As noted in our feature post last week on playing in the WPSL, the WPSL provides a playing opportunity for elite women soccer players to play, develop and promote women's soccer at the highest amateur level in North America. If you are a high school player looking to transition to the college level, a college player wanting to enhance your game over the summer or a recent college grad wanting to keep your playing career going awhile longer, this is the place for you. There are more than 70 teams nationwide.
We had the opportunity to speak with Wendy Louque, the current Director of the KC Courage, the KC Courage Girls High School Soccer Alternative Team and Head Coach for the WPSL team. Full Bio
Amplified Soccer: What professional playing opportunities do female athletes have after college?
Wendy: Speaking from an outsiders view, it’s very hard to break into the professional game in the US if you’re not a top player at a Division I school or within the national pool at some point. The opportunities are really limited. The opportunities are even more limited because of the financial constraints (and roster limitations posed by the league). Players have to love the game and play for reasons other than compensation. Many International leagues allow only four international players per team limiting the number of overseas opportunities as well. It’s tough to play professionally after college. For players wishing to do so, it’s much easier to play at the amateur level in a league that is highly competitive like the WPSL. Players can actually earn a living in another profession while continuing to play the game they love at a very high level.
Amplified Soccer: How do athletes get involved in a WPSL team?
Wendy: Almost every team has some sort of a tryout. Some teams have a few different tryout options in the winter and spring. The winter tryouts take place between college semesters as to not violate NCAA rules. In Kansas City, because we don’t currently have access to an indoor facility we only do tryouts after the spring college seasons are finished, which is usually by May 1. There are rules against when college athletes can attend a tryout depending on their level. Players interested in trying out for WPSL teams should check with the governing bodies (NCAA, NAIA or NJCAA) of their respective programs. They should also contact the coach through the team website or the WPSL website.
Amplified Soccer: What makes the WPSL a special league for women to participate in? Why choose WPSL?
Wendy: After college, a player has a couple of choices depending on level of play and commitment that an athlete wants. Most big cities have the option of adult recreational leagues or another option would be an employer based sports league. The WPSL is set apart because it’s well organized by a constitution and by-laws with a set of minimum standards for teams that participate, which results in a very competitive, high level of play.
Amplified Soccer: How do you recruit your players? Do the majority of your players come from the local area?
Wendy: We attain most or our players through the tryouts we hold in May. There hasn’t been a semi-pro women’s team in Kansas City since 2001. At that time, there was a W-League team called the Mystics that lasted only one year. I remember their roster having a lot of international players (Mexico, Denmark, Brazil, Canada and others) that were local college players and in the area for the summer. However, I tend to favor the local players. It was important to me to have a place for local girls to play and continue to get that high level of soccer. For our business model, we need to engage the local players, which also engages the local community and local businesses. Many of our college players attend school and play outside of the KC metro area. The opportunity for them to play back at home during the summer where their friends and families are, gives us a pretty solid fan base.
Amplified Soccer: If an athlete is considering joining a team, what does a typical season look like for her?
Wendy: The commitment for an athlete begins in early May. The length of the season is different by conference and includes 8 to 10 regular season games. For KC Courage, the majority of our college players aren’t back home until mid-May so we usually don’t start league play until the third weekend in May.
Most players work at least a part-time job during the season and almost all of our post-college players have full-time careers. Training for our WPSL team takes place at night so it’s doable for a college student and someone working a full-time job. Our games are played on the weekends for that reason, as well.
Amplified Soccer: What are the benefits for a college player to play in the WPSL?
Wendy: They aren’t just doing a summer workout program and staying fit. The biggest advantage is that they’re playing high level soccer matches. As a player, you can’t beat playing games and training with teams. It makes them so much better going into the fall season. Even some players that have just graduated from high school have an opportunity to train with our team (they don’t play in games). They get to go into their freshman college seasons with a simulated season under their belt. Meaning, they are already acclimated to a more physical game and a faster speed of play and bypass that adjustment period as a college freshman.
Amplified Soccer: Why did you choose to coach in the WPSL?
Wendy: I coached for 12 years at Johnson County Community College and I had just resigned from my job in March to spend more time with older children as they were nearing the end of their high school years. That summer I had the opportunity to coach the Shock, the first WPSL team in Kansas City, but that team folded after only one year. I knew it was important to keep a team going so I started my own team, the KC Courage. My greatest reason for continuing with the team is that I love to coach and also motivate players to work hard and get better.
For me, coaching is much more than just teaching about sport. Coaching is an avenue that can be used to build character, integrity and teach about life. Players are people first. I hold dearly to the honor that I have being involved in the lives of my players teaching them to make wise choices, learn from their mistakes and grow into confident young women who can contribute in positive ways to society for the rest of their lives.
Get more like this in the October issue of Amplified Soccer Athlete.