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September 11, 2020

In recent years, women’s football has experienced tremendous global growth.

The 2019 Women’s World Cup was an international success, celebrated at a time when many countries were developing stronger national leagues through an expansion of the sport at the youth level for a whole generation. In his Sports Industry Outlook 2020, Deloitte named the rise of women’s sport as one of the five biggest trends affecting the industry, with soccer (or, as the rest of the world calls it, soccer) as a key driver.

And then the pandemic struck.

“It was this cruel irony,” said Victoria jackson, sports historian and professor at Arizona State University.

But the surprise is that, despite the pandemic, “women’s sports around the world are currently continuing to rise,” said Jackson, a former professional runner and track athlete for ASU and UNC.

Then again, if you consider the story of generations of female athletes enduring immense challenges, it might not be so surprising after all.

“Hustle and bustle is in the DNA of female athletes,” said Jackson, who won the NCAA National Championship for the Sun Devils in the 10,000-meter. “It’s gratitude, it’s a responsibility, and it’s agitation, joy and innovation… We can face this pandemic,” she said.

In the most recent from ASU The Convergence Lab event, Jackson met three professional footballers who embody energy, responsibility and innovation, on and off the pitch: Caprice Dydasco of Sky Blue FC, Karen Bardsley of Manchester City and Daniela Solis of Rayadas of Monterrey.

Victoria Jackson, ASU sports historian and former professional runner, discusses the future of women’s football with Caprice Dydasco of Sky Blue FC, Karen Bardsley of Manchester City and Daniela Solis of Rayadas of Monterrey. Image courtesy of Mia Armstrong

The athletes, who have all played in national teams at the junior and / or senior level, discussed their respective journeys to the top of the world game.

“I was pretty much born on the soccer field,” said Dydasco, who grew up in Hawaii in a family of soccer players. Dydasco, who is currently working on an ACL tear, has survived a number of injuries throughout his career.

“The injuries were part of my nightmare, but also made me stronger,” she said.

Dydasco’s resilience in the face of injury, Jackson said, is one example of the many lessons in the sport athletes take with them off the court, court or track: a tolerance for discomfort, difficulty, pain and a willingness to do the hard work to get over it.

Bardsley grew up between the goalposts in California before eventually moving to England, his parents’ home country.

The goalie position “probably allowed me to be a little more myself because I wasn’t afraid to be physical, to hinder the ball, to roll in the dirt and to dive, to be a little unique, ”she said. .

Solis, who grew up playing soccer in the United States before playing at the college level for the famous Tecnológico de Monterrey and at the professional level for the Rayadas, has always found that the sport opens doors for him educationally, and his education has, in turn, opened more doors for him in sport.

“You have to have an education to support yourself. It has always been my motto, ”she said.

The players have witnessed and led positive change in their sport, and they are determined to build a better future for the athletes who will come after them. Jackson, who is writing the very story these women are making, is optimistic about the future, even in the face of unprecedented challenges.

“Women have always brought creativity and joy to the sports space, and despite efforts to push them to the sides and the sidelines… they kept playing,” she said.

“If we harness what we’re doing well and ignore all the distractions and the people trying to fight what we’re building,” Jackson said, “we’re going to build something… amazing, and these other sports leagues are going to try to. reproduce what women build for themselves.

At the end of his own career in the field, Dydasco hopes to return to Hawaii to build a training facility to help young athletes develop their skills and open doors for them to be discovered by college coaches. She would also like to establish an injury prevention program.

Bardsley also hopes to create an environment where young players can find mentors, coaches, teammates and role models they can see themselves in, thereby challenging harmful stereotypes and misperceptions.

“I think my ultimate goal is parity, not just on the pitch, but in the boardroom, in society,” she said.

Solis sees huge opportunities for up-and-coming athletes in the Professional Young Women’s League in Mexico, and her biggest goal right now is “to pave this way for a new generation” to be able to make a living from the sport. His advice for this generation? “Be stubborn and just strive for what you want, for dreams come true.”

Bardsley and Dydasco agreed.

“Just persist. There are times when you will have extreme highs and lows, but it’s the people who choose to stay and keep fighting that end up reaching the top, ”Bardsley said.

“Soisto yourself. There is no one like you on the ground. So know your strengths and weaknesses and keep working on your weaknesses. But don’t be afraid to ask for help either,” Dydasco added. .

Watch the entire event on YouTube. Register for the next Convergence Lab event, on the future of urban mobility, on September 22.

Written by Mia Armstrong, ASU Convergence Lab. Top image: Courtesy of Pixabay.

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