What. The top women’s soccer teams in the world are being forced to play on artificial turf for what looks like the majority of the WWC 2015. Ha, that’s funny, right? No, it’s not funny because it’s not a joke. It was revealed yesterday that tournament host Canada would have most of the games will be played on turf throughout the tournament.
Any soccer player, no, any athlete knows that turf does not begin to compare to natural grass. If you were to enter a room with 10 athletes from soccer, football, baseball, whatever sport, I guarantee every single one of them would raise their hand if you were to say, “Who enjoys playing on grass more than turf?”
Turf essentially changes the integrity of the game. Turf results in a different speed of play. Sure, touches might be smoother and there are no odd bumps on the field, but that doesn’t mean it’s a better surface than grass. Speed of play might be the least of the concerns as we look at the likelihood of injuries.
Turf causes serious burns if one goes in for a tackle or falls down. This happens repeatedly throughout a game of soccer as it is a physical sport and requires players to get “down and dirty”. These burns could easily lead to infection.
Secondly, injuries can get as severe as head and ACL injuries. There is a lot of falling down in soccer and I’m sure the last thing any team wants is one of the players to slam their head on the hard turf. Once a player steps on an artificial turf field, they are now prone to concussions when their head hits the ground.
Not only are concussions a major issue, the longevity of an ACL injury that could occur is also concerning. Turf is soft and can cause athlete’s ankles and knees to twist and torque repeatedly. Since the players are wearing cleats, turf “catches” the spikes and causes rotating to be more difficult and strenuous on the knee.
Lastly, one last concern is the temperature that turf can reach. According to livestrong.com, a test by a turf expert at the University of Missouri showed that on a 98 degree day, turf can reach up to 173 degrees. Now, when I looked at the venues, most are open roofed. When games are being played during a summer day, the heat that the players feel on the field will cause dehydration and fatigue during the most important sporting event of their careers.
These are not international friendly games. These are games to become a world champion. Someone needs to step in. I’m sure nobody wants to watch these games and hope that one of the players doesn’t get injured. These are the top women’s soccer teams in the world. Asking them to play on artificial turf is not only disrespectful to them, but it is dishonorable to soccer. This tournament is the moment athletes work for; they go all out for 4 years and when it comes time to finally play, the last thing they should have to worry about is the field.
Hope, courage, strength, determination, perseverance, togetherness. A team is a team. They’ll fight for each other, they’ll push each other, and they will never let anyone fall behind. Teammates keep each other grounded, they keep each other motivated, and they always support one another because that’s what being a teammate is. It’s in the job description; it is the undeniable ability to help each other during a game even though nothing has been said. You yell at them, scream at them, occasionally roll your eyes at them, but it’s all for the good of the team. The team.
The team is what every athlete will sacrifice for. Lay everything on the line; give it all you have and then some, just never trudge to the locker room wishing you could have done more. Every game give all that you have because you have to know your teammates are giving it all that they’ve got too, your opponents are giving it all they’ve got and more. When your lungs feel like they are on fire, when your legs are urging you to stop, when your body is physically shutting down and your mind is starting to ache, keep going. As tired as you feel, as much as you want to stop and rest, your heart will carry you through.
These are the moments you wait for. The roar of the crowd, the singing of the anthem, your hand over the crest. So much history behind it, coming from the best. Close your eyes and take it all in, you’re standing next to those who have kicked you in practice, tackled you in practice, drilled you with the ball at practice, yelled at you, pushed you, and most importantly, motivated you. These are the players who you will head into battle with, knowing that for 90 minutes, you are 11 people, but must act as 1. Those two stars above the crest don’t mean anything unless you play like they do. You are representing your country and representing those who have come before you.
Up by one goal, up by four goals, or up by ten, no job is done until that whistle blows. You’ll be pushed over, pulled over, fouled and more, but no matter what the circumstances are, you must always keep going. The hardest thing to see as an opponent is you get up over and over again. This is your time. This is your game. This is your moment. Make the best of it. Never be complacent. When you look up and sweat is dripping down your face, your lungs are heavy and your heart is thumping, but you see the scoreboard and you just won, you know all the bumps, bruises, scratches and scrapes were worth it.
This is what being on a team is all about. The moments where your adrenaline is going, and you’re on the field with 11 people and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. You practice day in and day out, and even though there comes a time when your body feels like it can’t walk another step, you always manage to keep moving. That’s because you know one day someone else will fill your shoes. You’ll hang up your cleats for good and let the next generation have their chance to shine. But for now, you are happy to be where you are. With the teammates who you’ll laugh with, cry with, prank, kick, travel the world with, and play with. Once you step on the field, you are one. You are the United States Women’s National Soccer Team and ready to take on the world.