Gwendolyn Oxenham and I both went to Duke, but we went a few years apart. And while I'm kind of a slacker, she's a more typical Dukie overachiever -- left high school a year early to go to Duke, started grad school when she was 20, then traveled the world for the film Pelada (listen to Ray Hudson heap praise upon it) and the book Finding the Game: Three Years, Twenty-five Countries and the Search for Pickup Soccer.
Her new book, Under the Lights and In the Dark: Untold Stories of Women's Soccer, collects interesting stories from all over, showing us what women's soccer players do to compete and get better in a sport that is providing more opportunities than in the past but not quite as much as we'd all like.
She also chats here about her youth soccer experience and what she'd like to see for her kids.
We cover a lot, and I spend the first 6:20 on an introduction, so I've broken down the topics by time here:
2:00 On her new book -- terrifying stories from Russia and elsewhere
2:21 Book of Mormon reference and a rant on cynicism, soccer and journalism
3:12 Blaming the business side of journalism for journalism’s woes (ahem, autoplay ads)
4:35 So if you’d like to sponsor this podcast, reach out
4:45 How this book inspired me
5:07 About name pronunciation and Josephine Chukwunonye
6:24 Guitar and drums
6:40 The range of stories in the book, especially players beyond the USA. (Did you know Nigeria has one of the world’s oldest women’s soccer leagues?)
8:15 An example of how she tracked down players from all over
8:50 The player that got away
9:40 Josephine Chukwunonye (“Alinco”), one of the most riveting stories in the book -- soccer was her road out of extreme poverty. Read an excerpt.
11:10 Alinco’s mom starts sobbing because she’s sitting on a couch -- yes, a couch -- that’s beyond her wildest dreams
12:27 In the USA, soccer is a route to college. Elsewhere, players may have to choose between soccer and school
13:15 Mami Yamaguchi learning to love college and returning for her degree
15:20 Why it was difficult to get good stories on German and French players
17:33 Why Oxenham was banned from talking with my student newspaper
18:17 The chapter starting with a Gary Smith quote about how athletes have to shut down opportunities for personal growth. As it stands now, women’s soccer players generally have those opportunities. Will that change as more players skip college and go pro at an early age?
22:43 Allie Long playing in semi-pro mostly men’s futsal leagues in New York -- it’s basically a second career
26:45 Oxenham’s experiences changing perceptions of female players in pickup games.
28:22 What opportunities do kids have to get into pickup games?
31:33 Oxenham’s youth soccer experience. Better than ballet.
33:00 Developing 1v1 skills, supposedly a rarity in the USA
33:48 Memories of Mia Hamm and soccer in North Carolina
36:14 Stepping into coaching at the U-Little level
38:18 What Oxenham would wish for her kids in youth soccer
And once again, this is sponsored by my youth soccer book, Single Digit Soccer, with thanks to Audacity, Garage Band, my 30-year-old Ibanez guitar and Peavey amp and listeners like you.