Chrissy Webb doesn’t want you to support women’s soccer because it is technically better (although she might make that argument) or because you can articulate a political reason for doing so (and she does make that argument). Rather, when it gets down to it, Webb wants you to support women’s soccer because, “It brings me joy, and I want others to share that joy.”
I’ve been wanting to write about women’s soccer in Nashville for awhile now, and this moment—when the USWNT is making its way toward the finals in the Women’s World Cup—seemed to be the perfect moment. For a lot of people, this might be the only time they pay attention to the women’s game. And it might be the best time to direct attention to the local game and the local community that supports women’s soccer. On that local level, Chrissy Webb has persistently been a vocal advocate, trying to draw attention to the game and acting as one of the admins for a local National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) supporters page. Indeed, she's written about her support in Nashville before.
So, first, why watch? If you listen to Webb, she’ll tell you that part of the beauty of the game is that is so technically beautiful, with the women working on perfecting their skills. She makes the fairly standard argument that the women are more likely to stay on their feet or bounce back up quickly from a foul. Moreover, she notes, “It you want to watch a game that is about perseverance, about giving up your body for what you love, it’s the women’s game.”
In addition, at least for Webb, she has discovered that the soccer fan community—for both men’s and women’s games, has given her a place where she feels like she fits in, a ready made community of friends and family. While she finds that in the larger watch party gatherings, she also finds it, and embraces it, in some of the smaller local and digital groups that support different women’s soccer teams.
Finally, while Webb doesn’t think you can sustain fanship on politics alone (i.e., the sport must be fun), there is indeed a political (and pragmatic) reason to support it. If you value the success of the USWNT, and if you value women having access to the game at different levels, it just makes sense to support it. That is, if we want to continue to see female players develop and hone their skills, they need a way to play full time. Currently, many of the “professional” players have to have second jobs to make enough income to live. By supporting it, we bring advertising dollars, which brings better pay and better conditions (note: current minimum salary is $16,538). In Webb’s mind, we need to support it at all levels, so there is a lifelong ladder for women to climb.
What can be done locally, then? Webb dreams of an NWSL team associated with Nashville SC but realizes that might be awhile. She reports that owner John Ingram has told her, when asked, that it’s on his radar but the first priority is to get the franchise up and running for next season.
Webb notes that, in addition to all of the local university teams (Vanderbilt, Belmont, Lipscomb, MTSU) that a great team to support is the Nashville Rhythm, out local Women’s Premier Soccer League team. The team plays at Father Ryan High School with the season running May through August. Local soccer superfan Clay Trainum makes a concerted effort to go to a lot of local men’s and women’s games and found the Rhythm to be a fun (albeit mellow) time. He and a group of Roadies attended a recent game to provide their support and plan to continue to attend (the next home game is this Friday night at 7, against North Alabama SC).
In terms of the marketing of the game, both Trainum and Webb observe that there often seems to be an attempt to market the women’s game as a “family support.” While Webb certainly hopes the game is welcoming of families, she thinks that the game will only grow a fervent and committed fan base if it is marketed as something a little more edgy, a little more welcoming to everyone. Right now, when soccer is opening up so much in Nashville, is just the right time to make that push, she says.
And if it’s not going to be done from the top down, Webb thinks it can be done from the level of the fans themselves.
The above is an opinion piece. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Speedway Soccer as a whole.