BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) – << 1 , 2 , 3 : Previous pages
Women soccer players do not play in isolation. They play in a rich context that celebrates women's accomplishments as athletes. That world maybe not be on television as much as we wish it were, but it is out there. And it's that world that needs our support.
On the ground, as a participant in Southern California's soccer world, I see a bigger family taking shape in this sport. As is well known, right now the current development system excludes those who can't afford to participate in "traveling clubs" or the Olympic Development Program (a major feeder for the US women's national team, the USWNT).
Players exist out there, young girls who dream of playing for the USWNT but attend schools whose resources have been stripped for parts. I regularly see teenagers in pickup games whose schools have no teams for girls, just as I see talented young men in local leagues who've never received a minute of serious coaching. Few of the people I am thinking of expect to get a college education, especially now.
These are the young players our development system needs to nurture, but the current system doesn't know how to "see" and support them. They grow up with free and open play, girls play against boys, against girls and women of different ages, playing outside of institutions that could identify and promote their talents.
The current system has been locked too much into its own sense of its "product" - and everyone knows it. This is as true for the women's program as it is for the men's.
All of which brings us back to our friend at FIFA. His aloofness and distance reminds us that you can't look to an organization like FIFA to solve the problems in the women's game. Who wants change from the top ?
The guy that presented FIFA to us that day in Frankfurt had absolutely no interest in us: A bunch of geeky Southern California teachers, dressed in jeans and USA gear, motivated by a real passion for the communities that form around our game.
We are not the kind of people to wait for some guy in a suit to market the game to us, to tell us what we want and how we want it packaged. We aren't "product" people.
We show up to the game. And as we do, we change it.