Playing against boys | Professional league in waiting, competitive instincts still burn for U.S. women

Hayes alludes to the Atlanta association’s outreach in offering clinics, coaches, referees and playing space for Boys and Girls Clubs of Atlanta. These players otherwise would not have resources to join the elite traveling youth clubs that demand heavy investments of time and money as well as a stable family structure.

“Every so often their instinct is to pick the ball up with their hands,” says Hayes of having participated in such events. “Soccer is an awkward sport when you think about it. You’re using your feet. It’s funny to be out there with all your friends, and everybody’s kind of in an awkward situation, because you’re all using your feet, you’re not used to it.”

As far as bringing the game to places where women’s soccer challenges cultural norms, Hayes mentions the efforts of former U.S. international Tiffany Sahaydak (née Roberts) and others in helping to bring American players to South Africa through Goals for Girls (see the online Washington Post coverage at “Worlds United”).

Tracy Ducar, another member of the 1999 World Cup–winning team, participated in a recent camp in North Carolina for Hispanic girls. The camp was the idea of a 15-year-old player at East Chapel Hill High School, Elicia Hyde-DeRuyscher, who said she noticed that women and girls merely watched while Hispanic men played in weekend leagues (Cheryl Johnston Sadgrove, “Camp Helps Boost Latina Girls’ Soccer Skills,” Raleigh News & Observer, Aug 20).

Paul Cuadros, coach of high school girls’ and boys’ teams in Siler City in central North Carolina and author of A Home on the Field (Rayo, 2006), tells the Raleigh paper of the positive effects from having started the girls’ side six years ago: “The girls, they want to play on the big field, under the big lights. It’s a real draw for them. It is for the boys, too. It’s the whole idea of playing in front of their community.”

Sources

Katharine W. Jones, “Building the Women’s United Soccer Association: A Successful League of Their Own?” in Football in the Americas: Fútbol, Futebol, Soccer, ed. Rory M. Miller and Liz Crolley (London: Institute for the Study of the Americas, University of London, 2007); Andrei S. Markovits and Steven L. Hellerman, “Women’s Soccer in the United States: Yet Another American ‘Exceptionalism,’ ” in Soccer, Women, Sexual Liberation: Kicking Off a New Era, ed. Fan Hong and J. A. Mangan, Sport in the Global Society (London and Portland, Oreg.: Frank Cass, 2004), 14–29.

Update

The Women’s Soccer Initiative on Sept 4 announced definitively that a new professional league—after what would be a hiatus of six years—would launch in the United States in spring 2009. Tonya Antonucci, former Yahoo! Sports director and Women’s Soccer Initiative CEO, will become league commissioner (“Women’s Professional Soccer League to Launch in 2009,” Women’s Soccer Initiative, Sept 4). Antonucci said in the press release:

Soccer’s popularity has exploded in this country and a women’s league is a logical byproduct of the sport’s ever-expanding fan base and following. We also now have a range of digital and online capabilities that allow us to put women’s soccer front-and-center among fans and sponsors. But ultimately, it all comes back to the fact that our league will boast the world’s greatest athletes playing the world’s greatest game. … The new league is taking every step to ensure that this league is a permanent fixture on the nation’s professional sports landscape.

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