I’m going to warn you all, that I’m about to write this blog, fairly pissed off. For some, I am sure that its going to bring a smile to your face, and cause you to rub your hands together in glee for the trouble I’ll probably get myself into (yet again) for saying what everyone is thinking and no one is saying.

What causes my Irish temper to feel aroused on this otherwise calm Thursday? The fact that I found out when I woke up this morning that our (New England Mutiny) game against the Chicago Red Stars tonight, was cancelled. A game that girlsCAN had arranged for over 100 parents and players from our summer program to attend, some of whom had planned their day around, others who were going to be driving around 2 hours from the southern part of Connecticut to attend. All of whom were stoked to see two of their coaches in action tonight, with Kelsey and Tiff playing pivotal roles on the team.

We were told it was the weather and the Red Stars weren’t able to get out of Chicago. The press release stated that Chicago had looked into flights both today and tomorrow from the Chicago/Milwaukee into Boston/NY areas to no avail. As a side note, I found a direct flight for 8 people (the max that the system allowed) out of Milwaukee into JFK direct at 3pm today on Delta in the 10 minutes of internet searching that I did.

Let’s take the logic of the whole situation one step further. People on our team have friends on Chicago (remember, the women’s soccer world is a small village), who told us that they were so short on players that they were having trouble getting 11 people able to miss work to come. Also, to those that can do the math, statistically there was nothing to gain for the Red Stars to come out to the Mutiny to play–they are in the playoffs by a landslide, we are not and no matter how well we did tonight, on the game sheet it wasn’t going to matter. From a cynical perspective, the game was to mean nothing. So a logical conclusion would be that a cancelled flight would provide a worthy excuse to get out of a game that was causing a headache both in players having to get time off of work, and the cost incurred for something that on paper meant little.

But the game didn’t mean little to the 100 kids and parents in our program who were excitedly talking about it all week, and I’m sure others, who were going to get their first taste of high level women’s soccer this evening.

So I never thought I would say it, but to anyone wanting to do something with women’s soccer in North America, just do it right, or don’t do it at all. If you are scheduled to play a game, you do everything in your damn power to honour your commitment and get there. Situations like this, make us all look like a huge joke, and make our game get taken less seriously, and furthermore put off the people that were willing to put their time in and give high level women’s soccer a chance.

And it makes me wonder, how freaking hard is it to do things right?

For those wondering what it takes to run a successful professionally-run, women’s team or league, here in my opinion, is your top 10 list. Too many teams are far too willing to cut corners on costs in these different areas, and I’ve experienced corner cutting in all these different areas at one point or another on teams I have played on from east to west, from Canada to the US.

Here’s a brief blueprint/top 10 list on what “doing things right” looks like:

TOP 10 COMPONENTS TO A PROFESSIONALLY-RUN WOMEN’S SOCCER TEAM/LEAGUE:

GAMES

1. I never thought I’d have to say this, but after this nonsense with Chicago today I’ll make this number one: Have a league where every team is committed to field a quality team and takes the necessary steps to be able to show up at every game.

2. Have the games themselves be professional with tents, announcers, quality referees and proper locker rooms for home and away teams, and referees.

3. Have a home field, with a quality surface so you are able to build a following and teams are able to establish a home field advantage.

TEAM ENVIRONMENT

4. Have practice every day or almost every day with a quality coach on the field so players are learning and improving.

5. Have practice on a quality surface

6. Have a coach that is professional in his/her behaviour, and picks his lineup on nothing more than merit from their training that week. If anything inappropriate happens, fire the coach immediately. Have an avenue set up whereby players are able to voice concerns without having anything related to their playing time affected.

OTHER

7. Have a professional kit that players can wear for training and for matches.

8. If you are providing housing for players, have it ready before hand, and make it clean and comfortable so they are able to move right in.

9. Provide every player with a gym pass. If you promise work (or anything else for that matter) with players, follow through with what the club said, regardless of the circumstances that come up, and reimburse players accordingly.

10. Have a trainer at every practice and physical therapy organized and paid for before hand, so players are able to get injuries taken care of in a timely manner. Have the insurance worked out before hand so if a player needs x-rays, MRI’s etc, that it does not come out of their pocket.

Notice I haven’t even uttered a word about paying players to this point. And this is why. We are crazy. If these things are taken care of, we don’t give a crap if we have money in our pocket as long as we are in a professional environment with the opportunity to pursue our passion.

And in the meantime, I apologize to the kids and parents that were so excited to come tonight. We are bummed beyond words both for you and for what it says about the sport that we are so passionate about.

9 thoughts

  1. I hope, in whatever top-level league is brewing for next year, the committment to actually playing games is there, because potential travel-related snafus – and the potential to use them as excuses – are only increased when a league has a wider footprint.

    Awesome blog, Ciara. I’m sorry for your fans who wanted to see you tonight, and I’m sorry you worked so hard to bring 100 people to a game that’s been apparently sacrificed for a dollar.

  2. Great blog, it’s a shame that there is no accountability in women’s soccer. We need more people like who that aren’t afraid to speak their mind!
    Got your back, all the way from Canada!!!

  3. Ciara, really. We are upset too. Your rant doesn’t help anyone. We have huge respect for Joe, the Mutiny organization and the players. Please note, suggestions 1-10 above are already part of our Red Stars operation. As a result of the storms that started last night and disrupted travel across the Midwest, we lost lots of money on flights, hotels, and will further and appropriately compensate Mutiny for not being there – and be fined by the league. We also have 30+ women who have worked their butts off this year to be the top team in the league and by missing tonight’s match we lose that chance to be #1. If you think that doesn’t matter to us you simply don’t know us. It is absurd to think that this game doesn’t matter. Can you honestly say to our players that they don’t want to be there to fight for a win? It is also inappropriate to throw out rumor and innuendo implying that we are not doing everything in our power to be there. We did check all those flights including JFK, try looking at the other 20 or so combinations to get the next 10 people booked, now do the buses and rental cars — and get it done quickly enough with certainty or Mutiny doesn’t have time to get their fans appropriate warning. Even the JFK flight with 8 players lands after six… try getting to hartford for a 7pm game from JFK after 6pm arrival. Our best chance was to use 3 airports and multiple airlines to try to get there for a Friday flight which would have had the Mutiny play Friday/Saturday in a row. We also reached out to charter flights that would have cost more than most of our transport costs for the season — but we tried that too at 7 this morning. Sometimes things happen. I’ve been up since 4:30 trying to make everything right and your blog is wrong and ill informed. I apologize to the fans and players on both sides — again. By the way check the radar — that band of thunderstorms headed right towards Hartford would likely be hitting right at game time anyway. Finally, we have two completely different rosters that have been managed very tightly to get us through the Open Cup and WPSL play, none of the likely starters that were headed to the Mutiny game are even on the Open Cup roster so no advantage there either.

    Feel free to reach out next time before spreading rumors about a team and an organization that tries every day to do the right thing for the women’s game — this really doesn’t help. You can be angry and frustrated — just as we are — but trashing the league and organizations in your league isn’t helping anyone for next year.

    Arnim

    1. Arnim, the flight that I found was direct and left from Milwaukee at noon and arrived into JFK at 3:20pm not 6pm. This was with a quick search that I started at 10am this morning once I heard there was the possibility that the game was in danger. With all due respect, in all of my last decade playing professionally in multiple leagues in multiple countries, I have never heard of something like this happening, nor in any other professional league, male or female. I’m not spreading rumours and innuendo, I’m giving the facts both of what I was able to find searching flights, as well as what your players told our players about scrambling for players. If you schedule a game, its your responsibility to be there. If that means leaving the day before to make sure that you are there, its your responsibility to do so. It’s completely unacceptable that there isn’t a game tonight, plain and simple. It reflects badly on all of us, and I know a class organization such as the Red Stars can do better.

  4. No one is more upset than me/us and I take full responsibility. We always travel the night before (which may not have helped with storms hitting last night) but for the players sake we tried to steal 1 more night at home. With this backloaded schedule we have potentially 4 games in 10 days on the road — and had already booked and paid for 9 of the next 10 nights on the road in 3 different cities.

    We had the help of 2 professional travel agents and all major airlines and they couldn’t find seats for us to get out today. We also had to give Joe enough time to notify all parties on his end and had a short fuse to try to sort it all out. When Joe and I spoke early we had a time that if we couldn’t work it out we had to call it – precisely because its unfair to the fans to not get proper notice — and because we had 18 people sitting by their phones at 7am trying to figure out where they were headed on short notice.

    We don’t hide from our responsibilities. We did all we could. What I am frustrated by is the inference that we would do this on purpose, not try hard enough, or that we didn’t think this game mattered. You are right to call us out for not being there. You are wrong for bringing the rest into the discussion

    We all need to pull together here. WPSL Elite did some heroic things even getting a schedule and 8 teams pulled together to give a platform for the players this year. It caused a few schedule imbalances that have hit everyone — and not enough cushion to handle weather events and rescheduling. But its sure as heck better than the alternative. We all strive for higher and better for next year. Lets constructively improve rather than destructively critique.

    I respect your voice and am glad you posted. Keep fighting for the future league.

    Arnim

    1. Arnim, I apologize for bringing into the blog my attempts at travel agency or conversations that my teammates had with your players about the difficulties that your team was having in getting numbers together for the trip. I understand the inference that could be perceived that you weren’t committed to getting to the game, and everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt, especially your organization with its history of commitment to women’s soccer. It also took away from my main point, which was, that at this level, if we are expecting women’s soccer to be taken seriously and treated professionally, that this kind of thing can’t happen. Myself and 2 teammates personally had rallied 100 girls and parents from the summer teams that we are running to come tonight, and it was immensely disappointing for us as much as for them, that they couldn’t experience high level women’s soccer for the first time. Not having your team on the field tonight was disrespectful to our players, our fans, and although I am sure he would be the last to say it, Joe, who has worked tirelessly to make sure we honoured our commitments to the league all year. Your acknowledgement of the situation is appreciated, and proves your class. We all need to hold each other accountable and challenge each other to raise the bar if we hope to raise the level of the women’s game. That’s the spirit that the blog was written in. I sincerely thank you for all you’ve done and the Red Stars have done for women’s soccer, and look forward to seeing you on the field in the future.

  5. thanks, as a devoted soccer fan in this country I appreciate the honesty and I feel the passion. I can’t ask for anything more than that.

  6. Thank you both, Ciara and Arnim for a respectful exchange. Ciara, you brought up a subject that many fans had thought about and Arnim, you answered with facts and true caring for fans and players.
    As a fan of WPSL Elite I was graced with being able to see both of your teams play and it’s nice to see the class carries through off the field. Hopefully as women’s soccer at the elite level continues to grow, some of these pains will be alleviated.

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