Soccer Monday: A conversation with Christen Press and Tobin Heath

'I think what I really want to do is have a platform for all female athletes to just be themselves and almost, like, learn exactly what that that can be'

I was able to speak last week to Christen Press and Tobin Heath about re-launching the RE-CAP show. It was a wide-ranging discussion that also touched on the efforts both are making to return to the pitch.

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Heath has not ruled out a return, which she spoke about in detail for the first episode RE-CAP’s new season. She’s had a pair of surgeries for a cartilage issue in her knee. There’s no timeline for her return, but here’s what she told me:

“I haven’t been public about it, but I can say that I have been actively healing and trying to get back to the football pitch,” she said. “I haven’t ruled it out, to say the least. But I am definitely in my own recovery journey.”

And we all know about Christen’s return. She’s getting closer — not at full speed at practice yet, but she went with the Angel City on their recent road trip to Bay FC.

Here’s my AP story about the RE-CAP show, part of our pre-Olympics package.

I’m doing something a bit different with Soccer Monday this week. What follows is a part of our conversation, edited a bit for clarity. It gives you an idea about what both of them are trying to do with their platform. Their aim is to be disruptors.

Annie: How has your company, RE-INC, evolved since it was founded back in 2019? And why did you decide to expand to a YouTube series and podcast?

Christen: Thank you for the original story. I actually remember that. We definitely feel like as a business we’re a startup baby. There’s a whole group of us, of people who emerged during Covid and had to deal with the craziest things as founders in our first year of business. And, to be honest, we’re really proud of all of the challenges that we faced and our ability to endure. And as you said, we set out as U.S. women’s national team players, professional players, women fighting for equal pay, queer women fighting for rights for humans. And RE-INC is exactly what you said it was then. It’s still that today, an opportunity for us to have a better relationship with our community and create something that will last way beyond our playing careers. And so here we are, it’s our five year anniversary coming up pretty soon. And we really see ourselves today as a three-c business, with commerce being our first enterprise and then community with it, which is our paid membership, and content. Content’s always been there. But really the emergence in the last year of our media division to reimagine the way women are seen and experienced in sport have kind of taken us back to our roots and to our ethos.

Everything that we do sits at the intersection of sports, progress and equity. And we really feel strongly that the women’s sports community, their values, extend far beyond the pitch — to the issues that they care about, like social justice, equality, queer rights, anti-racism, building new structures, and reimagining the world for the better. And so our business is a vessel to allow this community to come together and create collective action, connect through our love of sport and begin to shake up the status quo and be disruptors.


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Annie: How did you decide to do a YouTube series?

Tobin: It was a unique time for both of us because of our injuries. We knew that we weren’t going to be participating in last summer’s World Cup, which created an opportunity. It was something that came out of the frustration for all of us as women athletes that we used to talk about. When you’re playing, there’s only so much you can do to disrupt what I would say is the business of women’s sports, or the failings of the business of women’s sports. One of the biggest things that we just found such a big disconnect about was the way that our lives and our culture were kind of being portrayed in media. The way folks would talk about the thing we were doing that was so far from what we felt like we were actually doing. And it was kind of something we always laughed about. But actually what we found is that it was deeply meaningful to actually try to define our sports culture.

I believed at the time, and I still believe, we’re just scratching the surface of what women’s sports culture is, defining it, giving you a look, tone and feel. So much of our sports culture has just been adopted from the men’s sports culture, which honestly is very different from women’s sports culture. And I think now is the time that we actually get to kind of pick up the microphone and hold the camera ourselves and get to tell our own stories. We don’t have to kind of force ourself into what I found was a very small and narrow version of what the world was portraying as what a women’s athlete is.

We’re just blowing the lid off that, to actually show the full depth and breadth of what all women’s athletes are. And we’re excited to storytell. We’re excited to actually share our culture. We’re excited to get out of this performative nature that I think so many women are in, in so many industries, which is the expectation of what we should be rather than what we actually are. We found that during the World Cup this is something that our audience wanted a lot, that authenticity and trust of people that have been there before and done it. But what we really found was like, society actually needs this. We need this, collectively. It’s actually been really amazing to see our voices being used in ways that are so much further beyond sport. Because really what we found is sport is a common denominator. It’s a connective tissue for us to actually be able to talk about the things that we care the most about, which is the progress in the equity.

Annie: I’m in Portland, so Tobin I covered you with the Thorns, and Christen I’ve spoken to you before with the national team. Both of you are private people. Is it hard to put yourselves out there on YouTube?

Christen: When Tobin came to me and said, `hey, I want to do a show,’ I was shocked. I actually couldn’t believe her. I think the reason that we were willing in the beginning to even try is because we really see this business as a media platform. So, it’s not really a show. It’s a series of shows that you’ll see coming out over the next few years. And that’s really important because it does have a lot to do with the inspiration. Obviously, we are the faces of our business, and so it made sense for us to be the first iteration of what RE-INC Media looks like. We wanted to have this opportunity on our show to set the tone for what our culture can be and then invite other athletes, and other types of talent into that. So it was us being willing to go beyond our comfort zone, because I think the value there is really, really important.

I think your question was actually quite smart because it linked a couple of things together that aren’t necessarily understood if you just scrolled to YouTube and saw — Christen and Tobin are on a show. But the truth is, it was our show. Tobin spent months doing the creative, we controlled every element of the set, who was in the room. And there’s a very, very different feeling when you are being interviewed by somebody who doesn’t truly understand, or will always have a different input on what you can and cannot say and how you’re perceived. So I’d say it’s quite a different situation than when we were athletes. Tobin is a very private person. I’m like, so-so, but I think I have had a real discomfort with media because I never felt it was honest. I never felt like it truly reflected me. I kind of had a brand. I was a meditating athlete. I didn’t like soccer and I went to Sweden and I found my love for it — and it was a story that I liked, but it wasn’t a complete reflection of who I am. I think through the show, Tobin and I were able to lean into being our true selves, which actually felt really good, and being a lot more nuanced and complicated than you’re really able to be when you’re kind of on somebody else’s network.


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Annie: You pointed out there that it’s a business and you guys really controlled everything from the start to the finish. And I’m kind of curious, what was that like? What surprised you about putting this all together?

Tobin: I think there were two different things that we were up against. One was the business of a media division, and there’s a whole slew of hurdles that we had to go through. And honestly, I think the toughest are those that are always going to be capital-based for women. I say this over and over again — we always have to prove something first, and then we get the funding. But we had an exceptional founding partner in Ally for our first version of the show. I remember calling Andrea Brimmer (of Ally) and saying, hey, I want to bring gal culture to life around the World Cup. And she said, great, let’s do it. Those are conversations that are too few and far between, but the truth is that those are the conversations that are happening in men’s sports all the time. And honestly, male athletes that are actually in similar career positions, there’s very few that probably have done what Chris and I have done in our careers, an equivalent on the men’s side. But when they’re at our age and have the success that we’ve had in our sport, they can fund these types of endeavors themselves easily. And that puts them at such an advantage to accelerate.

So obviously we were up against a bunch of things. Ultimately at the end of the day, people always put athletes in categories where they can control them. So a lot of athletes are just seen as talent on somebody else’s broadcast, with somebody else’s middleman or middlewoman, that kind of sifts through what the story is and how it’s being told. For us, there was a complete understanding that we were building something for the future. We weren’t building something to just simply transact in the moment, we were building something that we’d want to look back on 100 years from now and be really proud of. Other athletes and other women who are starting businesses can look to us as an example.

I would say one of the hardest things is just that the world kind of wants to push you in one direction, and it’s an easy direction to kind of fall into. Constantly waking up with a long term vision and goal for our company, and for what we’re trying to do is challenging, but it’s also extremely rewarding. Chris and I knew from early on with our company that we were going to endure a lot harder of a path, but we knew that it was essential for what this business stands for. I think it goes into the authenticity that is then around everything that we’re doing and creating. So I’d say that’s from the business perspective.

From the creative perspective, it’s really hard to get out of, like, our performative nature as women. Because we have the full ownership of the show, the creative, the people in the room, if we start feeling that ickiness we can be like, `wait a second. that’s not us. That’s not who we are.’ We can be so intentional about every action that we’re doing, that were almost unlearning so many behaviors, which is kind of like an act of just shedding away so many layers of ourselves that we’ve just had to kind of put on, this performance of being a female athlete.

We hope that doing this as ourselves that it’s almost an invitation for all of women’s athletes and of women’s sports entities to actually lean into. I think what I really want to do is have a platform for all female athletes to just be themselves and almost, like, learn exactly what that that can be. I think that’s pretty revolutionary.

Here’s the latest episode:

LINKS!

Wave coach Casey Stoney rips NWSL for the schedule, from ESPN’s Jeff Kassouf. Wave are playing three straight on the road.

Jane Campbell signs 4-year extension, from Jackie Guttierez for Forbes.

Jackie also wrote about the Liga MX-NWSL Summer Cup for The Equalizer

Sandra Herrera of CBS Sports reports that Seattle is picking up Haiti captain Nerilia Mondesir 

Interesting story in Sportico about the NWSL rules surrounding private equity investment.

ESPN’s Jeff Kassouf wrote about teams improving the gameday experience.

The weirdness surrounding Portland’s appeal of Sophia Smith’s red card

LaCroix is the Wave’s new training jersey sponsor.

Vanity Fair spoke to Trinity Rodman

NBC 10 Boston with a story on Alyssa Naeher ahead of the Olympics

NY Times with a story on Copa 71, the new film about the first World Cup.

I wasn’t necessarily going to add an interview because I included my conversation with Tobin and Christen, but I was fortunate to be able to speak to Lo LaBonta and Elizabeth Ball after the 4-1 victory over the Thorns on Sunday.


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  • Then catch Angel City vs. the reigning NWSL champs, Gotham FC, on July 6th in style before the Olympic break. In addition to two premium tickets which include warm up field passes, the winners will also walk away with jerseys.

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Written by Annie Peterson