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:
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.
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.
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.