Houston Dash: Women’s Professional Soccer Team
KIDS’ SOCCER CAMPS plus TIPS FOR SOCCER PARENTS
by Bernadette Verzosa
Editor’s Note: ParentsPost is excited to welcome Houston’s newest sports team, the Houston Dash. With home field at BBVA Compass Stadium, we’ll be able to watch some of the best women soccer players in the world. The Dash is scheduled to play 24 regular season games in 2014, 12 home and 12 away.
Kika Toulouse started playing soccer when she was five years old. “I remember really loving running around and playing with the ball. I remember always having an innate joy for the game,” she says. “For many kids, coordination starts with hands. For me, I felt like I was born to play with the ball at my feet, and many of my teammates felt the same.”
Today, two decades later, Toulouse is among the 18 women on the 2014 roster of the Houston Dash. The Dash is one of nine teams in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). The Dash is an expansion team. NWSL launched with eight teams around the country in 2013.
“Playing on a professional team is a dream come true. It feels great since there has been uncertainty with a professional league in the United States,” Toulouse says. After playing soccer at University of Virginia, she moved to Europe to be able to play on a professional level. She played in Sweden before returning to the U.S. to sign up with the NWSL.
WOMEN’S SOCCER LEAGUES
Sports enthusiasts have high hopes for the NWSL, which has the backing of the United States, Canadian and Mexican soccer federations. The league also has the support of Major League Soccer (MLS) teams. For example, the Houston Dash will benefit from the infrastructure already put in place by the Houston Dynamo. Both teams will play their home games at BBVA Compass Stadium and train at Houston Sports Park. The Dash will be able to build on the Dynamo’s fan base.
Previous leagues did not have such extensive support. Before the NWSL, two organizations, Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) and Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA), tried to establish top division play in America. WPS played out three seasons from 2009-2012. WUSA operated from 2000-2003 – it was the first women’s soccer league in which all players were paid as professionals with American soccer stars Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and Julie Foudy.
The Houston Dash players have been kicking the soccer ball with kids around Houston at camps and clinics. The team has encouraged personal interactions with families in different communities.
“The great group of young women we’ve assembled can be positive role models for young girls in our community. If you look at the make up of our Dash roster, you’ll find we are quite diverse. We are a team of ethnic and cultural diversity that reflects perfectly as to what Houston is all about,” says head coach Randy Waldrum. “It’s great when a city can blend and bond when there is so much diversity, just as our Dash team has come together as one to represent Houston.”
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ADVICE FOR YOUNG ATHLETES AND PARENTS
The Dash has also hosted some Question-and-Answer sessions. “I get lots of funny questions,” says Toulouse. “But the most common question is ‘What do you do to become a professional soccer player?’ I always say enjoy yourself, love what you do, soccer or anything else. If you love what you do, you will be successful at it.”
Toulouse also emphasizes cultivating a career off the field. “My other big message is ‘School comes first.’ Soccer players can only play for so long and be successful. You spend most of the rest of your life off the soccer field. And there’s a big difference between men’s soccer and women’s soccer in terms of professional opportunity,” she says.
Her advice for parents regarding sports: “It’s a fine line that’s different for every parent and every kid. Make sure it’s fun for your child. I think it’s okay for parents to encourage their kids to go out of their comfort zone, try a little harder, be a little more aggressive, but make sure they know that you want them to enjoy the game. Certainly, I had teammates whose parents pushed them to the point that they were stressed and anxious all the time. Soccer became about pleasing their parents and not themselves. It’s important to have an open dialogue and that it’s fun for them at the end of the day.”