Guest column from Chrissy Webb
Hello my name is Chrissy and God, do I love soccer. If you would have met me 7 years ago, I would have never thought I would say those words . . . that was until I watched one of the 2011 Women’s World Cup matches and was introduced to this beautiful game. That same year, I moved to Nashville for work and went to my first USWNT match and there was nothing like it; the atmosphere, the energy, the roar of the fans when we scored our first goal. It was in that moment I learned this was much bigger than just cheering a club, it’s about growth of the game, the culture, the community, and it’s about being part of a family.
The evolution of a soccer fan is interesting, isn’t it? The journey to find your favorite club(s), favorite player(s) and local club supporters group /or starting a much-needed supporters group. My journey started with falling in love with the USWNT; from there attending watch parties hosted by American Outlaws Nashville Chapter and traveling over 3000 miles to matches with AO family. It was through these experiences of watching and traveling together that a small core group of NWSL fans with a love for Club and Country emerged with the issue of where to meet to watch matches.
Thankfully, this season the partnership of NWSL and Lifetime made this a reality. After an AO Nashville watch party a conversation stirred about having public watch parties, because we wanted to create a space that hopefully will grow interest in women’s soccer locally. So, I took a leap and asked Tailgate Music Row, who has been extremely welcoming in hosting watch parties for different soccer matches, if we could watch the Lifetime NWSL match of the week and of course they said yes. With a watch party location set and a core group of WOSO supporters; NWSLville Supporters was founded and has gained slow and steady momentum since April 2017. One of the best moments we have had to date was our June watch party which was a meet and great with our WPSL club, the Nashville Rhythm FC who were in their inaugural season and made it to the playoffs this season!
One of the many things I love about having this supporters group in Nashville is that we don’t have one club we root for, but most of us have a tier of allegiance to the NWSL clubs. It creates a unique experience of playful banter and united desire to see this league grow, and not one of us would be mad if an expansion club one day made Nashville their home. Until that happens we will love our clubs from afar or fly to cities to watch as many matches as we can. While we do have loyalties spread across the NWSL, there are quite a few of us that share a love for the Thorns and the Rose City Riveters. I thought it would be fun to ask some of the members of our group to share what makes the Thorns special to them, as well as having the local NWSL supporters group:
Jessi shared that for her, “Thorns are one of [her] favorite teams because of the soccer culture in Portland. The support fans show for the Thorns is unmatched in women’s soccer, and it’s great to see. It shows the sports world that there is a market for women’s sports and if you really listen to your community you can make it grow. It’s an experience I hope to have in person next season.”
Maegan shared “It’s super cool to have a group of other people who are as interested in the game as I am. Being a women’s sports fan in general can be a pretty lonely experience since the coverage is minimal and other fans are hard to find. While it’s improved over the years there is certainly a long way to go. Hopefully by creating this group we’ve created a space for all of us to get together and form new friendships while watching the game we love. Even if we don’t all agree on which team should win on any given Saturday. If we can pull more people into this world we can pull the beautiful game out of the shadows and into the light.”
Steve shared, “I think it’s great. It shows how much of a soccer city that Nashville is becoming and demonstrates the diversity of our fan-base of the sport as a rule. To have a bar that supports the NWSL games is great as well. While my allegiances lie elsewhere in the NWSL, I do love how Portland embraces the Thorns as well as the Timbers. Truly a great soccer city. Everything from the stadium to the traditions and the unquestionable support. Definitely on my list to catch a game or two in Portland in the future.”
Allison shared that, “As a former soccer player, long-time fan, I love the excitement that comes with having a team to rally around. It brings me right back to my playing days when we all get together to support our NWSL teams of choice. That same spirit of rallying around a team, and a common cause, is why I love the Thorns so much. It is very apparent every time you watch a Thorns match that everyone shares a passion for the team’s success, and it brings the community together.”
And speaking personally as a Thorns supporter, it comes from my experience of living in Portland before the NWSL was established because it’s a city of inclusiveness and passion which is evident of your section each game. The Riveters have set the bar for the best supporters group that encompasses so many things but mostly the passion for the environment and bringing everyone together, it’s what inspires me to help create a similar space here in Nashville.
While Nashville will always be Music City, we are emerging as a city that loves soccer. Right now, it seems that the love of soccer is growing just as fast as the city itself. In recent years we have hosted historical record breaking matches for the USWNT, USMNT and an ICC match. We are paving the way with a bid for a MLS team through the Nashville Soccer Club who is starting their first season in the USL in 2018. The Nashville soccer community appears to have local club supporter’s groups for most leagues, roughly 19 that I was able to count, and humbled to say we now have the first WOSO supporters group to add to the list. As Maegan said earlier, by being committed to growing the local interest of soccer & supporting the women of the NWSL, USWNT, & WPSL we pull this beautiful game out of the shadows and into the light where it belongs!
A big thank you to the Rose City Riveters for giving us the chance to share our story. I hope one day to cheer with you all at Providence Park! – Cheers, Chrissy