Men’s, Women’s Soccer Enjoy Supportive Atmosphere In Beehive State
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – According to the Real Salt Lake and Utah Royals FC head coaches, the disparity between men’s and women’s soccer programs – not only in the United States, but also across the world – doesn’t exist in Salt Lake.
The two coaches sat down for Episode 3 of the Mike Petke Coaches Show, which for all intents and purposes turned into Episode 1 of the Laura Harvey Coaches Show.
Harvey joined Petke and host Brian Dunseth to talk about her journey from England to the United States. She talked about what Utah Royals FC and the soccer culture in Utah has meant to her after the team’s first year – and what she expects going into their second as a member of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).
In their first season, the Royals just missed a spot in the NWSL playoffs. They averaged 9,500 fans per game, but had a high of 19,203 in attendance for their inaugural home game against the Chicago Red Stars.
Their sophomore season opens on April 20 against the Washington Spirit at Sandy’s Rio Tinto Stadium.
Harvey and Petke agreed – the culture and environment in the RSL organization make it easy for both women’s and men’s teams to work together.
Prior to arriving in Utah, Harvey was the head coach at the NWSL’s franchise in the Emerald City – the Seattle Reign. It was her first stint as a head coach, having come from Arsenal LFC as an assistant, but was looking for something more out of her career.
It was then that she received a call from URFC owner, Dell Loy Hansen. That call changed everything.
“He sold me on something I hoped was true,” Harvey said of her first interactions with Hansen. “You could see there was a genuine want for (women’s soccer).”
Since arriving in Utah, Harvey said she’s felt a respect for her talent and ability that has been lacking everywhere else she’s been in her career.
“I’ve never felt so involved and so empowered and so respected in an organization than I have here,” she said. “Not just as a human, but as a football coach.”
Equality For All
One of the positives that has stood out to both Harvey and Petke with regards to how Hansen has organized the clubs, is that both teams are on equal footing when it comes to everything – meals, travel, training facilities, etc.
“The hard thing is, the bar was set so low,” Harvey stated of her earlier organizations. “The previous experiences a lot of the players we had, weren’t great. They were coming from environments where they weren’t providing them with the things they felt they needed to be successful athletes. Dell Loy enabled us to do that.”
“That’s what blows my mind,” added Petke. “On the way home from their first game, I asked my wife and two sons if they enjoyed the game, and they said, ‘Oh yeah, it was awesome!’ It wasn’t, ‘It’s a good girls game.’ I’m glad we’re talking about this.”
Harvey added that there is more ground to cover as far as equality between men’s and women’s sports.
She told Dunseth, “I think the bar has been set now where we want to keep raising it. No pressure.”
Part of the conversation also focused around the fight the U.S. Women’s National Team has had for pay equity and working conditions.
Harvey backed up the players involved, saying, “You’ve got a group of women, 30-plus, who are intellectual, who know what it takes.” She added, “I feel really proud of the players that I’ve seen go through the journey, who are now hopefully going to be rewarded.”
USWNT members Christen Press, Kelly O’Hara and Becky Sauerbrunn all play for URFC.
Improving In 2019
In just six months, URFC formed a club, came up with a name and logo, hired Harvey, put together a team, and nearly qualified for the NWSL playoffs.
Despite all the positives, Harvey said she wasn’t satisfied with what they’ve accomplished – that they’re just getting started. A couple changes here or there, and the Royals would have been playoff-bound.
“If you look back at the start, we drew too many games,” she told Dunseth. “If one of those games turns into a victory, we’re in the playoffs.”
“As a coach, I understand what you’re saying,” said Petke. “What you guys accomplished in that first year – and I remember going to that first game and many after – just seeing the impact you had on the community, to me was awesome to be a part of.”
Tickets for the Utah Royals FC home opener are available online, and can be bought for $5 with KSL as the promo code.
The Mike Petke Coaches Show will be aired on KSL 5 TV this Saturday at 10 a.m., before NBC’s broadcast of the English Premier League.
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