The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, May 25, 2020
Memorial Day edition: Breaking news on group training — Interview: Kelley O'Hara and Haley Rosen — Must-click woso links
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Safety and numbers
First off, I hope all of you are all healthy and staying safe this Memorial Day. Wear a mask! Not just for yourself but for others. Remember the sacrifice made by those that we honor today.
There was a bit of BREAKING NEWS this morning with the NWSL (reporters always feel compelled to put the words “breaking news” in all caps).
The league is allowing small group training starting today, then full team training in five days. Here’s the release.
Obviously that’s problematic for some teams, like the Reign, because Tacoma hasn’t had stay-at-home orders lifted. So the team is on the move, holding small group workouts in another county.
The Reign said the team may have to leave Washington state to hold full team training.
“Everybody in the club is excited to finally be back out on the pitch to train, if only in a limited capacity for now,” said Reign CEO Bill Predmore said in a statement released by the team. “We are taking things slowly and carefully to ensure that we keep our players, staff, and members of our community safe. We expect to share our plans for Phase Three later this week.”
It certainly seems like plans for a Salt Lake City tournament in July are a go. But there are still soooooo many questions.
I know of at least three national team players who are still not “in market” with their teams.
Becky Sauerbrunn, who I spoke to Friday, said she’d like assurances that there’s adequate testing.
“100 percent,” Sauerbrunn told me. “I think that’s definitely a major question that we as players have asked the NWSL and also for U.S. soccer, is what is the testing protocol?” she said.
Sauerbrunn rightly expressed concern about the safety of support staff and those “in the bubble” besides the players. Would testing be extended to those around the teams.
One player I spoke to off-the-record also wondered if there was enough time to properly train for a tournament. With full team training (possibly, for some) starting next week, that puts us into June. As proposed, it is my understanding that the tournament would get underway later in the month. Not a lot of time.
“Well, I think the most important thing is to make sure that everyone’s safe, that if we do put on a tournament, that it’s as risk free as possible. And obviously there’s always going to be risk,” Sauerbrunn told me.
Caitlin Murray wrote about some of the questions today for Yahoo Sports, echoing what I have heard, but also revealing that as many as five national team players are opposed.
I was thinking back to the Beijing Olympics in 2008, where there were extensive security measures in place because of the possibility of a terrorist attack. The bubble meant you had to remain in “clean” zones. The media village where we stayed was walled off to any outsiders. Buses would pick us up and take us to the media center, again walled off to outsiders, then another bus would take us to the venues, where we were separated from fans and thoroughly searched. The buses were searched and monitored every step of the way. If you left a “clean” zone you had to go through extensive security to re-enter. I went for a walk through a neighborhood on the night of the opening ceremonies to see if regular folks were watching/paying attention — and I was followed. In the media village there were armed guards posted 24/7 about 30 feet or so apart.
Wondering if Salt Lake might look similar, obviously without the armed guards.
We could find out sooner than later, as Caitlin reports an announcement could come as early as Tuesday. Stay tuned.
(Reminder: First, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. ESPECIALLY NOW, as newsrooms are forced to make difficult choices. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me! firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Also breaking today: The Women’s Super League season is over. Here is the release from the FA.
This is what I had intended to write (Mostly) about today: FIFA and FIFPro announced collaboration to support women’s soccer amid coronavirus concerns. FIFA says that could include investment above the $1 billion pledged last year.
Katie Whyatt spoke to FIFPro player reps about the campaign to raise the women’s game for The Telegraph.
Whyatt also wrote this wonderful piece on Marta.
The Thorns have new kits. And they’re fine. Here’s The Athletic’s Meg Linehan taking a deep dive into the design and execution.
Meg also looked at the issues surrounding the Salt Lake tournament.
The Equalizer’s Jeff Kassouf on what we know, and don’t know, about the tournament.
Ali and Ashlyn spoke to People magazine about love during the pandemic.
The New York Times looks at the allegations of sexual abuse by Haitian soccer officials.
The diversity panel in soccer journalism was amazing. Meg Linehan, Stephanie Yang, Bria Felicien, and Sandra Herrera were included in the panel discussion. Southside Trap has a great recap. And yes, we all need to do more to ensure that diverse voices are in this space.
Here’s my daughter wearing the white kit!
A couple of notable podcasts: First, Charles Boehm spoke to Yael Averbuch West and Alyse LaHue for the Soccerwire podcast.
Grant Wahl is back! He’s got a podcast Futbol with Grant Wahl. In this episode he talks to Julie Foudy.
Jeff Kassouf’s Kickin’ Back podcast this week features Beverly Yanez.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t link to one of my favorite podcasts, the Mixxed Zone, from Jen Cooper. The latest episode includes talk about England and Phil Neville.
This kinda went under the radar, but Yuka Momiki joins the Reign!
Tweet of the week
Five at The IX: Haley Rosen and Kelley O’Hara
The goal of The IX is we want to lift up women’s sports. So I was excited about Just Women’s Sports.
Haley Rosen, former Stanford and Washington Spirit midfielder, launched Just Women’s Sports in January. If you haven’t signed up for their newsletter, I highly suggest it. It’s awesome. They already have 20,000 subscribers!
Haley was dismayed that just 4 percent of sports coverage is dedicated to women. She wants to change that. Just Women’s Sports is a multi-faceted platform. In addition to the website and newsletter, a podcast is set to debut in June. And the host of the podcast is Kelley O’Hara! (Loud cheer).
I spoke to both of them about Just Women’s Sports. Here are some excerpts from the conversation.
Haley: “Our initial mission was to exclusively be a newsletter. But we realized really quickly how little 4 percent is, which I’m sure you’ve felt as well. We went to a website pretty quickly to start curating our own stories. And we really believe that audio is going to be huge for women’s sports. You know `millennials’ are on an audio platform and I think we’ve got to reach out and meet our fans where they’re at.
The audio is gonna be huge for us. And Kelley is going to be the host of our first-ever podcast, which we’re like beyond excited about. And I’ll kind of kick it to Kelley to take it from there.
Kelley: Well, it kind of happened serendipitously. One of my friends reached out and said Hayley’s starting this media platform for women sports, she’s interested in potentially having you on as an advisor. The funny part of the story that I was super busy and hectic post-World Cup, and I was like, `Let’s do it, let’s talk,’ and didn’t touch base for probably two months, which was on me. But we eventually got on the phone, Hayley told me about Just Women’s Sports and I was stoked about it from the beginning. Through the conversation, I was asking questions in terms of, `What’s your plan? Where do you see this? What’s the vision? What’s the future look like?’ And she brought up wanting to do a podcast. And I’ve loved podcasts for a while now: Serial was my first foray into the podcast scene and got me hooked on that. So I was like, oh, I’ve always wanted to host a podcast.’
So that started the ball rolling. And it’s taken a while just because my number one job is professional athlete and I had a pretty crazy schedule up until quarantine hit. But I went and did a recording in New York in February, it went really well. And we’ve just been kind of chipping away ever since then and we’re almost to the point where we’re gonna start recording and get this thing kicked off.
Haley: We really learned early on, part of our job is building the women’s sports base. And we think part of doing that is taking this cross-channel approach and reaching out and trying to meet people where they already are. Which is why we’ve been totally digital first, that’s why we’ve prioritized newsletters and social, and why we’re going to an audio medium.
A big push with this podcast is, it’s sort of our first chance to really get in front of these athletes and have their stories shared with their own voice, their own perspective. So we’re definitely going to repackage that content for social, for YouTube, in our newsletter. We want to spread it far and wide.
Annie: How has coronavirus impacted what you are doing?
Haley: When we initially launched in January, it was sort of like we hopped on a treadmill that was going like a million miles an hour and now that treadmill is stopped. Which, selfishly, has let us sort of build out our processes and be really strategic. We’ve actually seen tremendous growth during this time. Our theory is basically people are home bored and hungry for sports content. We’ve been able to supply that. Our newsletter just passed 20,000 subscribers. It’s growing. Our Web site is growing 40 percent month over month. Our social channels are growing. I give all the credit in the world to our team that I think has sort of stepped up to this occasion.
Kelley: I think a lot of people looked at quarantine and the coronavirus and everything being shut down, like how do we continue? Because there isn’t sports content content to talk about. But I think Just Women’s Sports has done a really good job of finding those interesting stories and focusing on them. The content is still out there. The stories are still out there. And like you said, slowing down a bit has allowed us to prepare for when things do ramp back up. And the fact that the growth has continued in a time where there might not be as many stories in terms of like actual sports headlines, I think that’s a testament to how successful it’s going to be even with forward.
Annie: What was your inspiration?
Haley: For me, and it feels lame even talking about my soccer career with Kelley on the line, (Kelley chimes in `stop’) but it really was my experience in soccer. At Stanford they had to build a bigger stadium when I was there to accommodate all the fans which was really cool. And then, I was in D.C., I was in the U.K., I was in Seattle. Everywhere I went we were selling out stadiums, attendance was up, viewership was up. New brands were coming on board. There was so much momentum in this space. Then I had hang it up with injuries, went back to the Bay Area, was working in tech, and it was the first time — I’d always heard about this 4 percent, the lack of women’s sports coverage — it was the first time I felt it, and I felt how much of a bummer that was because I had been a part of this world my whole life. I knew these women. I loved the sport. I wanted to follow along. And there just really was no way to do that, besides following people on Instagram and seeing like `Game Day! So Pumped! Great team win!’ or whatever it was. That didn’t make sense to me. I just knew there was so much positivity in that space, and that people want this. It’s time to really invest in the women’s sports space.
Annie: Kelley, did you ever envision that your career would include podcaster?
Kelley: No, not really. It’s interesting, I’m the type of person who would rather sit down and read an autobiography or an interview in a magazine, something that tells us a person’s story and journey. I love learning about people’s lives. So I think that’s why I was so drawn to the opportunity, because I really enjoy hearing those stories.
And yes, as athletes, we tell our stories, but to be able to sit down and just have a conversation with somebody is so different than like having it through a lens of like, a company or sponsor telling your story.
I’ve come to realize through my career, I feel the last couple years I’ve come to know how important visibility is. And I don’t think that we have enough visibility for women’s sports. Like, you look at ESPN and they’ll cover — and I’m not knocking ESPN, I watch it — but they’ll show like, a horseshoe ring toss or whatever, as opposed to putting women’s sports on. They’ll talk about the most obscure storyline in the NFL, instead of dedicating 15 minutes a day to covering all the women’s content or other women’s headlines. For me, it’s frustrating. And I appreciate the fact that Haley was like, You know what? I’m going to to do it.