There has been a lot of buzz the last few days with women’s soccer and social media.
For those of you that haven’t heard, the US women’s national team was named for the World Cup this week. In my opinion there weren’t many surprises despite the US’ lacklustre performances as of late; that being said as in any named roster, there were many names that were debated.
While back in the day, those names would be argued over a cup of coffee or on a sideline amongst soccer die-hards, in this day and age, those discussions were held via Twitter, with some players actively responding to those who felt that they or their friends hadn’t earned their spots. While the merits of those points can be discussed another day, I was quite surprised watching how a) certain players chose to respond and b) the negative, defensive manner way that they chose.
While a couple of her teammates were occupied in verbal sparring matches with US supporters via Twitter, a player who was one of the final cuts, Yael Averbuch posted a very moving and honest blog (see here: http://tinyurl.com/6kw8dml) about pouring her heart and soul into making the team and falling short of that goal.
On the Canadian front, a Canadian National team player (who I’ll add is one of my oldest and most cherished soccer friends as well as a very inspirational individual) posted a blog today addressing negative things that people have been saying on Twitter and on message boards. There were apparently many comments regarding the Canadian team’s extended stay in Rome, and negative responses to postings that players have made about enjoying their down time in the city.
Her main point was that players deserved a chance to have some balance in their lives, and shouldn’t have their commitment to their National Team questioned because of it. She brought up the point that in sharing all the fun, that her and her teammates were having, that they were inspiring younger players that follow them on avenues such as Twitter, as to the great fun that lies ahead if you work hard.
As I mentioned before, I am new to social media such as Twitter and am still processing this crazy world and dialogue that seems to be existing and hitting people and athletes more personally than ever.
The question that I’ve asked myself the last few days is what exactly should athletes be using social media for and what kinds of messages are valuable to those that are following women’s soccer players?
I think the crux of what athletes often forget in this narcissistic era of social media and self-promotion, is that an athlete’s time in the spotlight is short, relatively speaking.
Right now, those of us fortunate to play on teams whose scores reach the newspapers, or games reach television sets, have a captive audience listening to what we have to say. Subsequently, through the accessibility of mediums such as Twitter, we have a real opportunity to make an impact on people’s lives through sharing insight from our experiences, good and bad.
In not so short a time, we all will be done playing, and that microphone that many have been given will no longer be powered in a way that being on the field and in the spotlight provides.
I think that is why I admired what Yael had to say so much. For those people that are following women’s soccer players on Twitter, or looking up to them and their accomplishments in the grand scheme of life, they are doing so because these athletes are obviously fantastic at what they do and have put the work in to command that audience. People know that getting to play soccer as a job is a dream life, without having a Twitter feed full of reminding everyone just how insanely great that life is.
Yet as athletes we all know that sport is a fantastic metaphor for life, provides many opportunities for teaching and that it definitely isn’t all fun and games. Social platforms like Twitter, now give us a microphone to share those nuggets of wisdom that come from the struggle that pouring your heart and soul into something provides. Not that there is anything the matter with talking about how great getting to tan all day is or how much fun a shopping trip is, or spending all day responding to every tweet that you get hit with, that you feel questions you or your friend’s ability on the pitch.
The point is, as top players we are provided with a platform to really impact people’s lives because people are listening. There is the opportunity to share real insight, yet often the tough lessons are rarely shared, in the same way that many people are concerned about going out and only showing their best face.
Yael may not have made the World Cup team, but her legacy through how she has chosen to let people in to what must be one of the hardest things she has been through will have a far longer lasting impact. A deeper impact than most likely many of her brightest moments on the field. To this, I think we should all take note.