The WPSL recently called it a wrap on the 2019 regular season – and with it, Issaquah Soccer Club (ISC Gunners), one of 119 clubs in the league. They were founded in 1980, but it wasn’t until 2012 that the women’s side were brought into the organization’s fold. WPSL Hall of Famer, Macy Jo Harrison, is the Gunners’ WPSL Program Director, as well as the league’s Associate Director for the West. We at Protagonist were elated to have somebody of such high regard take the time to answer our question for this week’s Spotlight article!
Issaquah Soccer Club, founded in 1980, has probably seen a lot of change in the community since then. When and why did the organization, founded as a youth club, choose to add a women's team?
ISC Gunners chose to add a women’s team back in the summer of 2012. We wanted to provide a top of the pyramid women’s team within our club for all of our female youth to aspire to be on, train with and learn from. Over the years, our women’s team has provided great leadership and role modeling for the youth within the club, and we really pride ourselves in that.
Why the WPSL? With a regional league available in the Pacific Northwest; what is the vision of the club for the women's squad which prompted it to join, what is technically, a national league system?
The vision of the club was to provide an elite women’s team for the youth within the club and the surrounding area to aspire to play on as mentioned before, and also to ensure that ex-professional, current professional players on break, current collegiate players etc… to have a place to play in the summer months when their on their summer breaks.
The WPSL is the largest women’s soccer league in the world with competition from all over America, Canada, Mexico etc. We chose to join the WPSL instead of the regional league provided in the Northwest to ensure we gave our women’s team the best opportunity to compete against teams from all of these locations nation/worldwide, at a higher level of play.
There are several types of club setups, some of which are open to fan support and even charge at the gate. While others focus solely on player development and providing opportunity for personal and technical growth. Where do ISC Gunners fall in that spectrum?
Our ISC Gunners WPSL team hits both ends of the spectrum. We strive to compete and win the Northwest Conference with players we bring in from England, Spain and throughout America for the summer months, and we look to get our youth players involved who are on our oldest/second to oldest girls teams within the club. We stress the importance of our oldest girls teams/players to join in with training, and potentially games throughout the summer to ensure they are prepared for their college endeavors and to ensure that they are improving significantly in playing with very experienced players who’ve been around the block a few times!
In the Pacific Northwest, we are fortunate to have two huge NWSL clubs in both the Reign and the Thorns, but does that make it hard to draw talented players to the squad? Conversely, do the local big clubs ever reach out for talented players? Do NWSL scouts ever come looking?
We’ve not seen a negative effect in having the two NWSL clubs in the Pacific Northwest as of yet. We continue to draw in talent as best as we possibly can and we have several committed, loyal players who come back to our squad each year because of the camaraderie and family feel that we create within the squad. Back in 2013, our ISC Gunners WPSL team was the official Reserve team for the Seattle Reign, so several of our players were invited into first team training throughout the summer. In 2014 and 2015, we were not the official Reserve team, but we kept that relationship alive with the Seattle Reign FC. We’ve not seen any NWSL scouts at our WPSL games in the Pacific Northwest conference, but they might have been there without us knowing. It’s difficult for them as their season is in full swing as well, so there’s not always time to do these things.
At the U23s level, I imagine most of the women are also college players and cannot accept payment without risking NCAA eligibility - how does that affect training and how do you maintain motivation?
You’re correct - a ton of our WPSL players are current collegiate athletes who are on their summer breaks and we are NOT allowed to provide them with any sort of payment. We’ve been very adamant with our players that they are to attend as many training sessions as possible, and we demand commitment from our players year in and year out. We maintain motivation by ensuring our training sessions are full of learning experiences as well as making them fun and entertaining. The family feel our ISC Gunners WPSL team has is one of the major reasons we continue to draw players back to us each year - we are family. We also do not charge our players any money to play on our women’s team - instead, we require them to attend our club tournament and events each summer as volunteers to give back to the club.
The very nature of women's soccer seems politicized, at least at the national and even NWSL-level; do these tendencies reach your level? Do you have any players who really take current events, such as equal pay and gender equality, to heart? Or do the players and the club steer clear of politics and focus on the soccer?
I wouldn’t say that the politics side of women’s soccer is prevalent in the WPSL. The league owners and commissioners are all for women in sports so I haven’t seen a negative political presence personally in the WPSL. We absolutely have players who take the current events such as equal pay and gender equality to heart, myself being one of them. With that being said, we do steer clear of the politics and focus on the soccer side more often than not on a team and club level and we ensure our main focus is on the soccer at hand.