New Utah Royals FC women’s soccer program could boost youth play
Last week, Real Salt Lake announced the name of its new 2018 National Women’s Soccer League team – Utah Royals FC. The new team is taking over FC Kansas City’s spot in the NWSL, which is good news for local youth soccer players, said Shelley Gillwald, Park City Soccer Club’s executive director.
Gillwald said having a professional women’s team so close gives young girls role models to look up to, both on and off the pitch.
“The opportunity to watch these women play is so exciting for a number of reasons,” Gillwald said. “No. 1, it’s just good for soccer. No. 2, they are role models for our young female players.”
Currently, watching women’s soccer, even on TV, can be tricky. Professional and college games are rarely televised, which leaves girls watching men’s soccer for cues on how to play. Meagan Simeone, who coaches three teams for Park City Soccer Club, said having a professional team nearby will give girls a more specific model of play to follow, especially if they go to games.
“I think being a part of it, seeing the speed of play in person is drastically different than on TV,” she said. “And women’s soccer is drastically different from men’s. Men’s is a much faster game … so that might set unreal expectations for them.”
Simeone said seeing games in person would also nurture her players’ dreams of playing in NWSL. Interactions with professional players via outreach opportunities like being ball girls for Royals FC and youth camps would only encourage young players more.
“I still remember ball-girling at a college soccer game and thinking they were the best players in the world,” said Simeone, who played Division 1 collegiate soccer. “To be there in that environment, that’s what makes you want to be a professional soccer player, not watching it on TV.”
For players like Kate Bellow, a goalkeeper on a PCSC U15 team, Royals FC could also fill practical needs, like additional training camps. She said there is a dearth of keeper camps in the area for players at a high level. Having a professional team nearby could help fill that void.
“It’s pretty hard to find camps for keepers that are more experienced,” she said. “It would be a really big opportunity.”
The Royals will kick off in April, playing against nine teams around the U.S.
Gillwald said when they do, PCSC will be there.
“I’ve already spoke to my partners at Real — the people who do the group programs – and said we want to be on board,” she said. “We want to be in.”
She said the excitement is palpable, and with big names coming over from Kansas City’s team and the support of Real Salt Lake, the team should be a success.
“I think these women players are going to get the support and attendance from the community,” she said. “Not just Park City, but from Utah.”
That’s good news for the Royals and Park City players alike.
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