Before the television, the internet and the birth of social media technology was not available to enhance and grow careers, goals, businesses and people’s perceptions. However, the digital age that is among us now has the capability and the power to provide people with life changing benefits. The evolution of technology is expanding and the positives that stem from this can clearly be seen in the development of sports, and specifically in women’s soccer.
Soccer has been around for centuries, but women’s soccer matches that are organized and structured have only taken place for the last fifty years or so. To this day the United States is known worldwide to have one of the most dominate Women’s National Soccer Teams to ever play the game. They currently stand number two in the world behind Germany according to FIFA rankings, and have won gold medals in three FIFA World Cups and in four summer Olympics. However, it was the 1999 World Cup that was held in the United States where USWNT made America fall in love with supporting their World Cup journey and the sport of women’s soccer itself. The US Women had won a World Cup in 1991 but according to the famous Nine for IX documentary on the ‘99ers they sought no increased attention or publicity. Three fans supposedly greeted the 1991 World Cup team at the airport when they returned to the U.S, and the players jokingly said that one of them was their bus driver. They had hopes their victory would increase the popularity of women’s soccer, but that was not the case. At that time there was no internet or social media, and despite this tremendous accomplishment that no other American male or female soccer player had even done nobody had a clue about it. This non-technological era that the women’s national team was established in continued to make it difficult for the sport to develop and gain a substantially bigger and loyal fan base. Without the support of TV, radio and other media broadcasting members the USWNT was struggling to accomplish their dream vision of women’s soccer in America. The USWNT experienced some lows on the field as well when they lost in the 1995 World Cup to Norway. This also lead to uncertainty if Americans would rally around and support the USWNT despite their recent defeat in a major world championship. As yet another four year cycle went by the players on the ’99 WNT admittedly said when the 1999 World Cup rolled around that they were too still unsure if fans would come to their matches. During press conferences, which was a step in the right direction for WNT players, they said they believed their matches would be sold out but really they did not believe so. Initially, that was a legitimate doubt for the players to have because prior to a few days before their first 1999 World Cup match tickets weren’t nearly flying off the shelves. However, as game number one got closer the empty seats started to be filled with fans and by kickoff there was not an open seat in the stadium. Match one of the 1999 World Cup had the largest crowd to ever watch a women’s soccer match. They’re success during the tournament started to make the front pages of papers and the number of Americans that watched the games on the television was astonishing for that time and for that sport. The persistence of the media to constantly interview USWNT legends Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, Michele Akers and Julie Foudy is how the players themselves were able to inspire Americans. They did a lot of inspirational things on the field, but the role models they presented themselves to be in the media caught the attention of the American public, and from then on these soccer stars went from unfamiliar faces to celebrities in the media. They’re performance on the field and character off the field made this 1999 group of females a remarkable sports team and one of the most influential in the history of American sports. The 1991 World Championship team may have had players with the same qualities as the 1999 team, but the social media was not there to capture it and make it known to the American public.
Eighteen years later, the combination of the 99’ers success and lovability, and the overall growth of women’s soccer allowed for the formation of a women’s professional soccer league in the US. In addition, and debatably most importantly the creation of the first women’s professional soccer league had a lot to do with the increased media coverage and digital technology that had a great impact on soccer and the sports world in general. Interestingly also, the announcement of the first women’s professional soccer league came just a few days before the WNT took the field for the championship match during the 1999 World Cup. The WUSA was the name of the league, and unfortunately it came and went. They’re marketing let them down, and the women who devoted their lives to growing the sport felt defeated. They saw how much more difficult it was to handle building a name and brand for themselves to grow the sport on the media verses before the media when all they had to worry about was performing to their best ability for their teammates. The life of a player pre and post the evolution of the media was significantly different, and the women post the media era felt overwhelmed when they did all they could to promote the professional women’s soccer league and it still was not enough. Overall as well, the marketing for each team was not at the level it needed to be, and that burden also fell on the players themselves. Luckily though with time the evolution of better publicizing techniques transpired and women’s professional soccer was back on the map when another league called Women’s Professional soccer was founded in 2007. Again a couple seasons later this league also folded in 2012.
Now, there is a more stable league today called the National Women’s Soccer League which was founded the same year the WPS crumpled. Many may ask why the NWSL has survived longer than any other women’s professional soccer league and how the NWSL has made it five years and is looking to expand and add more teams. The answer simply is the power of technology and social media, and how the players, teams and games are promoted. What’s great about seeing more and more fans going to support the professional league today is that they are likely attending matches because of how much more women’s professional soccer matches are encouraged to go to today rather than ten years ago. Attending these matches may have little incentives like meet and greets with the players, autographs and free t-shirts, but many people also go now because of the genuine love they have for the sport.
The most impressive addition to the NWSL however is the fact that they signed a deal with a national television station on Lifetime this year. The strides women’s soccer has made by the television of games every week is remarkable and it is exciting to see how much the support has grown for the league. Fans are more willing now to watch games on the TV as well as still going to support their local professional teams that may be in their area more them ever. When soccer fans can’t make a NWSL game in person, their favorite team is not featured on Lifetime network that week, or they simply are not near a TV than the games are streamed on an app available for most technological devices called go90. The resources are there to follow and support the professional players in the league, and they themselves are happier as well because now they have more support in the media and all around. That burden and responsibility of growing the game also falls less on them, allowing the players to put most of their time and energy into playing.
This is all a result of the respect that female athletes and especially soccer players are getting more so now then ever before. Since they are getting the respect from the media this allows them to be positive role models for little girls who have dreams and aspirations to be a professional soccer player or play for our country one day. All those littler girls don’t just have three or four role models they can look up to in women’s soccer, but now they have many more because the TV, radio, and other broadcasters have expanded their female soccer pool of players to put in the media. These players can be seen in commercials, on billboards, in video games, and they are pretty much unavoidable now.
Recently, I have found myself in a position where I as well can be an inspiring story and female soccer player for little girls to look up to. The reason I feel so passionately about the growth of this game is because of the experiences and life lessons it has taught me. I have gained many quality traits from surrounding myself with hardworking and dedicated people. They have taught me that if you want to be the best you have to train and compete against the best. This environment that I have put myself in forces me to bring my “A” game each and every day and that not only makes me better, but my teammates better as well. I have the mindset that I would go through fire to accomplish my goals and that when things aren’t going my way I have the courage to overcome my fears. I train purposefully and always show the fans my passion for the game in my matches. I will continue to work hard and learn and I know if I do that than everything will work out.
New Jersey is where I am born and raised, it’s where I played my club and college soccer, and I have gained a lot of fans over the years in Jersey that follow me today now with my soccer career with Rutgers and the Women’s National team. I share my experiences, my thoughts, my upcoming matches and encourage people to be fans of the game and follow my favorite teams on all of my social media platforms. My Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat are open to the public and I use them to promote my mindset on soccer and life. I also use them to share some of the opportunities soccer has allowed me and who has helped me get to where I am today. Since I am pretty heavily followed on the media by young kids and mentors and coaches of my own I am extra conscious of what I post. Even though I am still in college myself my social media accounts present a professional and humble side of me. How I portray myself in the media is important and it is taken seriously because again my main objective is not only to be a great soccer player but an even better person off the field.
I have seen the benefits of social media in the development of women’s soccer and the American public has as well. In addition they and I have also seen the perks of the television, internet and other technological devices and how it has impacted this sport for females. Informational is so valuable and the way in which it is effectively transferred now a day is on the media, which is seen on by people with access to computers, TV’s, cellphone and other devices. If we lived back in the time period of very little to no technology than women’s soccer would not have given me and many other women worldwide the unexplainable opportunities and life lessons. I am thankful technology and women’s soccer has both evolved and developed, and I confidently can say I believe that will continue in years to come. The positives of social media as far as the growth of women’s soccer out weight the negatives. Those negatives will of course present challenges, however nothing will ever be able to take away what Americans now know as the beautiful game.