When the Boot is on the Other Foot

For the record I am not a Hinkle fan, her play is good, but hasn’t ignited any passion in me. I am also not a fan of the religious arguments against homosexuality. I am ALSO not a fan of people who are gay or are gay allies using Hinkle’s bowing out of the upcoming friendlies as fodder for their hate.

-First off, we know nothing of her personal reasons for not participating and all speculation is just that. If no one will go on record, credible sources nor Hinkle herself, then it’s all just speculation.

-Secondly, the hate coming from gays and allies is just plain ugly and wrong and would be vilified by same if directed at them. It is not OK to do it to us and it’s not OK to do it to them.

-Third and last, actions and beliefs do come with consequences, IF Hinkle is acting on her beliefs then not playing for the NT during these friendlies is the consequence. I don’t think anyone would agree it’s a minor consequence given what players endure to get a call-up. The consequence should not be, should never be, the hate I have seen directed at her. It makes me very sad and a bit angry that the very people who preach “Love is Love” stoop to such disgusting lows to attack someone who doesn’t preach hate, she does after all play with gay players, but who is sticking to her beliefs and not promoting something she doesn’t believe in. However much I might disagree with her beliefs, and trust me I do, I also have to respect her for following them to this extent.

If you have been one of the people on social media making memes, saying she doesn’t deserve another call-up, or just generally being ugly about this, please reconsider your actions. If directed at the gay community much of them would be considered bullying and rightly so. Don’t be THAT person.

You can @ me if you like, but as always, please be civil.

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And The Winner Is…

Another day, another WoSo award. Today’s reveal was the CONCACAF Awards 2016. Of course some (most) of the awards were just a popularity vote. That’s not the fault of the voters, that’s the fault of the people running the vote. This is not just confined to CONCACAF, the biggest award in women’s football is given by FIFA, and it’s no mistake it’s also the biggest popularity award.

This isn’t a ‘sour grapes’ article because my choices didn’t win, this is an ‘I’m pissed’ article because the women’s game, the players, and the fans deserve better.

I won’t go into all the minute details about how players are chosen to be in a particular list for each award, they are all basically the same – a technical committee ( I use the term very loosely) chooses a long list of who they think (OK, a long list of names they pull out of a hat) had an OK year in whatever category the list is for – then it’s narrowed down in a few different ways to a shortlist of 3 or 5 or 27 (maybe not 27, but why not, the outcome will be the same) – then the “real” voting gets underway. In some permutation that adds up to 100%, the vote is given to team coaches and/or captains, the media, and the fans. Doesn’t sound too bad so far, right? Wrong. This is where it really goes off the track. In the case of CONCACAF while the media and coaches/captains get one vote apiece, the fans get unlimited (may be limited by the amount of hours in a day and the stamina of your fingers) votes. Instant recipe for a popularity vote.  In the case of FIFA the process goes off the rails almost immediately, never mind the voting process. FIFA’s “technical committee” seldom gets the right players on the long list and therefor the right players seldom make it onto the shortlist. From there you go to the voting where many (if not most) of the voters only really know about a few of the more prominent names on the list . This is not confined to fans, this also includes the media and the coaches/captains. This brings us to the real reasons WoSo awards don’t reflect and reward the outstanding players in the game – the lack of exposure for much of the WoSo world game and the lack of respect.

It doesn’t matter if it’s one small confederation or all the confederations – if voters aren’t exposed to the players nominated how can they ever choose the ones truly deserving to be singled out with an award? You might argue that it’s hard to get WoSo on TV and you wouldn’t be wrong, but it’s not hard to get highlight reels on individual players. In today’s game most teams compile some type of video. Some leagues require it, some just do it for their own purposes, some players keep their own. We are in a digital age where anyone with a computer/phone to cast a vote could conceivably view a video. I don’t even entertain the production quality argument, how many of us have sat through a grainy phone video to see a favorite player or play? And if you’re shaking your head from side-to-side, get down – you could fall and hurt yourself from that high up. By exposing the technical committee, the media, the coaches/captain, and yes, the fans to all the players nominated at their level of voting would go a long way to solving the exposure problem. Until all WoSo is accessible, like 99% of BroSo is now, the award givers will have to work just a little bit harder here. Which brings us to lack of respect.

You might say that confederations and FIFA are working on the respect aspect, but are they working as hard as they could? Let me answer that for you, No. It would take very little work to treat the award process with the respect it deserves. In the case of CONCACAF all it would have taken was one vote per fan, at least FIFA got that part right. CONCACAF presented video clips of each nominee, which is what I would like to see, but then they opened the voting to allow fans to vote as many times as they possibly could for a favorite player. Even though the total fan vote only carried a third of the total voting, fans could still have swayed the results by voting non-stop for a fave over a possibly more deserving player based on merit not popularity. FIFA, by contrast, did only allow for one vote per fan, but was very lacking in the education of their electorate. You only need to look at who voted for whom to see that in many instances (as it has been since inception) name recognition was how most coaches/captains voted. It’s hard for all the member nations to keep tabs on all the other member nation teams and stand-out players. This is where FIFA needs to step up its game and show the nominees (and the voting nations) the respect they deserve. Awards at the confederation level and certainly at the FIFA level should truly reflect the quality and talent WoSo has to offer. They do not and it lies squarely at the feet of those organizations to do better.

I’m seldom at a loss on how to “fix” things, so here goes.

  1. Vet the “technical committees” to make sure they are the most knowledgeable about the women’s game within the given framework.
  2. Provide all electors with ample footage of the selected shortlist players so that they can cast an informed vote.
  3. Establish well-articulated, merit-based criteria for each award.
  4. Promote the vote all year, giving it gravitas as a true award and not a popularity or name recognition contest.
  5. Emphasize the importance of recognizing the most qualified to meet the award criteria.
  6. Limit voting to one vote per fan.

BroSo seldom has these issues with awards and in part it’s due to the wide exposure players get. WoSo isn’t there yet so we have to make sure that confederations and FIFA do what’s needed to make these awards meaningful and respected. The last thing we want to do is undermine the women’s game and the accomplishments of its greatest players by giving out awards that even the recipients know are often misguided.

If what fans want is a popularity contest give them one, just don’t disrespect the players by representing it as reflecting on their ability on the pitch in a given year.

If you have any ideas on how to make awards better, let me hear them in the comments.

 

 

US Soccer, Stop Trying to Make Fetch Happen

 

Change “fetch” to “One Nation. One Team.” and you have US Soccer.

Don’t get me wrong, I support our national teams, both of them. But to be honest not at the same level. US Soccer and I share that.
US Soccer is trying so hard to make #1N1T a thing. It is not a thing, it is a lame way to make people think the support for both teams is somehow equal. And while I think support should be equal, I don’t think 1N1T means what US Soccer wants it to mean.
Saying “One Nation. One Team.” doesn’t make anything equal, and US Soccer unwittingly is just pointing out the disparity in treatment between the men’s national team and the women’s national team.

We are One Nation, that is not in dispute by anyone in this respect, but we are not One Team. Not One Team in funding, or CBA, or marketing, or sales, or a myriad of other areas. We are also not One Team in the things that each national team needs in the way of support.
So at some level I am OK with not being One Team, I am almost happy that we are not truly One Team. In so many ways the women’s national team (and by my own opinion, women’s soccer in general) needs to be their own team. This does not mean that I think the women’s national team shouldn’t be afforded resources equal to the men’s team from funding to field surfaces and everything between, it means that the women’s team needs to be allowed to be heralded and supported by fans and the nation as it’s own unique entity, the same as should be afforded to the men’s national team.

By allowing teams to be unique entities under a One Nation banner each would be able to get the support & resources needed from US Soccer without the manufactured fan engagement 1N1T tries to force and fan engagement would be organic and long lasting. “One Nation. One Team.” just feels so false and self-serving to US Soccer that many, many fans don’t buy in and are resentful when they are force-fed the concept that feels disingenuous at its very roots. IF US Soccer really felt the national teams were One Team, the teams would have all the same resources available. I don’t think equal means identical, I think equal means what works best for each team. Each team program should decide what is best for their team – from development to t-shirt sales – within the US Soccer framework. That’s not to say that each program can’t share resources, just that they should fit with the team’s identity and speak to their fan base as well as to their standing on soccer’s world stage. Standards are not something that should be up for debate, both teams should have the highest standards, but other things are certainly able to be different.

US Soccer and it’s marketers have to embrace the different wants and needs of the teams and the fans and speak to that. They also have to understand the difference between wanting equality and wanting to celebrate your team as a unique entity. It’s one thing to want the same playing surfaces and another to want to be able to purchase a jersey in the cut and style that let’s a fan represent their team in a way that is both comfortable and appropriate to them. It is one thing to want a commensurate slice of the funding pie and another to be recognized in advertising as distinctly different. Equal and unique are not mutually exclusive.

In some instances using One Nation, One Team as a slogan works well, like the Olympic Games where bringing together many different sports, competing together at the same time, under one umbrella unites the nation as they oppose other nations. US Soccer has been trying to force 1N1T on the US fan since World Cup 2014 in Brazil, a men’s tournament where they opposed the world. A single nation, supporting a single team. In that context it worked well. But US Soccer is not One Team, it is two distinct teams at very different places in the world of soccer. To lump them together, under a slogan that serves neither when used together, is a disservice to both.

In some circles it’s unpopular to say that men and women are different in any way, but they are. Whether by nature or nurture, we see the world differently, we interact with the world differently and those differences aren’t a bad thing, just a different thing.

 

 

UPDATE 2015 – NWSL Year of the FAN

UPDATE July 14, 2015

POST WORLD CUP 2015 WIN

They did it! We believed and they won!! And doesn’t that 3rd star look great!!!

Now the ’15ers, as they will be known until 2019 (wink wink), are heading back to their respective NWSL teams. As a fan I think I can speak for almost everyone by saying that we are ecstatic to have them back, to celebrate them and see what they can bring to the second half of the season. But let’s not forget all the players who have been here all along, putting in the work and keeping the wheels turning while they were gone. We owe it to them and our returning champions to really ramp up our support heading towards the NWSL playoffs and championship. Now is the time to cajole friend and foe into attending games. Now is the time to be front and center in all your social media accounts about your team and why everyone should support them. Now is the time to brush off your banter (friendly, of course) game and make some noise. Now is the time to show the entire country that we have a league..and it’s good. Now is the time to contact that local paper or TV station and tell them you WANT coverage of your team & the league.

The current argument going around is that the NT isn’t promoting the league like some think they should. But let’s also not forget that the majority of the approximately 180 players in NWSL don’t and won’t play for a NT. Could the NT do more? Sure, couldn’t we all. Don’t let that argument stop you from doing all that YOU can to promote and support the NWSL.

2015 IS the Year of the Fan because we can make it so.

Now get out there and buy those tickets, send those tweets, call that neighbor or co-worker, the NWSL is waiting for you.


 

$ Full stadiums
$ Merchandise flying off the shelves
$ Staff in overdrive
– Players feeling the love.
Team wishlists? Probably.

It could be a reality in 2015. It should be a reality in 2015. If the fans step up, it will be a reality in 2015.

2015 IS the Year of the Fan for NWSL. Not because they have designated it so (feel free to use the idea, NWSL. I’m all about sharing), but because it needs to be.

2015 will be the most challenging season yet for NWSL. There is of course FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015™ (WWC) and all the camps and friendlies leading up to it to take national team members of various countries away. There is the shortened schedule, the lengthened season, and the 2 week break in the heart of the season. There is the possibility that more games than last year will be played while kids are still in school. There is also the stark reality that some of the marquee international players are not going to play in the league at all this season, some opting to stay at home for WWC prep and then deeming it too short a time to travel to the USA to play. And that doesn’t even take into account any fans that will be traveling to Canada to see the WWC. Some of those fans will be (understandably) foregoing the outstanding support they usually give their NWSL team. Lots of reasons for fans to lose a little interest in the league.

Sounds pretty bleak, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be and it won’t be if we all do our part and then some.

What would doing our part look like? Glad you asked.

First and foremost fans have to fill seats by buying tickets. And bringing at least one friend to every game you attend, more is better here, folks, bring ten friends! Buying tickets to donate is another avenue to increase revenue to teams, but don’t forget that game “atmosphere” is a big reason to put your own butt in a seat.
Live in Boston, but Seattle is your team? Go to games in Boston! For the league to thrive the teams all have to be successful, so even if you live and die for Sky Blue..go to a game in KC if it’s closer to you. I know your team won’t hold it against you. You can still wear your jersey. If you support the league your team wins, too.

And about that jersey – do you have one? Or a t-shirt? Or a scarf? Or a hoodie? Or any of the other merchandise that your team sells? Merchandise sales in general have a pretty good markup so teams make money on your purchase. We all wish our team sold more/different/better merchandise (I know I do) and someday they all will, but do what you can with the merchandise offered. If you don’t see what you want/like let them know. If we don’t tell them they likely won’t offer it and will have lost out on more revenue generated.

Staff in overdrive is a no-brainer. We all know that most teams have nowhere near the staff to make things comfortable. Staff that are paid are making nowhere near what they could in other situations, so your support of the team affects them, also. Do you have a particular skill that would benefit the NWSL team in your area? Volunteer if you can. Contact the club and see if they’d like your services. Volunteers stretch the budgets of businesses all over the world, why not see if you can stretch the budget of your local team, can’t hurt and who knows what great experiences you’ll have.

Players feeling the love. Kind of self-explanatory, but I’ll add just a little. Players are going to need your support more than ever this year, why? Because the players on the pitch for the entire season will be the journeywomen of WoSo. Many of these players aspire to be on the NT one day, but many know that they won’t make it to that level again, or for the first time. These players are playing for 2 main reasons; they love the game, and they hope one day to make a real living at it. They need us fans to really step it up this year and support them, not the missing NT players (support them too, but you know what I mean). When the NT is back on the pitch by all means support them, but in the meantime the players who are not away at WWC duty need all your support.

NWSL Year of the Fan. Has a nice ring to it. Wouldn’t it be great if that was the headline of every article written about how awesome the 2015 NWSL season was?

FANS can make it so. FANS can be the difference that propels the league forward into season 4 and beyond. I’m game..are you?

 

 

So Much #WoSo

Yikes, when it rains it pours!

Lots of WoSo thoughts, so I’ll just put them out here randomly, you can decide their importance

  • Lori Chalupny back in the USWNT mix!! Can’t say how overdue or how excited I am to see if she’s still got it at NT level (my opinion is YES she does!)
  • NCAA semi’s!! Good as it get in US soccer this time of year. 4 teams, all worthy. Can’t wait to see who comes out the winner. My choice, UCLA,  has been eliminated, so I’ll just be happy for whoever wins.
  • FIFA’s Vackle is an ass. He is clueless when it comes to talking to/about women and has no understanding of the reason for the turf v grass debate.
  • No matter who makes the USWNT roster there will always be someone who wants to pick at it. Can’t we just take a day to celebrate those players who have made it before the conversation deteriorates into who should have made it and who is unworthy? Please?
  • Brazil is a seeded team for WWC 2015? Seriously? Ease of draw shouldn’t be a consideration.
  • Jill Ellis has far more of a clue than most anyone wants to give her credit for. Just because everyone’s favorite players aren’t in the mix doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a vision for the team. Might not agree with yours, but then whose would?
  • Student-athletes who garner academic honors are rock stars! They must be the masters of time-management.
  • It’s 2014, when are men in power going to understand that it does nothing to serve you to be condescending to women. Nothing. Yes, I’m still talking about Vackle.
  • WoSo gives me life.

Thanks for reading and please feel free to contribute in the comments.

 

 

NWSL 2013 – Analysis In 10 Parts PART 6/7/8 Portland Thorns/FC Kansas City/Boston Breakers

A combined Sixth, Seventh and Eighth in a series of 10 posts analyzing NWSL 2013 from my viewpoint.

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I apologize for this mish-mash of an analysis. The league hijacked my train of thought with their expansion stuff and I lost interest in finishing, but a loyal reader persuaded me to tie up the loose ends, so here it is.

Pre-season, Season Tickets, and Fan Engagement:

Of course Portland got all the buzz with the great allocations and being backed by MLS Portland Timbers. I personally was buzzed to get a team within driving distance (9 hours isn’t driving distance for all, but I love to drive), the FC Kansas City Blues. And no surprise, the stable stalwarts of women’s pro soccer and my “team till I die” the Boston Breakers were right in the middle of it all, just the way we like it!
I purchased 2 $165 Touchline Reserved tickets and went in 50/50 on 2 $99 GA tickets that were donated for Portland Thorns. I did not attend any games, but managed to give away most of my tickets. I had no problem with the purchase or the donation. Pretty streamlined process.
I purchased 2 $180 Elite tickets for FC Kansas City and I have to say their sales staff was helpful, funny and understanding.
The first tickets I purchased were for my Boston Breakers. Quick, easy, efficient, like so much of the organization. 2 $180 Regular Season tickets. I also was unable to attend any games and gave away most of my tickets, some through the organization and some online.

Fan engagement for all 3 teams was OK. I honestly had little interest in the Thorns, so I admit to being lax when it came to paying attention to their engagement on Twitter or Facebook.  FCKC got more of my attention and I thought they did an OK job of keeping fans informed, if not engaged, on both Twitter and Facebook.  Breakers had a little more experience, but didn’t really take advantage of it. Their Twitter and Facebook paled in comparison to some team member’s updates.

Web Site and Web Stream:

Portland had a good web site, no surprise there. Thorns also win stream hands down, no discussion. Not only was their stream exceptional, their commentary team of Ang & Ann (Angela Harrison and Ann Schatz) were informative and hysterical, in the best way. Never a dull moment in that broadcast booth.
FC Kansas City had a web site I enjoyed visiting. This is something they don’t need to change. On the other hand, the Blues could use some work on their stream. Most were watchable and I didn’t need to mute the commentary, that’s always a plus.
Boston is stuck somewhere in the last decade with their web site. And my dear sweet Boston, what can I say? They had a pay-per-view stream that was anything but watchable on occasion. As a loyal fan I purchased every stream in the hopes that as the season went on they’d get better, not the way it turned out. After a few games I could not justify the purchase to my peers..at any price. $4.99 wasn’t bad (I could have done without the $1.39 fee on top of it), if the stream was good.

Kits and Venue:

Kits..how about those kits! said no one. Ho-hum, cookie-cutter kits, just different colors.

Venues are another story, though. No one can argue about the venue and atmosphere at Jeld-Wen..no one, don’t even try. Jeld-Wen IS soccer. Winner: Portland.
FCKC made Shawnee Mission North High School their home, later to be called Verizon Field because of their awesome sponsorship. A typical high school venue in typical high school condition, nothing great, but adequate. I did attend several games and was not disappointed with the atmosphere. Their supporters group, the KC Blue Crew, was small but dedicated. Tailgating was permitted with alcohol restrictions, as in none allowed, so that put a damper on things. I’m not a lush, but every tailgate could use a beer.
I did not attend any games at Dilboy Stadium outside Boston, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for analysis. The real sticking point with many people seemed to be the physical location of the field. I drove over 500 miles to get to KC’s field, so I might not be the right person to talk to about that.

Final Observations:

Portland Thorns: At first glance Portland seemed like the dream team, they had it all; players, venue, supporters, but to me they didn’t put it together on the field for much of the season. They played well in the playoffs and took the Championship, but I still was not impressed by the overall product on the field. In 2014 I hope they reward the supporters with the same passion on the field as they display in the stands.

FC Kansas City: The product on the field was fun to watch and the team developed some great players along the way. The fact they fizzled at the end broke my heart, but they engendered passion in me for their game. I’d like to see them build on all the things they did OK during this year; better fan engagement online and a better stream for starters.

Boston Breakers: I love ya, Breakers, but you’ve got to step up your game. Boston needs something to make them stand out. I thought they got lost in the shuffle last season and I’d like to see them do something flashy. They’ve got a solid team, good sponsors, now they need a wow factor. Maybe a stream that’s better than most or a web site that’s less ho-hum. I really don’t know, but they need something.

I’ve tried to do this from a perspective that I don’t know all the changes that have happened for the 2014 season, yet. Hard to do, but I tried.

Next installment, PART 9, will focus on NWSL, the league.

As always, if you’d like to give your two cents, hit me up in the comments.

NWSL 2013 – Analysis In 10 Parts PART 5 – Seattle Reign FC

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

Preseason, Season Tickets, and Fan Engagement:

A preseason in Japan is pretty impressive and a shrewd move to allow the team to work out the kinks away from prying eyes. Kudos to SRFC for that.

I purchased 2 $234 Grandstand tickets online with no hassle whatsoever. Once again no perks for an out of town STH, but you should get the trend by now.

Seattle was fully engaged with fans from the announcement of the league, although they chose (and apparently still choose) to do it by way of Facebook. Allocations, drafts, coaches, uniforms, all info was updated in a fairly timely manner. They also engaged fans on Twitter and have a YouTube account.

Seattle got it right by encouraging and engaging with a supporter’s group, The Royal Guard.   Teams that currently do not have a supporter’s group should consider how Seattle encouraged their fans to start one.

Web Site and Web Stream:

Website? Not sure I would call it that, more of a place holder. About the only thing you could do there was buy tickets and it seems so far this year, it’s still the same.

The web stream by comparison was second best in the league, only behind PTFC. Production quality was excellent, it was reliable and the on-air talent was engaging and informed. The stream was provided by Bootstrapper Studios and SRFC should definitely renew THAT contract.

Kits and Venue:

Seattle did a lot of things right with their kit. It was just a standard navy blue NWSL Nike kit with the horizontal white chest stripe, but the logo and the decision to include it on the shorts as well as the top gave it a distinctive clean look. The basic kit was the same as SBFC, but it somehow looked better.

One thing SRFC did better than any other team was merchandise. From week one they had t-shirts for sale and came up big with their LGBT supporter’s T. Although you had to buy any team gear through the NWSL store, the T’s were a big hit with fans.

Starfire Stadium was the Reign’s home field and has a reputation as being a good venue. I’ve only seen it on web streams & TV, so I’ll leave any critique to someone who’s actually been there.

Final Observations:

The Seattle Reign are one of those teams that you just have to love to watch, even if you’re not a fan. They play well and are in every game. They may have been shortchanged by the whole team-building process, but they never used that as an excuse and never gave up in a single game. They have some big names, but every single player contributes. A definite team to watch in 2014.

As for the product off the field…

I’d like to see some improvements in 2014:

  • As for all teams, how about some STH perks for out of state purchasers?
  • Get a website, a real functioning, interactive site. Facebook is good, but really limits the interactions you can have with current and potential fans. I have sites I’ve “liked” and never gone to again. 10,000+ likes does not translate to 10,000+ interactions on a continuing basis.
  • Since the webstream is so good, consider doing it simultaneously in Spanish.

I am inspired by the culture Laura Harvey has started in the Reign camp. I hope it continues to build and I’m sure the payoff will come soon.