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Talking With Joanna Lohman, Part II

Our interview with former Philadelphia Independence midfielder Joanna Lohman continues with a discussion of the new women’s soccer league, how the new league should be marketed, how important it is for USWNT players to play in the league, and Lohman’s organization JoLi Academy. You can read part one here.

PSP: The new league, the National Women’s Soccer League, has a bit of a different pay structure than the women’s soccer leagues of the past. The US, Canadian, and Mexican Associations are all contributing the salaries of number of players [US – 23 players , Canada – 16, Mexico – 16]. Is this an important development to the sustainability of the league?

JL: Absolutely. It’s enormously important that we have the support of US Soccer, the Canadian Federation, and the Mexican Federation. When you have the budgets that we have in this new league, you can’t afford to pay a lot of the national team players and a full roster of non national team players. I think it’s really going to reduce the financial burden on each club. I think they’ll be able to use their $200,000 budget to pay the non national team players a decent salary for a six month season.

PSP: It seems that Megan Rapinoe is going to be playing in France for at least the first part of 2013. Hope Solo and Alex Morgan both publicly commented that they were unsure if they were going to play in NWSL. Is it essential for the big names of the national team sign up for the league? 

JL: Yes and no. I would say the league would love to have players like Alex, Hope and Megan play. It would definitely boost the stature of the league, it would draw more fans out to the games, maybe not a significant amount but enough, and it’s good for the NWSL to have the best players wanting to play in the league.

I think the league will take a small hit if those players decide not to play in the league. But it is their own personal choice. You hope they want to support the American league and look out for the development of US soccer as a whole. I think it will have an effect, but the show goes on. The league will be made up of so many other talented, brilliant players that we can’t just focus on three players that may not play, we should focus on the hundreds of players that will play.

[Note: Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and Hope Solo were all the list of players that will be allocated on Friday. That information was released after this interview.]

PSP: You’ve had some strong opinions on the marketing of NWSL. What does the league need to do different this time?

JL: I think we need to take the focus away from the casual fan and try to put the focus on people that truly care about soccer. It’s typically not the soccer moms. As I said in my article, they’re too busy to be interested in soccer and they don’t have the background to be interested in soccer. You see MLS has a pretty fanatical following all over the country and also in Canada. I think we need to tap into that fan base. A fan base that typically lives in the city, has more disposable income, and loves soccer for the game itself.

PSP: I think we’ve seen in the last five years with MLS. Expanding to markets like Seattle, Portland, and even here in Philadelphia. They are tapping into locations with passionate fans that know the sport.

JL: Right. It’s very smart. It makes sense.

PSP: Have you been talking to teams already? Is it at that point? 

JL: Yes. I’ve started talking to teams—starting maybe three weeks ago. Conversations have started. Not just with me, but I’m sure with some of the other free agents. At this point, teams aren’t able to offer contracts so it’s just been preliminary conversations and verbal agreements. As soon as the national team players get allocated, I assume that teams will be able to sign contracts and there will be some more commitment.

PSP: So everyone right now is just waiting on the allocation of the national team players?

JL: That’s the next step as far as I know.

PSP: What do you think the time frame will be after that?

JL: I think the national team players are going to be allocated next week [it is happening Friday]. And then hopefully they’ll be able to start signing other players.

PSP: You are getting ready to leave for India in a few days with Lianne Sanderson and  your organization JoLi Academy. Can you tell me a little about the organization and what you’ll be doing over there?

JL: JoLi Academy started at the end of 2011. We aim to raise the social status of women in developing nations. Our goal is to travel to developing nations and work with programs that have a foundation within that country. For instance, in India we work with an organization called Yuwa and last year we went to a village to work 200 young women in their program. And we play soccer every single day. This year we’re going back to host the JoLi Tournament, which will be a women’s soccer tournament in Jamshedpur at the Tata Sports Complex. Tata is the largest fuel company in India. There are six teams coming from all different parts of India and we’ll have a five day tournament and also a clinic. Lianne and I will be there to provide coaching and hopefully inspiration to these young girls who unfortunately don’t have many opportunities to succeed. Especially athletically.

We’re very excited about going back to India and working with the same program. It provides a bit of continuity for our program.

The hardest part is getting there and getting home. Once you are there on the ground, everyday, you are just inspired by what these young girls have to offer with so few material things. Just how happy they are with so little. It gives you perspective and a greater view on life and on what’s important in life.


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