The big news in the world of women’s soccer last week is that Australia dropped out of a pair of massive, sold out friendlies with the US in response to the Australian FA’s dismal offer of compensation to the players.
In women soccer, as in life, there are many people that complain about how things are, yet so few willing to stand up for anything.
I have been in Europe the last couple of weeks catching up with former teammates and coaches. As I marvel at the strong connections that I still have with those that I am visiting, the one thing that I know has outlasted my time in the game with them and the cement that bonds us, is they are the kind of people that have the courage, integrity and values to take a stand, even if it has hurt them.
No money in the world can buy knowledge of your friends like that, and few situations in life show us what people truly stand for when the cards are down like women’s soccer/elite sport can, because those opportunities to show real courage arise with such frequency.
The beauty of the game is that we are constantly bombarded with the message that everything is so high stakes; the club you play for, making a national team, winning club championships and major competitions. In this high stakes environment, true character comes to light.
And I’m not talking about the kind of character that causes a person to fight through 90 minutes to score a winning goal, which is great, but we’re rarely given the message that there are things that are so much bigger.
I’m talking about the kind of character that drives people to stick up for those that are getting taken advantage of and have their back even if it doesn’t benefit them personally, causing them grief they don’t have to take on, or drives people to speak up for something that isn’t right even though it likely will cause short term negative ramifications. I’m talking about the kind of character that leaves a legacy that runs far deeper than a name on a championship trophy, but ensures a more enjoyable present for players involved in the game and a future that is bright with great environments and opportunities for the next generation.
As female players we are bombarded with the underlying message that the here and the now matters so much, and to protect and be grateful for wherever you fall on the totem pole and be happy for whatever scraps that you’ve been given. We’re given the message that we are lucky to just be here and what’s been given to us can be taken if we step out of line which creates a courageous cauldron for those that choose to step forward.
What this message does is silence players, making them fearful of getting singled out through speaking up. This environment provides an immense benefit to those in power, because if players weren’t fearful in what they could lose and took a stand on items such as finances or the negative environments some have to exist within, those in power would have a mutiny on their hands.
This however is what I find truly refreshing about what Australia has done and this is why I send them all the good vibes in the world that they continue to stand strong. So thank you, thank you, thank you Australia for your courage and for taking a short term hit to make the game better for all of us.
Women’s soccer, like life, is a global ecosystem, and while we may not realize it, everything that we do, no matter how small, has a ripple effect, whether positive or negative.
When the US women took a stand in 1999 after their World Cup win (and in an interesting coincidence, it was a trip to Australia that they boycotted) and went on strike in a similar fashion, they took their salary from $3150 a month to something far more economically viable to allow future players the opportunity to pursue the sport professionally, raising the bar in all capacities. Full article on US 1999 strike: Click Here –
The bar that that brave move set is cited globally anytime I hear people talking about conditions in women’s soccer and what they wish that their country had. It’s a message we don’t hear often, but I’d argue their action after ’99 impacted the sport on a far deeper, longer lasting level than selling out the Rose Bowl (which was pretty rad in it’s own right).
Finally, if you want to take the economic argument, I’d argue that from an investment purpose, women’s soccer seems like a really smart place to invest in.
The growth numbers alone in the last few years has been staggering and with millions of girls paying to register world wide, it seems with that money alone being invested smartly and towards women’s soccer could grow the sport immensely.
But it is a chicken or the egg argument and I get it. A friend of mine who used to play for England that was a teammate of mine in 2007 said to me at the time, how frustrating it was, that people compared the quality of soccer of the men and women, when the men were fully professional, and the women only practiced 2 or 3 times a week with their club.
England has invested in their women’s program since, and their progress both on and off the pitch has been remarkable over the last few years as that investment comes to fruition.
So I say to the Australian Women, thank you again for your courage and for putting the good of the sport ahead of what is best for you as individuals right now. Stay strong raised high in the appreciative vibes of everyone that wants better for the sport.
Positive change comes solely from the people who have the courage to step up and ask for it.
May we all take a page from your book and take our definitive moments to stand up and show courage. And may we all choose to make a difference and leave a legacy to better the sport in a way that matters far more than any championship or trophy that we could ever win in our time as players.