If there is a truth of consistency among women’s soccer in the United States it is simply this; inconsistency.
In the past months and weeks we, the women’s soccer world, have been brought to hype, the boiling point, and introduced to the newest rendition of what women’s soccer can look like in the North America: the National Women’s Soccer League [I would link their name, but there isn’t a website].
By now the world knows that there will be eight teams to start this new [old?] endeavor of a women’s league. After all, it’s become clear that two leagues in the United States are not enough, and national team players need some place to play; right?
As an advocate for women’s soccer, and owning my own program in Kansas City [not to be mistaken with FC Kansas City] it’s my obligation to do what it takes to grow the game of women’s soccer at a level past what we’ve excepted and accepted as ‘norm’.
Perhaps it isn’t my job; it’s my dream.
From Joanna Lohman, to Laura Taylor; across the Google+ Communities, and even the 140 character abyss known as Twitter; the reviews and raves [or lack there of] have been scattered throughout the midst of 0’s and 1’s. I’m not an individual who dictates, nor suggests what players should be doing with this new league. Honestly, if they couldn’t overwhelmingly support the Women’s Premier Soccer League or the United Soccer League W-League last year, without their own league [this is not directed to every player in those leagues, only some], then they’ll need to prove their loyalty and dedication with the National Women’s Soccer League.
However, more importantly [at least in my world] is the addressing of the ownership and management of these programs, and programs of other leagues throughout the United States, North America, and the world. I can’t relate to the players on the field, or the coach screaming their lungs out, but I can relate to the person in business meetings, traveling the country, working with sponsors, and trying to grow our own brand:
It isn’t easy.
My program; the Kansas City Shock, was placed in the Women’s Premier Soccer League for a wide variety of reasons, but the biggest reason was because of the ability to be in ‘sandbox mode’ for this team. In other words; unlike what Ms. Lohman stated; I wanted to market and treat a team like a business. In my world when I see “L.L.C” after a name; I recognize it as a business.
The IRS [Internal Revenue Service] says that the Kansas City Shock, L.L.C is a taxable, non not-for-profit program in the United States. Same legal and taxation rules as a Subway restaurant; why treated it differently? I refuse the notion of treating women’s soccer as a charity, but ignoring the request of approaching a program as a business? Foolish in my mind.
Over the weekend; during and past the robust [lack there of] announcement of the creation of the National Women’s Soccer League; the bitterness among some fans and some management staffs hit an all-time high. This is not directed towards NWSL, or WPSL, or the USL W-League; this is directed at the ownership of each of these programs. The moment that anyone elevates themselves above a potential fan base; their program will not succeed.
Fans are entitled to their opinions, and have the right to broadcast their thoughts via social media. Everyone knows 100% of the fan base will never be satisfied. Ranging from logo’s, to names, to business ethics of the past; someone will always complain.
The question doesn’t lie with what they, [the fan] decides to complain about, it is directly about how the ownership; the leaders of the company will react.
Small Example: We knocked around a few ideas for the logo that would represent the Kansas City Shock; our first attempt was this:
It was a good first start. I don’t hold anything against it, but the immediate response from the local media and potential fan base was less then satisfactory. That’s when a friend stepped up and took a crack at a new design.
It. Was. Not. Overnight. Success.
However, eventually we wound up with our current design:
This is our staple [along with many other variances of the concept].
Why did we go through this process? Two fold; I wanted our potential fans to know that we listen to them, and I wanted to show them that we listened. Secondly, bringing the person who designed our current shield on board with our program has been nothing short of incredible. All of our digital images and graphic design is done by them. Which, in the economic landscape of Kansas City is a great combination. Kansas City was recently voted one of the top young entrepreneur cities in the United States. This was a case of one young entrepreneur [myself] reaching out to another [Weber Creative Arts], both of the area. It spoke volumes to me, as an owner, that we must play to our strengths.
Some might suggest that my age, experience, or financial capability [or lack there of] would hinder the creation of the Kansas City Shock.
However, I also know that many times our biggest weaknesses can prove to be our greatest resources:
- Youth: I’m young, the youngest owner in the Women’s Premier Soccer League, and that is the perfect story line in Kansas City. Another young entrepreneur aiming to ‘make it’ in the City of Possibilities.
- Experience: I’ve never done this before, but I’ve been able to watch others make mistakes for me; the beauty of youth is watching those in front of you fail, so you don’t have to. In my brief lifetime I’ve watched ownership make mistakes [St. Louis Athletica], and leagues make mistakes [WUSA/WPS]. If I choose to; I can be different, and learn from those mistakes.
- Financial: It’s hard to wrap words of confidence in regards to finances with a new program, in a new market, with a new owner. However, what I’ve already learned is that when you’re honest, sincere, and upfront; people take notice. When you’re cup isn’t full; there are those [sponsors] who are looking to fill it.
Does that answer every question? Put me on top of the world? Not even close, but I will share these things as a heed of warning to the ownership groups that may have turned a blind eye, remained silent, or got wrapped up in other business. Your fan base is watching, very closely. They see the bickering on Twitter on Monday morning [and Sunday, and Saturday].
I would relate ownership, especially in the NWSL at this point, to being a preacher inside of a church. You’re a human, just like everyone else, but because you’ve been entrusted with the obligation to change the world in a positive light; everyone is watching your every move.
The reality is this: the players will come, they will be allocated, some national team players won’t be in the league, and on the field these teams are going to be very good [and knowing what I know now; I wouldn’t count out a WPSL or W-League program from that caliber as well]. Just like WUSA and just like WPS, the product is going to be amazing. However, just like basic soccer rules; if we wait for the ball [fans] to come to us, instead of us going to meet them; they’ll never come. Sure, a stadium will sellout the first time [first year] that Alex Morgan comes to town; perhaps even the first year. The question though; is with so much responsibility placed on the ownership groups of the new league; are they utilizing the marketing tools to build hype for when Alex Morgan comes to town? Abby Wambach? Or even the local up-and-coming?
Repeatedly I have watched several owners make reference to the same phrase:
Shoe string budget.
I know what my mother said about excuses…and we’ll just leave it at that. A budget is NO excuse for why anyone cannot market their product. How much does actively, in a non-aggressive tone using Twitter cost you? Facebook? Even a website? Yes, that’s what we’re all thinking; very little [usually nothing]. This is the best part of having limited resources when building a program; you are forced to be creative. Right now; aside from a video for the Portland Thorns; creativity within the NWSL is…questionable.
Call me a strange advocate [wouldn’t be the first time], but as much as I’d love to hold the US Soccer Federation accountable for everything [including potential lack of snowfall on Christmas Day]; I think that some pressure should be placed on the owners of not just the NWSL, but ownership of a women’s soccer program; period.
Overall, we know about the USL W-League; they’re around somewhere [at least we know a few owners now], the WPSL’s site is…horrible…just horrible. NWSL doesn’t have a site; player allocation information was leaked via the Washington [DC] Spirit’s Facebook page. Not to mention all three leagues cannot seem to get along with one another.
I’ll be an advocate for the players [even if I think some of them are a bit crazy]. As Coach Ortiz, our assistant coach, reminded me today in an e-mail; we all have jobs in our company, and it is a company. Mine isn’t to be on the field, it isn’t to direct practice; it’s to cheer on the weekends, it’s to shake hands and talk business in downtown Kansas City on the weekdays, and it is to be the business [not celebrity] image for our business.
To end this soliloquy I would like to para-phrase and interject my own into the long lasting quote of philanthropist; Eminem:
Will the real [women’s soccer team owners] please stand up? Please stand up?