NWSL 2013 – Analysis In 10 Parts PART 2- Washington Spirit

Second in a series of 10 posts analyzing NWSL 2013 from my viewpoint.

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Washington Spirit, DC Spirit, Spirit, DC Freedom, DC United, no matter what they were called they didn’t get me excited about the game. Don’t get me wrong, they have some stellar players in Diana Matheson, Ali Krieger, Ashlyn Harris, Tori Huster just to name a few, but they never seemed to put it all together on the field. Even I felt disjointed watching them. I have to commend them for sticking with it and never giving up the fight, but it often wasn’t pretty.

Pre-season, Season Tickets, and Fan Engagement:

Spirit’s pre-season was probably the toughest of any team. They played Penn State, UNC, Virginia, Duke, and Maryland, all top Div I NCAA teams. For a women’s soccer fan, this was like winning the lottery and it was FREE. Great marketing by the Spirit.

Season tickets were very easy to purchase online. I purchased 2 $240 Premium reserved seats. I donated them to Our Game Magazine, who held an essay contest to give them away. Arrangements with the Spirit to allow OGM to pick up the tickets was easy and uneventful. Since I donated the tickets I didn’t really look into what perks were available.

The club maintained a good social media presence with Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube accounts, although I couldn’t find a link from any of their other sites to YouTube. Their content was timely, informative and really aimed at engaging their fans.

Web Site and Web Stream:

Washington Spirit’s web site is pretty uninspiring. Very basic and not well updated. According to player stats they only played 11 games. Player bio’s are non-existent on many players, even after an entire season. I’d recommend a complete redesign, just making everything red/white/blue doesn’t make it good. The team store, once again pretty pathetic. They did have a few more items than jerseys and T’s, but not many more. Nothing that would encourage me to spend money there.

Washington’s web stream is another one that was consistently just okay. It was OK if you could find it! There is no mention or link from their web site to a stream or archive on YouTube. The only way you would know where to watch a stream would be from reading a news article. Nice try Washington, but people want upfront links. A new fan to your site wants it right in their face. On-air talent was okay, nothing offensive or memorable, just okay.

Kits and Venue:

Cookie-cutter kits, what more do I need to say. Red home kit w/horizontal white stripe. White away kit. You will see this again..and again. Very uninspired, very. This is where they could have really had fun with red/white/blue..but lost the plot. The excuse that this was a first year kit holds no sway with me, look at Chicago Red Stars.

I did not attend any games at the Maryland Soccerplex, my only observations come from watching streams. The field looks great and the atmosphere seemed like it was fun and added to the enjoyment of the game. Nothing beats playing on a soccer specific field.

Final Observations:

Washington Spirit embodied just that – Spirit. Their season was a tough one from a player and a fan standpoint, but I think their heart will keep their fans coming back for more. It’s a shame it took so long to see that the players and the coach just didn’t work well together. Hopefully new coach Mark Parsons will turn that around and give players and fans more to cheer about.

I never got a feeling that any staff was engaging with the fans, other than the owner. And let’s face it, his blogs, while well intentioned, didn’t exactly come across as he’d hoped. Save your woes for the bartender, boss.

These are a few things I think the Spirit could improve upon to make this a better experience for a long distance STH:

  • Perks geared toward long distance STH’s who won’t be attending games. Game programs, team photos, get creative.
  • A redesigned web site, seriously. People want to be invited in, so invite them!
  • A better web stream (I’m sure this will hold for most teams)
  • A more creatively designed kit for 2014.

With all the ups and downs the Spirit had this year I want to say an extra special Thank You to the organization for continuing to chase the dream of a sustainable women’s pro soccer league in the US. I will definitely continue to support the team in 2014 and can’t wait to see what they can do.

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