Tierna Davidson takes USWNTPA leadership role | Julie Ertz returns | New kits for the World Cup

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, April 3, 2023

This morning the U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association announced that Tierna Davidson was elected VP and Treasurer, joining President Becky Sauerbrunn and VP/Secretary Crystal Dunn.

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Sam Mewis decided to step away as she focuses on recovery from a right leg injury.

“The USWNTPA is so fortunate to have had Sam Mewis as a Player Representative and Treasurer. The respect and trust she holds within our membership allowed our group to have important and honest conversations around several difficult topics. Her person-first approach ensured all voices were heard and her humor made every interaction a treat,” Becky Sauerbrunn said in a statement.

Davidson is already embracing her new leadership role. I spoke to her about it and you can read a bit of our chat below.

A couple of thoughts: Davidson is back with the USWNT with her first official call-up. (She was a non-roster invitee to February camp.) So now the hard work begins: She’s competing for a spot on the team that goes to the World Cup.

It’s going to be tough, for sure. FIFA appears to be holding fast to the 23-player limit, and competition is tough on that backline. Davidson has an advantage in that she’s got experience. She was on the roster that played in France, as well as the Olympic roster. So she’s got big-tournament experience.

The thing that strikes me about Davidson: She’s smart and thoughtful. And now she’s developing as a leader. All of these things could give her an advantage in Andonovski’s eyes.

Here’s what Sauerbrunn said:

“I’ve admired Tierna’s thoughtfulness, intelligence, and composure from the first moment I met her. To have her as a Player Representative during this time of growth of the women’s game is hugely beneficial to all of us. As we continue to strive to improve global standards, having her strategic mind involved in the decision-making process will open new doors of possibility.”

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My AP story is here! Please show it some love. 🙂

Suzi Rantz recaps Saturday’s NWSL games for The AP.

I wrote about The Originals of the NWSL.

Current coach Matt Potter and Jessica Berman respond to allegations made by the mother of draft pick Mykiaa Minniss about her treatment by the team.

Ertz returns to the national team, from The Athletic’s Meg Linehan.

The Athletic’s Journey to the Cup continues with a feature on Gotham’s by Courtney Stith Ifeoma Onumonu.

Journey to the Cup’s update on Sam Coffey.

ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle evaluates VAR’s arrival in the NWSL.

The Denver Post rounds up the Coloradans in the NWSL.

I love this. All for XI is doing a series on Unsung Heroes. First up is Narumi Miura.

Ryan Dell named GM of Racing Louisville.

Natalie Portman talks to People about women’s sports.

The KC Current-Ted Lasso connection.

Bella Munson writes for The Equalizer about Emily Sonnett.

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Canada’s roster for April camp.

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Tannenwald on Julie Ertz’s return.

My story on Julie Ertz’s return to the national team.

The new kits have dropped. What do you think? IMHO the France polka dots will never be matched.

FIVE AT THE IX: Tierna Davidson, new USWNTPA VP/Treasurer

And finally, here’s my conversation with Tierna. Again, smart and thoughtful. Gotta love that Stanford education.

Annie M. Peterson/The IX: Before we talk about your new position with the union, I wanted to ask you about how you’re feeling, how your recovery went and what you’ve learned about yourself for being sidelined for so long.

Tierna Davidson: I’m feeling good. I mean, it’s been a long road and it’s definitely not done yet. I think if you talk to anybody that’s gone through an ACL recovery, it’s not just you know, getting cleared by a doctor and all sudden you’re back to exactly who you were before. So there’s definitely still some rust to shake off and just getting back into the swing of things. But I would say overall, it’s really, really good. I’m excited about that.

But I think one of the most important things that I’ve learned going through a long-term injury recovery process is the importance of being present and giving yourself grace and celebrating the small steps that you have. I think people are driven to be the best at everything and be at the pinnacle, the peak all the time. But when you get knocked down and get so humbled by an injury, your peak sometimes is you can take a step without a brace, without crutches or you can perform a squat without pain. These very small things. So, at the beginning, I felt like I was impatient and I was frustrated. When is this going to be over? But I think throughout the process, I really learned how to be patient and how to listen to myself and allow myself the space to do enjoy the good things, which is important when you’re going through something like that.

The IX: I’ve spoken to some folks who have said you were active with the team, even when you were sidelined. I found the approach very similar to Crystal Dunn, who had a very similar approach from coming back from pregnancy. She was really super active with the team and doing stuff. Why did you choose to remain active with your team?

Davidson: Every player handles an injury differently and knows what’s best for them. So some people have to focus on themselves and separate themselves a bit. But for me personally, I thought that separation would actually make me feel even more kind of isolated and down in the dumps, per se. So I thought that an important part of my recovery was to actually maintain my schedule which involved getting up and going to the stadium and training during my recovery and lifting and being around the team. Because, I think for me, what was so helpful was maintaining almost the schedule and the life that I had, so that I didn’t feel like I was super out of it. The times I felt the worst was when I was just sitting on the couch and it was like `Woe is Me,’ and I’m icing my knee and I can’t move anywhere and I can’t do anything. I think really forcing myself to be active and to be involved really helped because ultimately, for me personally, the most enjoyable part of my day is going to training, interacting with my teammates and maintaining those relationships and growing them. There’s no exception to that for me when I’m injured, even though I’m not on the field, it is still the most fun that I have in my day is being able to be around my teammates, being able to watch training, being able to be involved in any way that I can. So I think that was a very important part of my recovery to keep my spirits high.

The IX: Just as an outside observer, a lot of in the past year year and a half of lot of women’s soccer players have had trouble with ACLs — Cat Macario, Alexia Putellas. Do you did you reach out to anybody to talk to them about the recovery process? Or did you get support from any players who had gone through what you went through?

Davidson: Absolutely, and I think that’s really a very kind of centering and reassuring thing to do. Because oftentimes you think, `Oh gosh, am I behind in my recovery or should I be feeling this way?’ And more often than not, you get told that’s totally normal. But luckily enough, well not luckily, my fiance actually has torn both her ACLs. She was a soccer player, we played together in college and then she was a pro soccer player for a year, and she’s done both. So she was very well versed in all the recovery, nooks and crannies, and all of the specifics. Then I also reached out to Andi Sullivan, who is one of my good friends who also went through this in college, just if I needed advice, or had a question or just wanted a little bit of support. She was always really great as well. But definitely, Cat and I have spoken throughout our almost concurrent processes and chatted about how our recoveries are going and kind of kept each other in the loop. Unfortunately that’s her second one. She’s gone through it before so she has had a little bit of experience with it and hopefully she doesn’t have to go though it again, but she was also helpful and giving words of encouragement and support.

The IX: Moving on to the union stuff, I guess the question is why, why get involved in this, at this point in your career?

Davidson: I mean, I’ve always wanted to be involved in it. I’ve always greatly admired it. I’m a very big fan of processes and structure and all the behind-the-scenes work. And I think that oftentimes, we’re fantastic on the field and we’re celebrated for on the field achievements, but a lot of that success is also driven by many off-the-field. achievements as well and all the work that’s put in behind the scenes. I think the PA is such a big part of that. So the moment that I became a voting member I was, albeit lost in all of the intricacies of everything and how complicated everything was, but I was so excited to finally be a voting member of PA. So for a number of years, I’ve been hoping to step into this role and when the time was right, and that just happened to be this year, so I’m really excited to do it. I think that we can’t run a successful team on the field without the work that we do. And so I’m excited to keep that going.

The IX: Becky Sauerbrunn always talks about how she wants to make things better for the next generation, but you are pretty much the next generation so what is your goal in terms of serving?

Davidson: I hope to A. make things as good as I can for the tenure that I’m not only with the union executive committee but also the tenure that I have, hopefully, with the team. But also, I mean, it is true what Becky says, we are all very forward thinkers, we do want to make this platform better for anybody that comes after us. I think the reality is, with the national team is that you don’t know if the person that’s coming after you is you’re gonna meet them in the next camp, or they’re gonna come up to you in 10 years, or after for however long you are going to be on the team, you never know. So it’s really about making it better for every player, both present and future. I think that’s always been the goal. And I think that’s part of the reason that a lot of the work has been so successful and so rewarding for the players.

The IX: The Players Association, fought for and won equal pay and it was a huge, huge deal. So what is the next frontier for the players union?

Davidson: I would say, I think we’re starting to see it with FIFA, pledging to equalize prize money for the World Cup. I think that now, our eyes turn to `OK we’ve we’ve gotten a good foothold here in domestically and now like what else can we do internationally?’ You know, whether it’s helping other international teams with their federation’s, whether it’s FIFA, CONCACAF, whomever needs to hear from us. Because I think obviously, we’re a very influential voice and we’ve got a lot of power in that sense, and I think that we understand that and we hope to harness that as much as possible. We’ve already done some of that. But I think that’s probably the next the next step.

The IX: I’m wondering what can you as a union do in terms of safeguarding and making sure that players are safe and well cared for and out of harm’s way? The misconduct issues that have marked the past 2 NWSL seasons.

Question: As a union, obviously, it’s first and foremost to make sure that our own players and members are protected. Obviously, we are in constant communication, we make sure that players feel that they can bring issues to the table if they feel like they need to, and we can handle that. But also more broadly with you know, other international players, as you’ve mentioned, you know, players in the NWSL, but really making sure that we can use our power and our voice to basically force more legislation around that, force more structure. I think, a lot of what we’ve seen is such incredible exponential growth in women’s soccer, but there needs to be also that exponential growth in the rules and the policies and the structure to make sure that everybody is safe, everybody knows clearly what their roles are, everybody can feel comfortable and feel like they can thrive, both with players and staff and, coaches alike. And so I think that it really is about making sure that we have those things in place. You see it with U.S. Soccer, they’re starting to put together their safety task force to make sure that players all the way from, international, NWSL players to youth players, making sure that things like that are in place to make players feel comfortable and protected when they do their job, or their life’s calling or hobby, whatever age they are.

The IX: Obviously this is a massive, massive year. The national team has a chance to win a third consecutive World Cup. Also, World Cup years provide an a unique platform for players to make issues known. And, you know, we saw it with Abby Wambach and artificial turf in Canada and then we saw it with the Equal Pay in in France. What do you see as kind of the defining issues for the Players Association this year?

Davidson: I think obviously first and foremost we’ll be focusing on the soccer but this job does not come with soccer is the only focus. It doesn’t come with a lot of other added added pieces. And I think that something that I think about is how many eyes we have on the World Cup and how can we turn those eyes domestically to our game? Because obviously, we’ve talked about growth that’s happened in the NWSL and in other domestic leagues internationally. And how can they get more viewers, more fans to games, more investment because the opportunity is there. The quality of soccer is there. The markets are there and the markets are excited and how can we continue to drive those numbers up? We’ve already started to see that with the home openers for for many games in the NWSL have been record-breaking. We hope to get that energy throughout the season, but how can that become a constant? How can we get more games on primetime television? I feel like the really the only barrier to women’s sports should absolutely exploding is just access accessibility on TV, accessibility, news and social media platforms. Just putting us in places where we can be seen and let us do the rest of the work.

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By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
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Written by Annie Peterson