This is Lauren’s story. Not only does she work at the Philadelphia Inquirer for the sports desk, but she runs her own soccer site (more on that later), and has been in journalism since the age of 14. We’ll be rocking some awesome #throwbackthursday pictures in this article that she sent us, just to show how long she’s been doing these cool things! Lauren would rather talk about soccer than about her own stats sheet, so let’s meet her.
Q: Tell us about your very first soccer game.
A: The first game that I saw in person was the Philadelphia Charge versus the Bay Area Cyber Rays on June 1st, 2002. The Charge played at Villanova University, which wasn’t far from where I lived in Southern New Jersey. I was really excited to get to see Brandi Chastain and Tisha Venturini, who both played for Bay Area. I was more excited to watch English midfielder Kelly Smith play. Kelly had been one of the first players I’d watched on TV the previous year and I’d been watching every game I could.
Unfortunately, getting to watch Kelly play was cut short. She tore her ACL (the first of a number of serious injuries) about 70 minutes into that game, right in front of me. I didn’t know what an ACL was at that point or what it meant long term. I was able to meet Brandi and Tisha after the game and got some autographs. It was a fun experience and I really enjoyed the two years that I was able to attend games.
Q: What team(s) do you follow, and what leagues are they in? How did you start following those teams?
A: I follow all nine NWSL clubs, but really can’t align myself with any of them because I work in journalism and have to be impartial (This is foreign to me and I would die. –K). I followed the New Jersey Wildcats (W-League) for several years between WUSA and WPS happening. After the WUSA folded, I found out that Kelly, French forward Marinette Pichon (also a former Charge player) and a few others had gone to play for the Wildcats in 2004.
I watch the Premier League far more often now than I did growing up, but I remember recording the early-morning matches on Fox Soccer Channel and watched a lot of Arsenal matches as a kid.
As a teenager I followed the New England Revolution in MLS often as well. Taylor Twellman and Clint Dempsey were both really fun to watch. Both years that the Revs made MLS Cup that I watched (2006 and 2007), they played Houston. My brother always picked Houston (thus winning our bet of candy, a quarter and bragging rights) and I’d stick with the Revs.
Q: You’ve been in soccer for a long time, haven’t you?
A: I’ve been covering women’s soccer for 10 years. I started out as a junior website correspondent for the NJ Wildcats at the age of 14 in 2005. Since then, I’ve covered Jersey Sky Blue (2007) the Wildcats (2006, 2008) and WPS (2010-2011). I’ve run Nutmeg Incorporated since January 2013 and never thought that it would get to where it is today – with four writers, a columnist, a photographer and a social media/graphics editor. Running Nutmeg has been an incredible, albeit sometimes frustrating experience but I absolutely love it. It’s kind of my way of giving back to the sport that has given me so much over the last 15 years or so.
Q: What about the game hooked you?
A: The game that hooked me actually wasn’t the first game I watched in person. The first game I watched on TV was pretty much by accident – I’d been flicking through channels, saw a match between the Charge and the Boston Breakers and sat and watched. I can remember asking my dad if Kristine Lilly was “on our team” and he said yes. She scored and I saw them put up a point for the Breakers and was pretty confused about it. My dad corrected himself after that. I kept watching for the rest of the season and was hooked on soccer.
Q: With whom in your life do you share soccer?
A: We are definitely a soccer family! My dad played soccer growing up and I’m the oldest of four soccer-playing kids. My sister Alicia and I played two seasons together, though she eventually gave up soccer for running track. My brother and I bonded quite a bit over soccer – and played plenty of one-vs.-one in our backyard. My youngest sister followed us into the sport and love watching and learning about soccer. My boyfriend is a big soccer fan as well. He supports Manchester United, so he and my brother, an Arsenal fan, enjoy the occasional trash talking.
The 2011 quarterfinal against Brazil was one of the best moments I’ve been able to share with everyone. Madison (she’s 12 now) and William were both home and my parents watched downstairs with me. Abby scored and my parents and Madison were jumping around, I was ecstatic (I allowed myself to be a fan for that match) and my brother came running down the stairs to join in on the celebration.
Growing up, it was really natural. My dad coached all four of us kids at some point or another – he even coached all three of my siblings when I left for college. My mom isn’t a sports person so much but she’ll watch the big games with us. My dad took me to a slew of games during WUSA and some during WPS. He helped me run the merchandise table for Jersey Sky Blue – that tennis ball toss at halftime began then. If only you knew how many tennis balls we sold.
Q: Have you traveled to any away games for your team? Where did you go and what was the experience like?
A: In 2004, my dad drove four soccer-crazed teenage girls – myself and three of my teammates – to Connecticut to watch the U.S. women’s national team’s sendoff match against China. The trip up there was as you’d expect – pretty amusing, lots of (pretty bad) singing and a lot of laughing.
The game itself was a really cool experience. We had pretty decent seats and the U.S. won, 3-0. Afterwards, we got autographs and my best friend Kelsey and I handed Julie Foudy a giant book of poems and stories that we’d written (and had stayed up almost all night making/fixing).
Q: Do you have any personal soccer-related traditions? What are they?
A: I’ve had some strange ones, though none of them were related to playing soccer. I wore the same pair of shorts for every one of the U.S. women’s games in the 2011 World Cup.
Q: What is the impact soccer has had on your life? What has it brought to you that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?
A: Oh my gosh, it’s been huge. Absolutely huge. My life completely changed when I stumbled across that game as a 10-year-old in 2001. I’d been a competitive cheerleader and had wanted to be a gymnast for years. Instead, I started playing soccer in 2002. I’ve been able to meet so many fantastic people: players, fans, and other media members. I’ve been given so many opportunities through soccer: I’ve been able to write, to tell players’ stories, to attend events and to connect with people.
Ten years ago, two men in the New Jersey Wildcats organization gave a 14-year-old who had no idea what she was doing a chance. I’d been given an opportunity and it just kept opening up doors. Even now, the doors are still opening. I’ve been given a chance to write for the Philadelphia Inquirer’s World Cup preview. I was able to attend the USWNT’s media day. If I hadn’t found that match on television, I’m not quite sure what I’d be doing. I was drawn into journalism as a result of following soccer.
Q: If you could tell everyone in the world one thing about soccer, what would it be?
A: Soccer brings people together and it opens a lot of doors. It truly is the beautiful game.
Thanks so much to Lauren for doing some bragging on herself for a change! I loved learning about her amazing years from a young age in journalism and I hope she will inspire everyone in the world by telling soccer stories. Likewise, I hope I can inspire you by sharing these #WomenLoveSoccer interviews! I can’t wait to share more of these wonderful women’s stories with you and I can’t wait to hear yours. Tweet me at @starrphishe, tweet at @WUnitedFC, or leave us a note in the contact box below and we would love to share your #WomenLoveSoccer story.