Now It’s My Turn – Abby Wambach

It’s no secret that I am an avid fan of Abby Wambach, always have been, always will be. As such I’m over all the bullshit arguments people are making against her decision to sit out NWSL this year and solely play NT.

Let’s list some of the arguments against her decision:
A) Men aren’t able to skip club and just play NT
B) Wambach is being a prima donna
C) Wambach is thumbing her nose at NWSL and doesn’t support the league or having a league in the US.
D) Wambach has left WNY in the lurch with an empty roster spot and another player salary to pay because she was allocated and bankrolled by USSF.
E) Wambach is playing USSF/US Soccer because she’s not in jeopardy of losing her WC roster spot.
I’m sure there are others I’ve missed in the list, but this is a good start.

Now let’s see why I think they are bullshit:
A) In 2010, New Zealand (ironically WNY coach Aaran Lines’ home country) had 2 players play on WC MNT with no club affiliation, Australia had one. And to the extent my search attempts have been successful I haven’t been able to find any FIFA rule that states a player MUST play for a club to be selected to play on their national team. So maybe it’s Lines’ opinion, but that doesn’t make Wambach sitting out it wrong.
B) I have been unable to find an interview with Wambach by any media outlet that paints her as anything but confident and humble, usually giving credit for any personal accomplishments to her teammates, club or country. So saying she feels “entitled” to this consideration is a stretch. My opinion is she’s doing this because she feels she must –  not just because she can. (See E below)
C) Wambach started playing US professional club soccer in 2002 and has played in WUSA, WPS, and NWSL. She has been a public advocate of a US professional league for women and still is. She is one player on one team and her choosing not to play this year will not sink the league. If other players choose to play any place other than NWSL, that is their choice and will be handled by USSF/NWSL on a contractual and individual basis. Players have always had a choice where to play regardless if people think they were coerced into playing in NWSL. Her willingness to still make public appearances for WNY shows she still supports the league and its growth.
D) Lines himself admitted that he had had conversations with Wambach as far back as 2014 about her possibly not playing in 2015, so saying he was blindsided is stretching the truth. He also admits to trying to work a deal with Wambach, which to be honest just because someone offers you a deal and you turn it down doesn’t make you the bad guy. Did Wambach wait until after the draft to confirm it? We’ll have to take Lines word on that, but don’t you think he would have nailed that down before the draft if there was any question at all that she might not play? And as to WNY having to pay the player filling Wambach’s roster spot, rubbish. If you read the roster rules (OK, I concede they change without warning, but I’m using the last ones publicly available) any team that has over the specified allocated limit has to pay part of those player’s salary back to the league to be distributed to the teams that have under the allocated limit of players. So, WNY will be compensated for Wambach’s salary just like for the third allocated player they don’t have. WNY will not suffer in that regard. Being able to give another player a paid roster spot and WNY being able to not have to worry about another NT player being absent are just extra perks of Wambach’s decision.
E) No one player, Wambach or otherwise runs USSF or US Soccer. Does Wambach have some influence and do USSF/US Soccer listen when she speaks? Yes, I would imagine so. Any organization is wise to listen to employees who have “been there, done that”. Is she a marketable commodity? Without a doubt. Are these the reasons she’s been able to take this NWSL season off? I’m not naive enough to think they don’t play a role, but other considerations are in play as well. Wambach has arguably carried the hopes and dreams and marketability of the USWNT for over a decade. Training, playing, being targeted by opposing teams, winning, making appearances, being the face of the team at every dog and pony show for over a decade takes its toll. I think it’s not the least bit unreasonable to grant the request of a player to sit out a club season in support of the national team under those circumstances. Even most Wambach detractors still recognize her value to the team in big tournaments. I don’t agree with the 90 minute games Ellis has had her playing, but that doesn’t lessen her value when on the pitch. That is why she will be on the roster, not because she’s someones favorite or they “owe” her a spot or that she’s some sort of aging charity case, because she brings value that is unique to her.

There is no real way you can compare Wambach’s situation to any male NT player. The experiences of women on the NT and in US professional leagues is so very different it would be like comparing a chair to a pineapple. Since its inception the WNT has served as the women’s club team, leagues being so sporadic, short-lived and unpredictable that the only constant was playing for the NT. That USSF has finally decided to get behind a league as a development pathway for future NT players is commendable (and about time), but by no means provides the level of support the NT does for players. I think we can all agree we want the NWSL to grow and thrive to be the provider of that support, but it’s far from there right now.  This configuration is new and evolving and comparing recent or current male NT players to Wambach in this regard is not even fathomable to me.

Maybe your personal opinion of Wambach is colored black & white by recent events – WC lawsuit, calling out WNY teammates for lack of effort- or older events like MagicJack, but at least be willing to consider that there may just be some grey area in there.

Last season fans were outraged that players “had to” return to the US to play in NWSL and give up getting experience and making better money internationally. Now they’re screaming Wambach could spark an exodus – which is it fans? Do players “owe” NWSL their loyalty, or does that just extend to legends of the game?

Feel free to have at my arguments in the comments, all civil discourse encouraged.

#InternationalWomensDay

Today is International Women’s Day and as such is a day to take notice of all the ways women move through the world. Today, I’d like to focus on WoSo, big surprise.

This is the time of year and the time in the international cycle when women’s soccer is highly visible and scrutinized; by fans and foes, by broadcasters, and journalists, and sponsors. A large part of that scrutiny is carried out over social media; Twitter, tumblr, instagram, snapchat, Facebook… and as much as it is a boost to the sport and the players it is increasingly becoming a place where that boost is being cancelled out by the very personal and very demeaning comments about players.  Nothing new, you say? Just read any sport site comments, you say? Well, you may be right, but the difference here is that many of these personal and demeaning comments are coming from other women.

Don’t get me wrong, I  think criticism is good for the sport and certainly should be engaged in openly and freely, I just have to draw the line at personal and demeaning. Negative comments and resulting barbs and jokes about someone’s appearance, their mental state, their age, or their faith – to name a few – should be considered offside and therefore not allowed.

When comments go from professional to personal is when we as women cross over to  the “mean girls” mentality and undo all the good that it takes thousands and thousands of positive comments to build. Think about it, all it takes is one negative personal comment about a player that other social media users repeat and share to bring the wrong kind of scrutiny to the sport. Negative comments aren’t only seen by your followers or friends they’re also seen by broadcasters, journalists , and maybe more importantly to the players, sponsors. It doesn’t matter which player those comments are directed toward because even though it may hurt your target more, it affects all the players.

I know as a group we’re better than that. ‘Mean Girls’ was just a movie, but I think as time has passed we’ve forgotten the real intended message. The movie wasn’t intended to glorify meanness, it was to point out how truly harmful it can be.

So on this International Women’s Day I  want to challenge all fans of WoSo, but especially other women, to be as professional in your criticism as you expect players to be on the field. To bypass the easy personal jab for a more enlightened comment. To raise the level of discourse one social media post at a time.

I’m inspired and impressed by all the women involved in the game and I  truly want that to extend to the women who comment on the game as well.

Celebrate International Women’s Day by being a better woman.

*Full disclosure: I’m not perfect, I’ve made a few comments from time to time I’m not especially proud of. But I try hard not to, I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I’m not asking of myself.

That Age Old Argument

 

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?”

- Satchel Paige

Too old, washed up, over the hill, not needed, redundant, put out to pasture, past their prime.. all terms used at one time or another to describe people thought not able to do the job anymore, simply because of a number.

Hi, My name is Diane, I’m 58. That is my chronological age, the number of years I have been on this earth. I am also 48, my biological age, the physical condition of my body. I’m also 69, my psychological age, measuring experience, logic, and emotions. Put them all together and you get my functional age, the actual me that moves through space and time in the world. Too often people just look at someones chronological age and stop there. It’s understandable, industrial societies measure productivity in terms of time – the amount a worker can produce over a given amount of chronological time.

In sports it’s a little different. What is produced by an athlete (worker) is not as easily measured like widget output from a factory. Sure there are stats, but stats only tell one part of the story, as fans everywhere will argue. When considering athletes’ productivity, especially in team sports, you also have to take into account functional age. The entire package. The combination of the chronological, biological, and psychological age. An athlete may well be considered old in relation to the chronological age of their teammates, but athletes by virtue of the excellent care they take of their bodies are younger biologically than chronological age would suggest. Many athletes have been known to play at a high level when their chronological age was past what most would consider too old.

Which brings me to psychological age. An athlete of sufficient psychological age will bring to bear all the experience gained, logic learned, and emotions lived over their chronological years of playing to get the most out of the biological body they possess. This would mean that their physical preparation might look different from other teammates, but it also might mean that their psychological age contributes to the productivity of the team in other ways not as easily measured. They’ve most likely “been there, done that” in every way from struggling to make the team to suffering and coming back from injury to playing on the biggest stage to almost – but not quite –  grabbing the brass ring. Having a teammate that can share those experiences and what worked, or didn’t, and how they handled it is immeasurable, especially to less experienced teammates.

And that is why I have such a problem with people who discount an athlete simply because their chronological age is past what is considered the norm to compete at a certain level in sport. A huge disservice is done to those athletes who are able to manage all the variables and still produce at the highest level of a sport. It’s not all that long ago that it was thought impossible for a woman to return to a sport at the highest level after childbirth, athletes in many sports are proving that’s not the case. Dismissing an athlete simply based on a number is just as foolish.

I’m not saying that at some point an athlete might not lose the physical capability to compete at a certain level, but that capability should not be measured simply by chronological age. More and more frequently players in their mid-teens are being lauded for their accomplishments, is it because they have accomplished something or simply because they are of a certain chronological age?

Some days my 58 year old self wants to tell my 48 year old self to kick the asses of these ageists, but my 69 year old self prevails and I simply write a blog instead.

P.S. Yes, this blog is about Abby Wambach (to a lesser degree Christie Rampone/Shannon Boxx/fill in your least favorite player over 30) and her detractors that think it’s time for her to hang up her boots and cite her chronological age, ad nauseam. On a larger scale it’s about people that don’t consider all the variables when writing a human being off, whether in sport, at work, or life in general. Everyone has value and brings different things to the table. Some tangible, some not, but valuable just the same.


One man’s perspective on Hope Solo

Diane:

Not your typical male perspective.

Originally posted on ALDENTHREE:

“They’re all lesbians.”

“She’s smoking hot.”

“The quality is terrible.”

“She looks like a man.”

There’s your stereotypical male perspective of female athletes.  The majority of my interactions with other men about women’s sports have revolved around some variation of those four quotes above. Most of my interactions with other men about men’s sports are analyzing the actual game.  Our society does not show enough respect for female athletes. Here lies the foundation of my frustrations in the most recent Hope Solo incident.

These perspectives are incredibly damaging to the psyche of female athletes.  If you’re a man and this is the commentary you have to offer the women’s game, please stop. No, seriously.  Enough. But let me get to the topic at hand… Hope Solo.

U.S. Soccer has suspended Solo for 30 days. It has been reported Solo’s husband was arrested for driving while intoxicated and Solo was a passenger in the vehicle. Solo’s husband…

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An Open Letter to New NWSL Executive Director Jeff Plush

Dear Mr. Plush,

Welcome aboard.

I’ll be the first to admit I am wary of your selection. Probably a wariness borne of failed leagues and less than transparent processes, but wary none the less. It certainly doesn’t help that we (fans) found out you were even necessary by way of an errant job posting by the NCAA. See? Wary. There are many other instances over the first two years of the league and this is but one example of the lack of transparency we are tiring of quickly.

I would like to be less wary, and I would like you to have a big part in that. Your business credentials are more than up to snuff for the position of league commissioner, my concern lies in your lack of involvement up to this point with women’s soccer specifically.  I live in Colorado and therefore am familiar with your time at the Colorado Rapids organization. I am also not aware of any dealings you have had in connection with the women’s USL W-League team that held the Rapid’s name during that time. If there was any, I ( and many others) would like to know what that might have been. It seems an opportunity was there for you to be involved and yet, you weren’t. And now you want to run our league. See? Still wary.

I appreciate the fact that you were integral in growing MLS, but the women’s league is not MLS or MLS-lite and is in fact different in many ways. The women’s game hasn’t yet been tainted by big money and all the baggage that brings. That’s not to say that someday we wouldn’t like to see players earn a living wage and view playing professional soccer as a viable occupation. We’d like to have games televised as often as possible and sell out venues and have merchandise readily available. We’d like to have budgets and rosters that allow for the best in the women’s game to play here and thrive. We’d like all of that and more, but none of that is worth anything if we sacrifice our integrity or the things that make the women’s game special.

And now I guess that’s your job, you and the owners. Grow our game and our league into a viable, sustainable, entertaining, product that attracts kids and adults in equal measure, a league that values its integrity in all dealings, a league that is transparent and accessible, to fans and media and business.

Personally, I challenge you to make me (and those like me) less wary. I challenge you to make the changes and goings on more transparent, much more transparent. I challenge you to be first to make the announcement when a rule changes or a determination has been made. I challenge you to not make the league MLS-lite. I challenge you to keep those things that are so enjoyable about the women’s game enjoyable. Access to players is one of the special parts of the league and I’m sure it doesn’t have to be sacrificed as the league attendance grows. I challenge you to do all of this and more because that’s what the game deserves. I challenge you to make me your fan..which might be your biggest challenge of all.

As Red Green is fond of saying,

 “Remember, I’m pulling for ya, we’re all in this together”

Thanks for your time. I hope to hear from you soon.

Always a fan,

Diane.

4 Reasons Why The Gap Is Narrowing (Between North America and the Rest of the World) in Women’s Soccer

Diane:

Some insight from someone who knows because she lives it.

Originally posted on Life as a Female Soccer Player:

So it’s been a long time since I’ve written.

It coincided with my foot in a cast, and I’m hoping this blog isn’t going to look like me trying to do my first workout after getting my leg back out of the cast (yes, I had to cut out after 4 air squats).

But just like I threw myself back into physical activity by just starting to move, here I am back on the blog scene just going to ramble some thoughts that have been kicking around tonight.

I just saw that the US tied Brazil in the lead up to the World Cup today. And with the result, my twitter feed blew up lamenting the direction of youth soccer and development in the US and how the immense numbers and resources that the US has in women’s soccer, as compared to the rest of the world, isn’t being utilized.

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We’re Number 2! We’re Number 2!

Back in the day (like 1962 back in the day), before most of you were born, there was a company named Avis, that rented cars. Now in most areas of business there are competitors, meaning there is always a company ranked number one and a company ranked number 2 and Avis was ranked number 2. They were ranked number 2 for so long they adapted this their advertising slogan:

When you’re only No. 2, you try harder, or else.

 

How fitting is that for the current U.S. Women’s National Team? After all, they have the perfect poster child, no one works harder than Carli Lloyd! Her current form certainly bears that out.

As a motivating philosophy, you have to admit it’s got a lot going for it. Who doesn’t want to be seen as the underdog, fighting to gain the top spot? It accomplishes two things; first it motivates the players & coaches to actually, you know, try harder. That could mean train harder, study more, explore new formations/tactics/lineups, take chances. Second it gives a cushion for expectations from fans and pundits should all of this trying harder not produce immediate results.

I won’t say the USWNT is stagnant, but the growth everyone was told to expect has been slow in coming. Maybe this being number 2 thing will speed up the process, both by players and coaches.

Hey, even if it doesn’t I’m sure we’ll get lots of shitty jokes out of it.