

These woman are much needed role models that show girls that yes, they can!
We lost the NBA Sonics a few years ago, but the WNBA Storm has made it, and everyone loves them!
And to see all the women and girls of all ages at the games is proof it's a valuable asset.

11:48AM PST on Dec 6, 2011

I personally don't like playing sports, but I think women's sports is just as important as men's.

7:29AM PST on Dec 6, 2011

I have been a soccer referee for 40 years, teach the referee class, worked NCAA division 1 both men's and women's games.
America is a capitalistic country, those who make money grow, those who lost money fail. It's all about attendance, and if there is attendance TV contracts will follow. The men get 15,000 + per game, the ladies much, much less. Maybe doing double headers with men’s teams would work (no pun).

5:22AM PST on Dec 6, 2011

Unfortunately I have never seen even an amateur female soccer match. In my day, yes I know that I am dating myself, girls played field hockey in the fall not soccer. By the time I got to college girls' soccer teams were just starting in little leagues but my women's college still had a field hockey team but not a soccer team. Ironically however when a boy kicked as part of a fist fight he was scorned because kicking was deemed to be only for girls.
I have however seen a professional womens' basketball match. The players were incrediblly good and the game was very exciting.

4:59AM PST on Dec 6, 2011

Getting girls involved in sports benefits them in many ways. They are more fit than their couch potato classmates. They are less likely to get into gangs or become pregnant. It gives them a sense of accomplishment and builds self-esteem. Strong, healthy girls become strong, confident healthy adults that contribute to the betterment of society.

3:11AM PST on Dec 6, 2011

Unfortunately, the survival or otherwise of professional sport relies on how much the paying public is interested in watching it. Women's soccer is, sadly, in my experience not as exciting to watch as men's. On the one hand, I am a man, so what do I know? On the other, I live in a country where soccer (or football where I come from) is developed and appreciated to a much higher level so we see a wider range on which I can base my judgement.

Saying that, playing soccer is something that gives a wide range of enjoyment at all levels and I am entirely in favour of promoting it and of anyone who wants to play getting the opportunity. Women's soccer is very important, I wish it every success and I do honestly hope that it can maintain as high a level of spectator enjoyment as possible - firstly to generate enthusiasm and secondly to generate the money it needs to grow.

2:36AM PST on Dec 6, 2011

Terry K, it's not really about what you loathe or like, is it. Fact is more kids in America play soccer than any other sport. That's what's important.

6:07PM PST on Dec 5, 2011

thanks but odd thing to focus the entire survival of women on...

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