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“Elite”. One word, that is all you need to describe WPS, the players in the league, the coaches, and now the WPSL (Women’s Premier Soccer League). After WPS suspended the 2012 season, its teams, players, and coaches were left with two options; await the 2013 season to start playing or find a way to get on the field this year. Enter the WPSL. They are creating an Elite league which will include WPS teams the Boston Breakers and the Western New York Flash, former WPS team Chicago Red Stars, and FC Indiana.

One of the fears that came out of WPS suspending the 2012 season and the recent memory of the failed WUSA was what will happen to women’s professional soccer in the U.S. now. “The WPSL recognizes the importance of a professional women’s soccer league in America,” WPSL Commissioner Jerry Zanelli said. “And that it is critical to provide a showcase for these top women players, and to inspire young athletes. We have put together a plan that will allow WPS teams individually to join the WPSL in the Elite League. Officially, they will not be professional teams, but would allow our top professional players to play in a highly competitive league.” WPSL has always looked to support and improve women’s soccer in the US and this is just another part of that initiative. “We have said all along that we will do anything to help improve women’s soccer in U.S.” said Zanelli. “This is a step in keeping that process going.” Breakers coach Lisa Cole saw this as a necessity when at a youth camp, “This is why this has to happen,” she said. “These girls have to have these players in their lives. The excitement that they bring from talking to the professional player is so important. The influence that these players have on others’ lives is tremendous.”

This is another endorsement of the women’s game along with the flood of tweets from players and fans. Boston Breakers Associate General Manager Lee Billiard has seen this first hand. “After the suspension of WPS was announced, we received overwhelming support from our fan base and sponsors,” he said. “Internally, it was clear for us to keep the Boston Breakers in the community and to provide an avenue for players to train and play at a competitive level. We are delighted with the outcome and happy to announce the Boston Breakers will be playing again in 2012 and stepping up our community outreach programs.” Leslie Osborne ,frequent tweeter, was moved by the support when she tweeted “It’s very important (to) keep this franchise around, (We) have (the) best fans.”

With the suspension of the season, one big question on everyone’s minds is what is next for WPS players? This concern is well expressed by  Lisa Cole. “The first week was really, really hard; the conversations I had with each and every player on the team were hard,” Cole said. “Some players were extremely disappointed, some were mad, some players were in disbelief. You’re so close to a dream and it just doesn’t happen.” She went on to say “I love how they’ve responded now. Our team especially has been upbeat and positive in social media… They’ll be playing to keep their dream alive.”

But what does it all mean for the future of WPSL elite league and WPS? Jerry Zanelli, WPSL commissioner,  had this to say. “Our main purpose was to find ways to continue to have the highest possible level of soccer for women in the United States,” Zanelli continued, “and to help prepare for the return of professional women’s soccer in 2013. We also wanted to make it financially viable for present WPSL teams to join the Elite League and raise their level of play.” The elite league will look to expand in 2013 to the west coast. Interest has come from San Diego, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Bay Area, and Seattle.

What do you think about partnership between WPS and WPSL? Is this a good way to keep interest in women’s professional soccer? Or does this water down the progress WPS had made?

It feels great to be back in #WPSChat mode after a brief winter break!

Even in the off-season, exciting plays are being made. In this case, not by players but by Dan Borislow and WPS. Developments last week allow magicJack to play exhibition games this year, and avoid further legal action. Borislow was quoted as saying “It was a win-win-win here,” said Borislow via email. “I won, the league won and my team won. The fourth win is actually the fans and soccer.”  This week’s topic was suggested by longtime chat participant, unwavering advocate of women’s soccer, and Canadian through and through. Thanks to @Ingridium for the great suggestion!

Q1: Women’s Professional Soccer

  • How is this a win for WPS?
  • In what way may WPS lose with this outcome?
  • Will this confirm the detractors of the league? Why or why not?
  • What complications could come about from this decision?

Q2: Dan Borislow

  • How is this a win for Dan?
  • In what way might Dan lose with this outcome?
  • What are possibilities that Dan faces?

Q3: magicJack Team & WPS Players

  • How is this a win for the players?
  • In what way may the players lose with this outcome?
  • What does this mean for magicJack Team?

Join us on Monday at 8pm ET to throw your thoughts into the mix. Just log on to TwitterTweetchat, or Tweetgrid, and use the #WPSchat tag.

On my last day at the 65th NSCAA Convention, I’m saying farewell but I’m leaving inspired. The last day turned out to be the busiest, and to have a little international flavor to it. It started with an awards breakfast for women’s soccer, next was a session on social media for college coaches, followed by a lecture on player development in Mexico. This was all before lunch time. The second half of the day  kicked off with the NSCAA All-America Luncheon, then a lecture on Japanese youth development, and ended with a session on Australian women’s soccer. Here is my recap of my last (and busiest) day at the NSCAA Convention.

I woke up bright and early to take in the women’s soccer breakfast in honor Sue Ryan, winner of the 2011 NSCAA Women’s Committee Award of Excellence. There was a healthy dose of laughs from every speaker that kept the mood light and entertaining. The comedic line-up featured Amanda Vandorvort (Co-Chair, NSCAA Women’s Committee), Paul Payne (NSCAA President), Alejandra Miller (Adidas Representative), Joe Cummings (NSCAA CEO & Executive Director), Tom Sermanni (Australian Women’s National Coach), John Daly (College of William & Mary Women’s Coach), and the woman of the hour– Sue Ryan (Stony Brook University Women’s Coach). Let’s just say Sue may have a second career in stand-up comedy. Although the laughs seemed to be non-stop, Sue’s acceptance speech truly hit home for me.

After the light hearted breakfast, I was pulled back into reality by a session on social media for college coaches. This lecture was presented by Janet Judge (Sports Law Associates LLC) where she brought light to the seriousness of how social media could be used to the detriment of a university and the athletic program. Coaches in attendance got the do’s and don’ts on the use of social media and also the ins and outs of social media for their student athletes.

Next was the lecture on player development in Mexico. The lecture was presented by Jose Enrique Vaca Pacheco (General Coordinator) and Juan Carlos Ortega Orozco (Technical and Tactical Coordinator). This was very interesting- the national program’s mission is more than just sports related. It aims to help improve the lives of their players and social concerns of the country. This seems like a daunting task but the governing soccer body is making great leaps to achieve these goals. It was uplifting to see what impact the game can have on a life and a country.

After leaving this great session, I made my way to the NSCAA 2012 All-America Luncheon which was packed. The mood of this reception was fun as Joe Cummings continued his comedic routine from the morning and was followed by Sunil Gulati (US Soccer President). The main event was Taylor Twellmen whose story is nothing short of inspirational. If you are not aware of Taylor’s story, please take a look here –  ThinkTaylor.

That may already seem like a full, exhausting day, but I was energized and excited for the next session. Tom Boyer (Director of Tom Boyer Academy) presented on the development of the Japanese youth system. If you watched the Japanese Women’s National Team win the 2011 Women’s World Cup, you saw the outcome of the system that set the team up for success.  Soccer has clearly become a way of life in Japan. The development consists of using pop-culture to reach young athletes through TV segments, cartoons, and comics to teach them technical skills. The technical skills are reenforced through camps and soccer-specific schools.

The last event of my 2012 NSCAA convention was a session on the changing philosophy and perception of the Australian Women’s National Team. Tom Sermanni, the coach of the Women’s National Team, gave a first-hand account on why a change was needed and how he made it happen. Known for being a strong physical team and playing “not to lose,” Sermanni focused on becoming a positive possession team and going after the win. After watching his team play in the Word Cup last year, the connection and progression is clear.

I plan to close my convention with a big THANK YOU to everyone at the NSCAA– not only for their hard work putting on this event, but more importantly for what they do every day of every year to drive forward a game I love. Looking forward to seeing everyone next year!

Events over the past few weeks have got us thinking. Sports have the opportunity to transform, to unify people as a team and as a community. At the same time, these programs can cause real harm when leaders, players, and coaches fail to keep perspective.

With last season squarely in our rear view mirrors, we now have the time to reflect. We cheered on our favorite WPS teams and players, we celebrated a dramatic Women’s World Cup. But at moments in the past season, some may have found themselves asking what was taking precedence– the desire to win/save face or the desire to act with integrity. The chat will look at the impact of these moments on a sport, league, team, and player, if it differs depending on the allegation and what role the offender holds, and if the handling of the allegation is the most important part.

The chat will look to get your thoughts on WPS year three’s turmoil, leaving no stone unturned.

Q1: Dan Borislow’s Antics

  • What is the impact of this on WPS, magicJack team, and players?
  • Did WPS handle the antics properly? Why?
  • What are preventive measures that could be put in place?
  • How did Dan being an owner impact the handling of the antics?

Q2: The Treatment of magicJack Players

  • What was the impact to the players and the team?
  • What measures could have prevented this?
  • Did WPS handle this properly? Why?

Q3: Player Missteps

  • What is the impact of a player stepping out of line?
  • Does the impact differ depending on the player’s stature or role? Why?
  • Should WPS or the teams have punitive measures put in place? Why?

Join us on Monday at 8pm ET to throw your thoughts into the mix. Just log on to TwitterTweetchat, or Tweetgrid, and use the #WPSchat tag.

WPS received a boost in popularity and attendance from the coverage of FIFA’s 2011 Women’s World Cup. But even before all that media, WPS was being covered by bloggers, and to a lesser extent major publications and the TV networks. Though not at the level that hardcore fans would like, finding news about the league is a far cry better than it was in the inaugural season.

The chat this week will look to find what works with these outlets, what could be improved, and where you get your WPS news.

Q1: The Bloggers

  • What is the impact made by this outlet to the promotion and success of the league? How could the league promote this channel?
  • What is it that you look for most from this outlet and why?
  • What type of content would you like to see from bloggers?

Q2: The Major Publications

  • What is the impact made by this outlet to the promotion and success of the league?
  • What is it that you look for most from this outlet and why?
  • What type of content would you like to see from major publications? Does that change whether the publication is online or print?

Q3: The Major Networks

  • What is the impact made by this outlet to the promotion and success of the league?
  • What is it that you look for most from this outlet and why?
  • What type of content would you like to see from major networks?

Join us on Monday at 8pm ET to throw your thoughts into the mix. Just log on to TwitterTweetchat, or Tweetgrid, and use the #WPSchat tag.

The human body, admired from the days of the ancient Greeks and Romans. The athlete has been at the forefront of that admiration from the beginning with sculptures of the first Olympians. In more recent times, the physical excellence of the athlete has been spectacularly captured by ESPN magazine in the Body Issue. This year’s issue was released on October 7th, and featured Hope Solo on one of the covers. Past issues have had other WPS stars on the cover and in the issue from the likes of Heather Mitts and Natasha Kai.

Get ready to “bare all” in this week’s chat about ESPN’s Body Issue and what it means for the athletes covered.

Q1: The Athletes

  • What is the message sent to the fans or public by the athletes who pose? Does that message vary depending of sex?
  • What is your opinion of the athletes who pose?
  • How does the timing of the release of this issue with Hope Solo impact her media attention with her role in dancing with the Stars?

Q2: The Sport

  • What impact does an athlete posing have on the brand for the sport/league?
  • What type of attention is given to the sport? Is that attention the right fit for the sport?

Q3: The Future

  • What athletes would you like to see in coming issues?
  • Should ESPN keep publishing this issueand every year?

Join us on Monday at 8pm ET to throw your thoughts into the mix. Just log on to TwitterTweetchat, or Tweetgrid, and use the #WPSchat tag.

If you watched the Breakers v. WNY Flash game last night, you probably noticed the Boston players were saturated in bright pink. This is the second year of the Project Pink fundraising campaign to raise money for breast cancer research. With the WPS/Puma Project Pink initiative now in full swing, this #WPSchat will look at the cause, the fundraisers, and the sponsorship.

Q1: The Cause. Topics for discussion:

  • A good fit for the WPS?
  • Compared to last year, what do you think about the promotion?

Q2: The Fundraising. Topics for discussion:

  • How well do you think the Project Pink games bring attention to this cause?
  • What about the jersey auctions?
  • Or this years new addition, the sports bras auctions?

Q3: The Sponsorship. Topics for discussion:

  • How supportive has Puma been compared to last year?
  • Have you seen a marked difference in how they are marketing/getting behind this campaign

Join us on Monday at 8pm EST to throw your thoughts into the mix. Just log on to Twitter, Tweetchat, or Tweetgrid, and use the #WPSchat tag.

To honor Saint Patrick’s day, we’ll be hosting the #WPSchat version of a boiled dinner- lots of topics thrown in a pot to cook up some delicious discussion.

Q1: The WPS Playoff Format.

  • What are your thoughts on keeping the same number of playoff births with the decrease of teams in the league?
  • What other formats would you have liked to see?
  • What impact will the week off have for the teams prior to the championship game?

For more information on the playoff format, check out FIFA and the WPS.

Q2: The WPS Western Expansion Talks.

  • What is needed to have a sustainable market for teams in the west?
  • What is the right number of teams needed for a successful expansion?
  • What is the right formula for the expansion team (incorporation of a w-league team, partnership with a MLS team, etc)?

For more information on the WPS western expansion talk check out these two articles from the Examiner: Tiffany Weimer signs with the Vancouver Whitecaps and Whitecaps WPS Expansion.

Q3: The #WPSchat Tweeps Choice.

  • Let’s discuss whatever is on your mind. Pick a question or topic and work through it.

Join us on Monday at 8pm EST to throw your thoughts into the mix. Just log on to Twitter, Tweetchat, or Tweetgrid, and use the #WPSchat tag.

The big news this week in the WPS was the release of the 2011 regular season schedule. As it is President’s Day, we think it’s necessary to give the schedule the good old #WPSchat presidential treatment. Of course, with this being pre-season and without a game being played yet, these are only predictions.

Q1: The match-ups.

  • Which match-ups are you looking forward to seeing?
  • What late season scheduled games could have playoff implications?
  • Who do you see as the pre-season favorite to be league champion?

Q2: The TV schedule.

  • What are your thoughts on the balance of TV appearances for the teams?
  • Were any of the teams not given due TV time?
  • What are your thoughts about an expansion team getting the most TV time for the league?

Q3: The Break.

  • How do you see the break in the schedule hurting or helping teams?
  • How will the break and absence of national team players impact game attendance and the TV audience?
  • What are your thoughts on the break having the potential to disrupt a team’s momentum and/or chemistry?

Join us on Monday at 8pm EST to throw your thoughts into the mix. Just log on to Twitter, Tweetchat, or Tweetgrid, and use the #WPSchat tag.

This weekend, I went my first WPS draft.  It was everything I thought it would be- and more. This isn’t about who got pick when and who will play where- if you followed the draft, you’ll already know that. This is post is my first-hand account of what it was like to be there, on the ground, in the trenches.

Now the title of this post is a little misleading, my daft* draft day truly started the night before. I arrived in B’more (thanks to @ljbarks for this abbreviation, it is hot!) at about 10pm after a short flight from Beantown. The first daft moment of this trip: due to flight delays, I had to wait longer at the gate than to take the flight itself.

When planning the trip from BWI to the Hotel, I thought the most difficult part would be finding the MTA Light Rail stop. I was wrong. Purchasing the fare to board became the endless game of me putting money in and the machine spitting tickets out – each ticket I couldn’t use because of date or time restrictions. It felt like I was in Vegas playing the slots, and just like Vegas the house won! Eventually, I got it sorted and got on board, though was puzzled when no one came to collect my ticket. Apparently, riders on the MTA Light Rail can take a gamble on whether or not their tickets will be checked- just like Vegas.

Being thoroughly baffled by the purchase and collection of the fares on the light rail, I decide to ask a local to explain. The clerk at the front desk of my hotel didn’t offer any explanation worth repeating, so I asked how to get up to my room. Daft moment #2: The big marble staircase in the lobby doesn’t go anywhere- I was told I may get stuck half way up. Hmmm, I decided it was better not to ask and to take the elevator.

At that this point I couldn’t imagine what was in store for me now. I took my first cab ride for under $20. (Coming from Boston, a $6 cab ride is unheard of.) I pulled up in front of a bar, and I was then transported back to my clubbing days – waiting in lines to get in, walking through a sardine can of people with the music pumping, and getting stopped at and then pulled into the VIP section. I then moved onto a more casual locale and hung with the crew from @OurGameMagazine! I bumped into Lisa Cole (Boston Breakers assistant coach) and was told later that I was in the same area as Bruce Arena. The evening ended with a shared cab ride that (supposedly) cost over three times what I paid for the ride there- Daft moment #3. The cab didn’t look any different, no hot tub or bar?!

Given my transportation problems of the night before, I decided to rely on my sturdy and reliable legs to get me to my destination. My day was packed, with a blogger brunch/new media mixer, and then to the 2011 WPS Draft.

The blogger brunch/new media mixer at Pratt Street Ale House, sponsored by Demosphere, was a gathering of the online community built to support the WPS. It was great to finally meet @Vandey01 – got to give special props to the queen. If you don’t know her, you’ve got to. And if you need something done in your org, get her on the payroll. (Yes I’m a big fan!) It was fantastic to meet fellow WPS bloggers/media – @writerwood, @jenna_awk, @ljbarks, @jeffkassouf, @fakesigi, and @duresport. Honestly, you can’t beat great food and good conversation.

After filling my belly and expanding my mind, it was on to the big event of the day. The room was a buzz with media setting up, the webcast crew getting started, league officials preparing, and the team officials putting on their games faces.

The pre-draft atmosphere can only be compared to a locker room prior to the start of a game. The camera and video cases being opened and closed like lockers. The opening of laptop cases and bags like the unzipping of equipment bags. The shuffling and placement of laptops, cameras, and video recorders like the shuffle for athletic gear. And then it was time for the game to start.

Kristina Hentschel started with the opening remarks announcing the two new sponsorships for the WPS- Playtex and Sahlen’s Hotdogs. Then CEO Anne-Marie Eileraas announced the league’s possible expansion, building the anticipation for the draft like the playing of our national anthem at a game.

It was time for Kick-off- Rob Penner, the WPS Director of Communications, opened the draft, and the Western New York Flash were on the clock. It was the first build up, pass after pass until an opportunity on goal was available and the Flash selected (you guessed it) Alex Morgan. (Now you can decide for yourself if that was a goal or not!) The draft went on like this- pick after pick, just like a close game with each team looking for opportunities to score. And the Boston Breakers were standing at the end when the final whistle was blown. Just like post-game coverage, the media was up and ready to interview.

Then all the excitement and anticipation was melted away as everyone left the room. Lights turned off, and all was peaceful again just like the stadium after a game.

*A disclosure on the journey you undertook – the definition of daft used throughout is meant in a positive light with humor and merriment. I would go back to B’more in a heartbeat!

I would like to thank Amanda Vandervort (@Vandey01), Ryan Knapp, and Rob Penner (@rdpenner) for making my daftly 2011 WPS Draft day possible.

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