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The road for women’s professional soccer in the United States has been– simply put– bumpy. There was the first rendition in WUSA, then the second go-around with WPS, and now the NWSL. The one team to have weathered every storm is the Boston Breakers. Boston has hosted a professional women’s soccer team in every league. During the year between the collapse of WPS and the start of the NWSL, the Breakers even kept it going by forming a team to play in the semi-pro WPSL Elite.

Even with all this change, one thing remains constant for the Breakers—every player is excited for another chance to showcase their talent and love of the sport in front of the best fans. Since the announcement of the new league in November, more exciting news has been announced. Just last week, all teams in the league announced their allocations of the National Team players from USA, Canada, and Mexico. Lisa Cole returns as head coach for the Breakers, and the organization started the Breakers Academy, a youth development program.

I was able to catch up with some of your favorite Breakers; Katie Schoepfer and Heather O’Reilly to get their thoughts on the recent and exciting news.

Katie Schoepfer:

On Lisa Cole continuing as Head Coach:

“I’m really looking forward to Lisa being the head coach again. I think she is a great coach. Last year she really believed in me, and brought our team along. […] She can break down video like crazy and she very good at those kinds of “x’s and o’s” things in the locker room which I think helps us out tremendously. […] I think overall she is very much a player’s coach. She looks for a lot of input from her leaders and her team, which gives us some ownership. We’re able keep open lines of communication with Lisa and she is very receptive to it which is great for our team.”

On the new Breakers Academy:

“I really hope that girls around Massachusetts take advantage of the fact that they will be able to play and be coached by professional players and professional coaches. […] It is an honor for us to wear the Breakers jersey, so it is pretty cool for a 10-year-old girl to be able to put on that jersey too.”

“I love coaching, and I love being able to work with different teams and different age groups. Besides playing, it is one of my passions. I hope to get involved with the Academy as much as possible.”

On Heather O’Reilly:

“My rookie season I played with her in New Jersey with Sky Blue. There is really nobody like her. No one can match her work ethic. She loves to play and she loves the game. That’s really contagious on a team. You can tell the difference when she is at practice, and when she is in games. For me personally, it just gives me so much more energy because I try to match everything that she is doing. I’m looking forward to playing with her again. ”

Heather O’Reilly:

On the growth of soccer in the U.S.:

“I think as a U.S. player and a fan of soccer in our country, it’s exciting to see soccer take hold in our country. It’s amazing to be a part of this growth and another step for U.S. Soccer to advance the game in our country. I think in the last two years, with the 2011 World cup and the (2012) Olympics, we are proud of the stronghold we’ve had in terms of the attention (soccer has received).”

On teammate Sydney Leroux:

“Syd, although coming off the bench (for the U.S.), she pumped in 12 goals. That was all off the bench! I’m really proud of Syd as a player. She’s handled herself very well on and off the field. And, she’s entertaining.”

On teammate Heather Mitts:

“Heather Mitts is somebody who is just the perfect teammate. She’s always going to be fit. She’s always going to be ready to go. She provides so much to the team environment.”

Her opinion on players for Mexico and Canada in the NWSL:

“It’s an interesting dynamic. I can’t even guess how many games I’ve played against (Rhian) Wilkinson (one of Boston’s players from Canada) on the National Team. I’m excited to have her on my side this time.”

On Friday, May 18th WPS made two announcements. One was that the pending legal battle between the league and magicJack owner Dan Borislow was settled out of court. This news should have put any WPS fan in a good mood and fill them with hope of the league’s return. The second announcement, though expected, left no doubt in the fan’s mind that it wouldn’t return. In the second press release , the board of governors decided to suspend all league operations indefinitely.

This week’s chat will explore the larger meaning of the WPS finale.

Q1: WPS Lawsuit Settlement

  • Was this the sole reason for the suspension of league operations, a small part of it, or no part at all? Why or why not?
  • Are there any winners in this settlement? Who? Why or why not?
  • Was Facebook the best communication medium to use for this announcement? Why or why not?

Q2: WPS Suspends All League Operations

  • Did this announcement catch you off guard? In what ways? Why or why not?
  • What impact did WPS have on the landscape of women’s professional soccer in the U.S.A.?
  • Was Facebook the best communication medium to use for this announcement? Why or why not?

Q3: Women’s Professional Soccer

  • What pressures are now on the two major professional leagues?

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 future of women’s soccer in the United States of America was volatile when WPS made the decision to suspend the 2012 season due in part to resolving legal disputes. This period was short-lived as two established leagues positioned themselves to fill that gap. The WPSL has filled the demand by pushing up the date to create their Elite league by a year, bring in former WPS clubs the Red Stars, the Breakers, and the Flash, and having the teams sign talented players from the WPS. The USL W-League already had a pro league but are now able to increase the talent pool by signing former WPS players. Both leagues will start play in the week of May 7th. But does this mean the future of women’s soccer is safe?

The chat will look to explore the future all be it without a time machine and answer what does the future of US women’s soccer look like at the professional level, college level, and youth level.

Q1: US Women’s Professional Soccer

  • Is there enough demand to support two leagues, possibly three (return of WPS)? Why or why not?
  • Could or should there be inter-league play?
  • What impact does this split have on the structure of professional soccer and feeding system for the national team?
  • What complications does this create for players?

Q2: College Level Women’s Soccer

  • What impact does having or not having a professional league have on the college game?
  • What new decisions are players now confronted with when deciding their future after school?
  • What impact would be felt by athletic programs at universities?

Q3: Youth Level Women’s Soccer

  • What impact does having or not having a professional league or role models have on the interest of youth toward the game?
  • Does this change the landscape of the youth women’s game? Why?
  • What is the trickle down impact that could be felt by youth organizations?

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.

After only two short weeks from the deflating news that WPS was suspending the 2012 season, we have been offered hope. This week WPSL announced the creation of an elite league which would include WPS teams. As describe in And They Play On, the Boston Breakers and the Western New York Flash have joined in. They will be joined by the Chicago Red Stars and FC Indiana. This keeps professional level women’s soccer play and players in the U.S. for 2012.

The chat will look to explore what this means for WPS, the players, and the game of women’s professional soccer in the U.S.

Q1: Women’s Professional Soccer

  • What does this do for WPS?
  • In what way may WPS benefit from this?
  • What impact does this have on the future of WPS?
  • What complications could come about from this decision?

Q2: The Players

  • What benefits do players get from this decision?
  • What decisions are players now confronted with?
  • What are the future considerations for the players?

Q3: The U.S. Women’s Professional Game

  • How is this a win for the women’s game?
  • Does this change the landscape of the women’s game? Why?
  • What does this mean for the future of U.S. soccer?

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.

“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.

My second day at the NSCAA convention was all about the player. The first event I attended focused on the differences in coaching female versus male athletes. Then I learned about a new product by Korrio that supports player safety. But the highlight of the day was seeing players have their dreams fulfilled by being drafted into the WPS. Here is my recap of Day 2 at the NSCAA Convention.

I started the day at a lecture about effectively coaching female athletes presented by Vanessa Martinez-Lagunas, a FIFA women’s soccer instructor. This session really broke down the differences from a scientific basis and first hand experience . Vanessa was diligent in providing concrete information as well as practical ways for coaches to handle and coach to the differences in female players. I was impressed with the presentation and delivery. Anyone attending that session should feel confident about coaching female players.

I took a break from the lecture schedule to meet with Steve Goldman, the CEO of Korrio. They are adding to a new tool to their existing youth sports platform that helps manage player safety. The Computerized Cognitive Assessment Tool (CCAT) by Axon Sports will allow families and sports clubs, teams, and leagues a convenient way to manage concussions in young athletes. The platform allows leagues, teams, and clubs to require a baseline test during registration. This test sets a standard for each individual player, keeping track of their behavior before a concussion or head injury. In an instance where this test hasn’t been done, it is near to impossible to determine that child’s state of mind prior to them getting the concussion. Prior to CCAT, a parent would need to schedule an appointment with their child’s doctor to get a baseline test done– imagine fitting that into your already busy schedule. With concussions on the rise (1 and 10 athletes will experience concussions this year ) Korrio is taking a lead in helping leagues, teams, clubs, and parents conveniently manage player health and safety.

The day ended with a bang– the WPS draft. It was touch and go for a moment (the internet crashed), but that turned out to be a tiny blimp on the radar. The room was brimming with energy and excitement  as players and teams started to fall into place. WPS CEO Jennifer O’Sullivan lead the way and I believe this signifies a lot of what is to come; with the challenges she and the league have faced thus far, they’ll need to maintain that positive outlook to keep prevailing. Speaking from the live event side, this year’s draft was a step up in the right direction from last year. The commentary and interviews with players and coaches in between breaks were interesting and insightful.

Tomorrow is the my last day of the convention and though I don’t want it to end, I’ll make sure to enjoy every minute!

The NSCAA convention is like a gathering of the collective coaching mind. As a soccer enthusiast, it is comforting to know that the future of the game is in such good hands with an organization like the NSCAA leading the way.  I’ll be posting my thoughts about the convention every day, and tweeting out live too. If one thing has become clear after my first day here, it is that coaches at all levels are putting the best interests of their players first. Here are some the highlights from Day 1 of this exciting convention.

The first event of the day delivered everything that I could have hoped for from this convention– a lecture on the importance of the development of mental coaching. The panel consisted of four college coaches and a doctor of Nuero-science. The two coaches from the men’s side were D. Masur from St. John’s and J. Martin  from Ohio Wesleyan, and the two coaches from the women’s side were A. Dorrance from North Carolina and J. Rayfield from Illinois. The coaches discussed their views and methods on training and developing players mentally while Dr. R. Tarer backed their methods with scientific fact. The room was packed—there was standing room only. It was great to see everyone taking this seriously and learning from these experts. This can only make one feel comfort that these coaches have but one interest – developing people.

The next event, though not as focused on the mind, also pointed out that the coaches here are forever learning. This event was a lecture on scouting for the U.S. Women’s National Team for the 2011 World Cup. Marcia McDermott, Assistant Head Coach for the USWNT, and Janet Rayfield, Head Coach of Illinois, lead this lecture. Janet was a scout for the USWNT during the World Cup and shared her experience. I was impressed by the care that she and the other scouts took in their task – it was interesting to see how this then translated to the pitch. You can see this reflected in the success of the team on the field. Every member of USWNT saw the larger picture.

This next event was the low for the day. The lecture topic was propelling the women’s game forward with a panel including Jennifer O’Sullivan ( CEO of WPS), Jim Gabarra (Head Coach of Sky Blue FC) and Leslie Osborne from the Boston Breakers. Why was this a low point? Because the event was cancelled . A shame, because I think it would have been a terrific learning environment for everyone here. You can’t tell me this didn’t have great potential.

I wrapped up the day with an award reception for college coaches. I won’t bore you with the details– we all know how award ceremonies go. The best highlight was the focus on the ethics of the game and awards given for outstanding performance. It was a great way to close out the day.

At the end of Day 1, I’m energized. The NSCAA has issued coaches, players, and soccer fans a challenge to live up to some high standards—to develop not just great players but great people. By sharing their knowledge and dedication, we’re all in a better position to meet this challenge. I’m on board. Are you?

It is hard to believe that the 2012  draft is less than a month away. Just last week, the WPS site released a list of top picks for the 2012 WPS Draft  in run up to January’s events. And this gives us an opportunity to look at how these new players can affect the league.

As the 2011 season played out, many WPS teams became aware of their deficiencies and one of the key ways to address them is in the draft. In years past, WPS draft picks have made big impacts for their teams, in the league, and in the world of soccer. 2010 WPS rookie of the year Ali Riley was the right fit for FC Gold pride, helping them win a championship. 2011 Rookie of the year Christen Press was a top 5 leader in the league for scoring. Overall #1 picks Tobin Heath and Alex Morgan have been stellar in international play, helping the USWNT to be one of the best in the world. The draft has proved that women’s college soccer programs develop quality players that are WPS ready.

The chat wants to know where you thought teams needed to improve from the 2011 season, which college players you think will stand above the rest, and who has the ability to come out strong in their WPS debut to bring balance and improve team performance.

Q1: The 2011 Season

  • The Beat: where do the need to improve most from the 2011 season?
  • The Breakers: where do the need to improve most from the 2011 season?
  • The Flash: where do the need to improve most from the 2011 season?
  • The Independence: where do the need to improve most from the 2011 season?
  • Sky Blue: where do the need to improve most from the 2011 season?

Q2: The Prospects

  • Which players have the talent to make a big impact on WPS in 2012?
  • What are your top 5 picks coming out of college?
  • Who do you think will be in the running for the 2012 WPS rookie of the year?

Q3: The Perfect Fit

  • Which college players fill the gap for your WPS team? 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.

Welcome to another special edition #WPSchat with our friends at Our Game Magazine.

Recent events have shone a light on the business side of sports– be it the WPS sanctioning or the NBA and NFL contract disputes. As I was reading the December issue of Our Game Magazine, I was reminded of the human side of this sport. The Letter from the Editor set this tone for me where Editor-in-Chief Tiffany Weimer talks about how her life has changed thanks to soccer. Throughout the issue, I kept seeing this theme from The Ali Krieger Story which chronicles one player’s inspirational story to Officially Famous that spotlights the best women referee tandem. These talented people may not have the chance to shine if not for the opportunities offered them by top leagues like WPS.

All too often, business takes the center stage in sports. In business, many times economics out-weighs social responsibility and humanity. In WPS, I’d go as far as to say the reverse is the case– whether we realize it or not. Should WPS fail, the impact will be more than one more failed business venture. There are real consequences in terms of the jobs of players, referees, front office staff, and coaches, not to mention the dreams of American youth, the progress of current players and the sport itself.

We here at Pitch Side View suggest you check out these articles and others in the current issue of Our Game Magazine.

Q1: The Human Side

  • What does the possible closure of WPS mean for players?
  • What does the possible closure of WPS mean for referees?
  • What does the possible closure of WPS mean for coaches?
  • What does the possible closure of WPS mean for soccer programs, organizations, and camps?

Q2: The Progress

  • What loss in the gender equality of soccer and sports will be seen?
  • What loss in the progress and development of women’s soccer will be seen?
  • Will it be a step back or road block for the dreams and aspirations of soccer folks? 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.

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