How women’s soccer coach Emma Hayes gained experience playing on a men’s team

When I first went to see high school football I was impressed. Watching opponents run and pass across the field with speed and strength was magical. This was early Saturday, after dark, and I’d…

How women’s soccer coach Emma Hayes gained experience playing on a men’s team

When I first went to see high school football I was impressed. Watching opponents run and pass across the field with speed and strength was magical. This was early Saturday, after dark, and I’d arrived at my university’s stadium with a group of friends.

Of course it was a Saturday. And no one quite knew where the women were.

Still, out of curiosity, we followed behind two older men. They moved slowly along the sidelines while we, all women, just watched. And I watched, amazed at the knowledge of anatomy and ways of physics and physics and electricity and connected matter and fluid mechanics we were witnessing. But most of all, I was watching competitors do the things their male counterparts do so flawlessly. How, I wondered, could it be possible?

Emma Hayes has reason to be interested in this question. She is England’s national women’s soccer team coach. But two decades ago, she began playing on a men’s soccer team.

“It just felt really natural,” she says, describing the 2002 season. She was 21. This was her first season of women’s soccer, and she didn’t know where to play. “And I felt really happy to be out there, on the same field as all the other boys.”

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