USWNT Coach, Players Talk Impact Of Team’s Growing Profile
Before the USWNT's Victory Tour match against the Korea Republic tonight at Bank of America Stadium, coach Jill Ellis, D Crystal Dunn, F Megan Rapinoe and F Carli Lloyd spoke with THE DAILY about a range of topics including the growth of professional women's soccer in America, the evolution of the team's reach and the utilization of their platform to make a social impact.
GROWTH GAME: Ellis, who will coach her final match with the USWNT on Sunday at Soldier Field after more than five years at the helm, has experienced the profound growth of the program in terms of both corporate interest and attendance. She said, "Just the global reach of our game ... this past summer, I think it's taken off to a level that the rest of the world -- in terms of fan base and sponsorship and people getting on board with it -- I think it's just a whole 'nother level." She added, "Just in our attendance, that's part-in-part with just the success of the team, but it's also the players and their reach through social media and just who they are as people. And I think it's people finally recognizing and acknowledging that it's a really world class product. So, now you've got major sponsors getting on board, and obviously the fallout from that is the money to continue to evolve the program." Dunn agreed with Ellis that the state of women's soccer has advanced. "We obviously get impatient because we want it to grow a bit quicker and faster," Dunn said, "But I think us winning the World Cup has definitely propelled us in the right direction." On how the team assesses the progress it has made, Rapinoe said there are a "number of ways." Rapinoe: "We can assess it by attendance or our own social following or the types of appearances that we're doing or the TV ratings of the games. Our next contract will probably be a way that we look to sort of assess it (as well)."
REACHING OUT: Ellis believes she is leaving the USWNT in a healthier state than she inherited it, both in terms of her players' reach, as well as how they are compensated. "The reach and growth of the game -- it's (gotten) bigger," Ellis said. She added, "These players are household names. They're making a good living at what they do. ... They now enjoy the benefits of that." Lloyd believes the team's reach has led to a deeper connection with fans. "We've been doing really well with crowds coming back throughout this Victory Tour," she said. Lloyd: "It hasn't always been like this. ... We were barely pushing 5,000 people at games in 2005, so we've definitely paved the way forward -- made the sport better and continued to push it along." Lloyd added, "There's more people invested."
IMPACT ZONE: Perhaps no one involved with the USWNT has seen their reach evolve and grow more than Rapinoe, who chooses to use that reach to champion social and political causes. Rapinoe said her ever-expanding influence "went up significantly over night," adding, "I was kind of always crossed-over and have been out of sports, but even more so now." She said her goal is "talking about politics or talking about women's issues or whatever it may be to a group of people more than just sports reporters or fans of soccer." Rapinoe: "I feel like the reach is so much more cross-cultural and a little bit more global than it was before." Ellis said of Rapinoe, "I love the fact that she pushes people to use the platform that they have. ... Megan has always had a scope beyond what's in front of her, and I think looks at the bigger picture." Lloyd is also committed to making a sociopolitical impact through soccer. She said, "There's no better team than our team to be able to push things forward, break some barriers and make things better."