NWSL players serve as game changers, on and off the field
Jan 13, 2022
6 min read
There is a lot that goes into the game of soccer: strategy, fitness, commitment and passion. The execution of those qualities make the members of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) incredible footballers, but it is the total embodiment of each that many players carry off the field to impact the communities and people around them.
As an official sponsor of the NWSL, Ally has the honor of supporting the league through branded sponsorships. However, the true privilege comes through opportunities to amplify the players themselves, which is why we are proud to present a new video series consisting of player profiles that goes beyond how they change the game on the pitch, to how they are true Game Changers in life.
Game Changers will release a new episode each week – highlighting an individual player and how they make a difference in their world, inspiring fans to strive to change the game for those around them and seek ways to always be an ally.
Episode 1 – Entrepreneurially: Jamia Fields
Jamia Fields plays forward, most recently as a member of the Houston Dash. Along with a passion for soccer, Jamia has been a lifelong fan of fashion. In her seventh year as a professional women’s soccer player, she launched her own lifestyle apparel brand and small business, Stoic Los Angeles.
Jamia Fields uses her entrepreneurial passion to serve as a Game Changer off the field.
Through Stoic LA, Jamia creates pieces of clothing she hopes reflect her passion for fashion while also delivering a message of endurance to those who have faced obstacles and have been viewed as the underdog. Jamia explains the hope for Stoic LA is to “take obstacles and use them as fuel. I have seen that a lot of times in my career, and life in general, that I had to continue to endure, continue to believe, and continue to keep believing in my talent to grow to my goals.” Her first collection, Endure Beyond Your Control, delivers that message beautifully.
Jamia Fields is an ally for those who have endured.
Episode 2 – Heroically: Erika Tymrak
When watching Erika Tymrak play soccer it’s clear that she was born with a love for the game and an incredible talent to dominate on the field. What isn’t as clear is the battle she has overcome to keep her passion for professionally competing alive. “I think when you are playing you get so caught up in performing and trying to be the best athlete that you neglect your happiness and your mental health, and I think a lot of athletes struggle with that,” Erika explains. “It’s important to share your stories - because you are not alone.”
After a successful college career – where she was awarded SEC Player of the Year – Erika was drafted by FC Kansas City. As a pro, she received the high honor of Rookie of the Year and helped her team win two championships. However, with the high level of success came greater feelings of pressure, anxiety and stress. Aware of the stigmas of weakness associated with mental health struggles, Erika kept her depression to herself and made the difficult decision to retire. She moved to California and focused on getting back to good.
Erika Tymrak leads with vulnerability and support to serve as a true Game Changer.
A year later, she opened up and shared her story with a fellow soccer player and friend – it was then that she was reminded of her love for the sport. Erika says, “I knew deep-down that I still wanted to play, but I think the biggest fear I had was that my mental health would decline again.” Her focus on happiness and ongoing practice of good mental health has helped her stay grounded and return to the sport she loves as midfielder for the Orlando Pride.
Erika is an ally for those who feel like they are alone and can’t get out of those dark places. She is here to help them see it’s possible.
Episode 3 – Equally: Imani Dorsey
For Imani Dorsey, soccer is more than a game, it is a door to education, growth and change. As a defender for NJ/NY Gotham FC, Imani uses her platform to make sure young girls can open the same doors to a strong future. Imani is a founding board member of the Black Women’s Player Collective (BWPC), a nonprofit created to advance opportunities for Black female athletes. The organization’s mission is to show young Black girls they are valued and they have opportunities within soccer, not just to be a professional player, but to get an education, to be a part of shaping policy, making change and opening doors for other Black girls in the future.
Imani Dorsey stands up to support and give back to underserved communities.
Throughout her soccer career, first as a star at Duke University and then as a starting defender for Sky Blue FC (now NJ/NY Gotham FC), Imani always wanted to give her best for her coaches and teammates. It is that drive that makes it no surprise to learn Imani spends her time off the field doing the same for the communities around her. Most recently, the BWPC partnered up with Black Players for Change and the U.S. Soccer Foundation to convert old basketball and tennis courts into soccer pitches in under-resourced communities. Through these mini-pitches Imani and other players can engage with the local communities, particularly young Black girls, to show them their importance.
Imani explains, “All I want these girls to know, and these kids to know, is that they are valued and they matter. That they can dream of whatever they want, and they can be whatever they want. And we are here to support them through that.”
Episode 4 – Unconditionally: Quinn
Despite growing up in Canada, where hockey was the go-to sport, Quinn found their way into youth soccer at the age of three and hasn’t stopped since. At 18, Quinn joined the Canadian National Team and six years later became the first openly transgendered person to compete in the Olympics, bringing home the Gold Medal from the 2020 Tokyo Games.
From winning an Olympic medal, to mastering a new move on the pitch – Quinn is proud of their accomplishments on the field, but what they are most honored by is the opportunity and ability to serve as a resource and example for others.
Quinn is honored to be an example for young people seeking to understand their identities.
While exploring their identity, Quinn didn’t have any role models or any professional athletes to look up to. This prompted Quinn to want to be both an example and a resource for others struggling with their own identities. Openly posting experiences on social media, speaking freely about the challenges transgender people face and helping to educate others on how they can be more inclusive in their language and policy are all ways Quinn shows allyship to the transgender community.
Quinn explains, "The main reason for me wanting to share my story and share my experiences is so younger folks can see themselves in these sports and young trans-folks can understand that they can continue to play the sports they love, and they can also identify as themselves."
Episode 5 – Maternally: Arin Wright
Many assume professional female athletes put their plans to start a family on hold to focus on their careers. Coming back to the elite level of play, especially in the NWSL, after having children seems impossible – Arin Wright is here to prove you can do both.
Arin Wright serves as both mom and professional soccer player.
Historically, a player on average retired in her late 20’s, leaving plenty of time to start a family. Now, players are staying competitive until 40, and many female athletes feel unable to pursue their personal dreams without sacrificing their professional goals.
When Arin found out she was pregnant in the midst of her successful career as a defender for the Chicago Red Stars, she was both thrilled and worried – overjoyed for the child she and her husband had wanted for so long, but concerned her team would feel like she let them down. They didn’t. Arin’s teammates and coaches remained supportive throughout her pregnancy and return to the pitch.
After the traumatic birth of her son, Arin knew the road back to playing at the professional level would be difficult, but she was determined to come back at the same skill level, if not better, than before. Now, as she battles it out on the field with her teammates, her son watches from the stands – certainly proud of his mom and the inspiration she is for female athletes of all ages.
Arin explains, “When people see me out on the field playing, I want little girls, other moms, other women to know that my dream was to have a family and come back to play professionally, and I did exactly that. I hope that I can inspire the youth of soccer to know that this can be part of their dream.”
Work that Matters
NWSL players are using their voices year-round to impact and elevate those around them. Their work is opening doors for members of the community and giving them space to feel safe, heard and accepted.
Remember to check back next week to meet another Game Changer and learn about the impact of their work.
Meet more entrepreneurs and game changers, stepping up to help their communities.