Overly invested musings on Our Game and NCAA coverage.

I skipped the WPS chat last night, and after catching parts of it in my feed and through conversation, I’m glad my time was better spent elsewhere. NCAA coverage by Our Game Magazine was brought up–and NCAA coverage is a topic that I am passionate about. My favorite part of the fall is the internal (as opposed to external/mainstream) coverage of the sport.

Notre Dame’s localized coverage might be my favorite across the entirety of women’s soccer. Pete LaFleur was a role model of mine as an undergraduate in journalism and public relations. The athletic department has been consistently conscientious with regards to women’s soccer–probably other sports as well–in text, video, and now social media. For a while, Marcus Snowden provided amazing photography. The level of coverage has dropped slightly in the past year or two, but it remains among the best in the college game.

Since mainstream stories mostly focus on UNC, college-age USWNT players, and a select few undefeated/top scoring/top recruit types, it’s important for this kind of comprehensive localized coverage to exist.  UNC is a powerhouse, and USWNT players are (sometimes) top players, but it leaves mainstream coverage saturated with the same story, over and over again. Commentary is stale, and it’s pedantic when former Tar Heels are on the broadcast crew.

There is no narrative arc with a program like UNC. There is nothing to connect with–plenty to feel good about if you aren’t the sort to emotionally invest in a team, but compared to other teams, there are no struggles, no obstacles to overcome. There are players who are good, have always been good, and expect a free pass to greatness. So if you watch college soccer only for UNC or only with mainstream coverage, you miss out on so many up and coming players, so many teams with engaging stories from season to season.

True, sometimes you hear about UCLA or other frequent Final Four teams in the mainstream. That is the most that the average fan will hear. There is no obligation to dig deeper, and I wouldn’t suggest that there is. It takes energy and effort to find the stories–but isn’t that what a magazine like Our Game is for? To go beyond the stagnant mainstream to bring the insider perspective that external sources don’t bother reaching for? To offer something new by way of women’s soccer content, to increase awareness?

Women’s soccer can’t and shouldn’t ignore UNC, but to truly increase awareness of the women’s game, it’s important to dig deeper into the ranks. Three of the highest profile USWNT players aren’t former Tar Heels: Abby Wambach played for Florida, Hope Solo played for Washington, and Natasha Kai played for Hawaii. Did anyone pay attention to California Berkeley beyond Alex Morgan and the televised game against Stanford last season? Or to Stanford, prior to the undefeated season? Or to Penn State, which has struggled in the past two post-seasons but still turns out some seriously solid pro and national team players? Or to UConn, which happens to have more women’s sports programs than just basketball? These are the programs that young WNT players are coming out of.

While I trust Our Game Magazine‘s vision, I’m still afraid of it breaking my heart over DI coverage. Maybe more so, because I want the magazine to deliver on the implied mission of changing women’s soccer coverage, including the college level. It would be so easy to slip up and go mainstream here.

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One Response to Overly invested musings on Our Game and NCAA coverage.

  1. Pingback: Aha! Logic behind Notre Dame’s webcast schedule. « The Cross-Conference Collector

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