My mother always advised my never to 'burn my bridges' as any good farm gal would do to their children. Meaning this: know your roots, know your people, and don't lose them for anything because they're the ones that will enable you to cross the treacherous waters of life.
What's even better in life is learning not to burn your bridges, but also to be able to plan and build up more bridges.
Women's soccer in the United States is a bridge building crossroad. After a wonderful victory over Italy today at Toyota Park in Chicago, Illinois, the national team has now officially qualified for the 2011 Women's World Cup that is being held in Germany. At the same time the college level women's soccer is noticing something in their ranks that they have not seen before: diversity. Out of 28 national titles for women's college soccer in the division 1 status colleges, 20 of them have been won by the same team: University of North Carolina. Don't get me wrong, they are an outstanding program that every person should envy. However, as the post season of the college season closes in...UNC is no where to be found.
Today we talk about bridges, spanning industrial pieces of art that connect one land mass to another, usually covering an area that one cannot carefully traverse through. Yes, this has everything to do with women's soccer. While I could spend time discussion the national team, we know they won, we know they're heading to Germany, and we know that we've got 6 months to talk ourselves blue about it. This time around we focus on the ongoing theme, a professional, proficient organization of women's soccer/football inside the United States.
Ready for this?
To properly identify that a bridge is needed we first must understand what we're connecting. Many times it tends to be two large land masses. Shockingly, women's soccer in the United States has that to offer:
A. National Team: It truly is the gem of women's soccer in the USA. '99 World Cup Champions over China in a shootout INSIDE the USA. Numerous and I mean numerous gold medals in the Olympics since women's soccer was included as an Olympic sport in the 1996 summer games in Atlanta, Georgia (btw...USA won that one als). Even most recently the 2008 Olympics where they borderline upset national powerhouse Brasil. Point being this: don't mess with the US National Team, they mean business (even if they lose to Mexico).
B. Collegiate Level: As reported by the New York Times this years NCAA Division-1 (D1) could most definitely see a first time winner for the national title (unless Stanford or Notre Dame win). Schools not just from soccer conference powerhouses are in the race (Oklahoma State University). Even Notre Dame, who won titles in 1995 and 2004. Put this into perspective, there are over 300 D1 women's soccer programs in the United States. Since it's first NCAA tournament, there have only been 8 schools to win the title. Point being this: the reason we see diversity in the college field, like the leveling of the playing field in the national spotlight is because women's soccer is becoming that much more popular.
Now we come to a crossroad. If the child athlete is fortunate they can hop on a boat and put across from the college level to the national team (Alex Morgan would be a prime example). However, there are several student athletes that are extremely talented, but need the extra boost before they're ready for the national team OR they're amazing athletes, but the roster can only hold so many of the 'best of the best'. We need something for college students to go into after college, there needs to be some sort of bridge between the national team and college athletes.
Hello Women's Professional Soccer: You can claim this blog as nothing more as another argued attempt to spark interest in WPS during the off season, but understand that this bridge is a must. When you've got as many talented young soccer stars at the US does, something needs to be there for them after college. Imagine this: Alex Morgan, we all know she is a talented player for the national team, but can you picture her on a WPS team? Or what about the turnout for todays game? Almost 10,000 people showed up to watch the national team in Chicago. I know it is a stretch, but that does demonstrate that the population is there, the people will go. Folks, that's 10,000 people that showed up on one of the biggest days of college football for the year in the US. That's something huge!
To make this article short and sweet (to make up for taken 0's and 1's that I've hogged over past weeks), I present to you 'the list' of things needed to construct this bridge:
A. Blueprint: Like all engineering marvels, before things are built, things are planned. "Measure twice, cut once" is the rule. Women's soccer at a professional level has been measured twice: WUSA and WPS. The question of course is if the WPS format can make it. Remember, the WNBA started 1996 and the very first team that turned a profit, happened this year.
B. Time: Build it fast and careless and you get the Hyatt Regency disaster. Build it slow and carefully, you get the Hoover Dam or the Eiffel Tower. Leagues are no different, those who are carefully planned out tend to survive, those that spend without limits, tend to fold. Once again I bring in the difference between the WPS and WUSA.
C. Supplies: Many things go into a bridge, many materials, and in such events the same is true for sport leagues. Of course the primary material is the players, which the US and other countries have plent of. Other materials though, tend to be harder to find, such as capital, sponsorships, and of course the media desiring to cover events. Right now this is where the WPS is struggling, certain materials aren't being found, primarily media usage and the sponsorships.
D. Support: Bridges both physical and metaphorical both require support of the people. Both are taxing events and because of that they will directly affect the public one way or another. Before a bridge is ever built and ground is ever broken, the people of the area swear/vote that they will indeed support such an adventure. Once again, in the WPS world, support is lacking. Without support, projects dry up, and nothing but broken earth is left as a memory of what could have been.
Call me passionate and borderline insane and more then likely I'm going to agree with you. I'm a dreamer and I dream of projects, and I think about what can be and I know the WPS can be not just a bridge, but a beautiful beacon in a world that can be rather dark. We just need to follow the instructions, blend well, and pour out a future.
Some folks in Kansas City, Missouri got this idea as well (more so in the literally bridge sense) and this is what they just recently came up with:
(Thanks to Missouri Department of Transportation for this shot)
Dreams are nothing more then ideas that need to be put on paper first.
5 Random Thoughts:
1. On a Jet Plane: Way to go United State of America National Women's Soccer Team (why so long) on a great home-and-home win over Italy to punch your ticket (the last country to do so...btw) to the 2011 Women's World Cup in Germany. Looking forward to seeing you at it, but please, by all means take a break next month.
2. Quote of the Day: "FIrst of all I'd like to appologize for the first 20 minutes of the game, we looked like crap." -Pia Sundhage- to ESPN following the USWNT win over Italy.
3. There is no group of death, the whole thing is death: 16 teams are in for the World Cup in 2011. Unlike the men's side, there is no "Group of Death" because each team, for the most part, are absolutely terrifying. Here they are: New Zealand, Australia, Japan, North Korea, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Brasil, Columbia, England, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Mexico, and the United States of America. This tournament will NOT disappoint.
4. Dear ESPN: I understand that ESPN3 has become your scapegoat. I get it. However, if someone is located at a Starbucks and wishes to watch a game via ESPN3, please give instructions on how to create a AT&T account to access the game (missed the first 10 minutes).
5. Personal Note: Update on the teaching job. No word yet, I'll know for sure next week whether or not I got the position. A interesting note though is that while in the interview the people up top made note of my past with soccer, both playing and coach, the day after a head coach position opened up at that specific high school for the men's soccer team. A sign? Perhaps. My wife and I are sitting on needles waiting to hear back from them, still hoping for the best, and still planning just in case we get the worst.
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