S2, Ep. 5: Sky Blue’s Alyse LaHue

Alyse LaHue, General Manager of Sky Blue FC, joins the podcast to talk about her path to working in women’s sports, the creation and expansion of Gonzo Soccer, and the upcoming NWSL season.

Forward Progress is sponsored by Hi-Viz Safety Wear. They’re a leading provider of high visibility apparel. So if you need safety vests or hoodies and jackets in the wintertime to keep your crews safe and warm, give them a call at 888-554-4849 or visit their website at wearitforsafety.com. They also offer in-house logo printing. That’s 888-554-4849. Or wearitforsafety.com. Nobody does Hi-Viz better.

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Alyse LaHue: [00:00:00] Every facet of kind of running a soccer team I got my hands on and I was 19 years old, so I think looking back, I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was my first foray into running a club. And from then on, I knew a women’s pro league was going to be coming back at some point. So I had always been keeping an eye on that and just kind of just in the back of my mind. And then when I was getting my masters degree, that’s when I really heard they were ramping up. And a women’s pro soccer league. I’m like, OK, that’s what I’m going to work. And I don’t know, one day I’m like, I’m going to be a GM. I probably just picked what I thought was the highest title. I was like, Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do. I didn’t know what a GM did. I’m going to be honest.

Caroline: [00:00:37] Hi, everyone, and welcome to Forward Progress. I’m Caroline.

Soph: [00:00:41] And I’m Sophia.

Caroline: [00:00:42] All right, Sophia, what’s been happening in the world of sports?

Soph: [00:00:45] Chloe Kim keeps winning. She finished undefeated season with a great run at the US Grand Prix in Aspen this past weekend. She’s had some really good runs on the halfpipe. I just love watching her snowboard because she makes it look so easy. I watched her last run that she made and it was so good. How does one look that cool and casual? And she’s at the top of the sport and she’s like 20. Unreal.

Caroline: [00:01:08] Athletes are back at it again with activism, this time speaking up about hate against Asian-americans.

Soph: [00:01:16] There was a shooting in Atlanta that’s pretty widely known at this point, but eight people died and six of them being women and all of them being Asian. And just so many people in the sports community have been really supporting the Asian community in ways that I think are kind of different than in the past. And I just think that racism in all forms has to be combated. And this is definitely tied to antiblack racism and anti Muslim and Middle Eastern American racism, like all forms of racism are tied together at the hip. It’s been causing some athletes to speak out. I think it just makes a difference of like hey, what’s the tone that’s being set? And you can speak out against it. And it shouldn’t just be up to Jeremy Lin and other Asian American athletes to speak out against it or stand up for themselves.

Caroline: [00:02:04] More athletes have been speaking up this week as the NCAA women’s and men’s basketball tournament started and there was quite a disparity that was shown thanks to social media.

Soph: [00:02:16] Sedona Prince who plays for Oregon women’s basketball team, her TikTok went absolutely viral. And everyone saw the disparities of just the gyms that we have realized there are a lot more disparities even this year amongst Division one and Division two tournaments.

Caroline: [00:02:31] Yeah, I think the Original photo was from a Stanford athletic personnel. And then from there it just went viral. And a few brands and companies have spoken up and have said that they were willing to contribute products or support. But now there’s people calling them out like, Ok, well, you could support when there isn’t such an outcry of need, but there’s still the disparity going on.

Soph: [00:02:58] Right. Now it just looks good for them versus-

Caroline: [00:03:04] Like the savior. Thank us.

Soph: [00:03:04] Right. And it’s like you could have supported the whole time. And again, we’re not saying don’t help. It’s just interesting how you pick this time to be helpful. I’d be curious to know if like DICK’S Sporting Goods and Orange Theory actually are sponsors of the NCAA, WNBA, like any women’s basketball at any level.

Caroline: [00:03:21] Oh you mean, if they actually do contribute.

Soph: [00:03:23] Do you invest all year round? That’s my problem is like if you’re going to be invested, you got to be doing this all year round. Did you see the middle of the courts?

Caroline: [00:03:30] Yeah, just says women’s basketball.

Soph: [00:03:33] And the other ones- And just like bold letters, the other one has like this really cool graphic of the bracket and NCAA March Madness.

Caroline: [00:03:40] And you know what? Throw in italics. It’s nothing new. Unfortunately probably won’t be the last time we see stuff like this.

Soph: [00:03:47] No, it’s a symptom of the problem.

Caroline: [00:03:49] Yeah, but hopefully because organizations and institutions know that people are watching and people are out there and this stuff will be seen, that it will become less frequent and women will be appreciated and receive what they deserve in and outside of sports.

Soph: [00:04:06] And I just appreciate any of the men’s players who have spoken out in support of the women because,

Caroline: [00:04:11] Yes,

Soph: [00:04:12] It means a good amount. It really does, especially if you’re a current player. But when the men don’t speak up and when they don’t back that up with action that is aligned with that support vocally, then that’s when we have problems. So then allies like shout out to you, but like, what are you actually doing in your day to day lives? So if you saw, if you’re listening to this and regardless of your gender and you saw it as a problem, what are you doing about it to fix it? Obviously, Caroline and I can’t go and supply them with gym supplies or we can’t go and order them food. But what we can do is watch the games. So what have I been doing? I have meetings during the day and I’ve got the TV on. I’m watching women’s basketball all day long. So you just watch the women’s games, support them, make it positive. I think instead of looking at the disparities all the time, which is kind of depressing, you can actually support them when they’re on TV. Watch it, talk about it. When you ask your friends, are you watching the tournament? You’re allowed to talk about the women’s tournament. The tournament is not just the men. And then just make sure that your language is not always gendered when you’re talking about women. Also, I figured I’d shout out Charli Collier. I know everyone’s on her. She’s going to be like number one pick in the WNBA. People are going to be like “Soph that’s so basic.” She had a really good first game. I really like the way that she plays. She’s going to be a number one overall pick, likely for a reason. She’s good. Paige Bueckers. Everyone knows her. She was on the cover of Slam. She played great. Caitlyn Clark came on the scene. She’s a freshman. She’s like top scorer this whole season. Even Pinoe was tweeting about her while watching the game. Caitlyn Clark is really good. And Aliyah Boston, Aliyah Boston’s one of my favorite players plays for South Carolina. She’s very, very good. She’s super smooth. I like her.

Caroline: [00:05:46] Speaking of Pinoe, Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird volunteered at their local vaccination sites in Seattle.

Soph: [00:05:55] How cool.

Caroline: [00:05:55] And finally,

Soph: [00:05:57] We’re bringing it back to the first episode we ever did. Sort of. OL Reign, which is the NWSL team in Tacoma, Washington, Seattle Area. The OL Reign roster is put up on their website and they list their pronouns. Now, that’s a cool new development. We love that. She loves it. He loves it. They love it.

Caroline: [00:06:15] All right, Sophia, who are we talking with on today’s episode? We’re really sticking with the football theme. And by football, I mean-

Soph: [00:06:22] Global football,

Caroline: [00:06:23] Global.

Soph: [00:06:25] Caroline. Today’s guest is Alyse LaHue. She is the Sky blue FC general manager. She first joined the club in 2018 as vice president. Lahue is a co-founder of youth nonprofit Gonzo Soccer Girls Soccer and Leadership Academy. She also serves on the Women Coaches advocacy group of United Soccer Coaches, which advocates for the advancement of female coaches and executives.

Caroline: [00:06:49] Thank you so much for being on the podcast. We’re really excited to talk with you. Hear more about your experiences playing sports and working in the sports industry. We always start at the beginning, so we just want to know what your experiences were playing sports growing up? And what role did your family play in your early sporting experience?

Alyse LaHue: [00:07:14] Yeah, well, thanks for having me on. And I think for me, I grew up, my siblings played sports as well. My parents weren’t especially sporty. Sorry, if you’re listening, mom. She’s more of a choir champion than I think an athlete, which is OK; to each their own. But for me, I think it was just they needed something for me to do, to be quite frank with you. So I got put in every sport. I think it was just a way to keep busy. I got put in every summer camp. My father actually passed away when I was seven. So I think from that point on, my mom was full time working single parent. My grandparents lived down the street, so they kind of helped raise me. But I think I just got put into everything because they needed to kind of get rid of me, like they needed somewhere to put me. So I had to do golf and volleyball and softball. And like every camp, I went to fishing camp. I mean, I was like at everything. So that was, I think, where my love of sport started it. We had a lot of boys in the neighborhood. And I like to beat up on them too. So I think I was playing sports with them. There wasn’t a lot of girls in the neighborhood, so I always remember playing baseball down the block with them. But it was kind of just de facto. I got put into every sport and from there obviously developed the ones that I was most passionate about. I think that’s where it all started was my family obviously was very encouraging of putting me into sports, grandma driving me around to camp and everything and my mother as well. So I have to probably thank them for just making an effort to keep me busy. But it worked out well for me.

Caroline: [00:08:31] That’s great. I know I always loved beating up on the boys, young Caroline in coed soccer. I was always a defender. And just whenever the boys were on the ground, just stepping on them, anything.

Alyse LaHue: [00:08:43] Got to give it back to them. You know, they’re always happy to give it out to you. So it’s nice to push them around a bit.

Caroline: [00:08:47] Couldn’t agree more. What we’re sports that you started to focus on as you started growing up?

Alyse LaHue: [00:08:53] I think the big ones were just the ones in my school. So primarily softball, volleyball, basketball and soccer, I think were the main four. And then just little hints of track and field and cross-country. I only did that if they really needed a body to go out there, I wasn’t super into just running with no purpose. Rather play some kind of ball sport. So I think those were the big four for me that we had at my school. And those are the ones I just ended up drifting into. We didn’t really have a tennis program or a golf program, so I just de facto ended up in team sports. Growing up, I was all basketball, just one hundred percent basketball. Soccer was actually the one I was the latest to. I started I was eight with the local YMCA league. I had one of those free t shirts they give you. It went down to my knees. So I wore that for many, many, many years. I actually think I still have it and now properly fits me now that I’m nearly 40, that tee shirts got a lot of legs out of it. But yeah, starting in the local YMCA league. Soccer was my latest sport and that one was the one I had to actually play entirely with boys until I got to college. The rest we actually had all girls’ teams, but soccer, we didn’t have enough girls to field a team at my school. So there was just a couple of us that ended up playing on the boys team. And I played through high school on the boys team and against all boys, but obviously a unique experience. But soccer ended up being kind of the sport I switched to full time in college.

Soph: [00:10:07] Every woman that we talked to has played against boys, whether organized or unorganized, like all of them have played against boys. I don’t know if it’s like that different to me. When I think back on teams that were only girls, it wasn’t really that different from playing with boys. But I just think there’s a certain amount of proof that you have to give in a game when you’re playing against boys and it’s like way more fun to crush them. Crushing girls, you’re just sort of like, OK, well, we’re supposed to be good and stuff, but when you’re playing against boys, it’s like way more fun to strike everybody out or to slide tackle and destroy. That would be like, wow, this is great because they don’t think that you can.

Alyse LaHue: [00:10:44] I think when you’re younger, it’s OK. Right, because I think girls hit their growth spurt actually sooner. So there was a very brief period of time where I was one of the tallest kids in class, even though then I stayed that for the next five years and nothing changed after that. So all the boys shot ahead of me, but I think when you’re younger, I’m eight years old, playing soccer. There’s not really differentiating whether you’re on a girls or boys team at that age. You know, looking back, it was OK for me. Probably it just depends on each individual’s personality. I understand why a lot of girls drop out, though, if they only have the option to play coed or even when I say coed, it’s primarily boys realistically. So I understand why most of the girls in my school didn’t stick with soccer because that’s a tough order when you start to be 14, 15, 16, 17 and you’re playing on boys teams. The boys are out to crush you, not necessarily the ones on your team because they know you and they’ve played with you and they respect you. But the boys on the other teams were out there to crush me and Kelly. We were the only two girls that played and they would love it if they, like, rolled us out of bounds. I mean, that was just part of it. But trust me, it made me real tough. When I went to play in college, I was like, oh, these girls are so easy to play against because I’m out there crushing everybody because I’m used to having to hold my own against boys that were so much bigger than me. And I ended up being quite a bruiser once I got to college and had a lot of fouls in the first year because I was used to playing with boys where I had to double down on my strength to play against them and I realized I’m playing against girls. I could be a little bit more finesse with things. I didn’t have to be quite such a bruiser. But I do see, looking back, how that can actually cause a lot of girls to drop out when they’re not amongst their own peers or feel like they’re not at the same pace or strength or size as other boys. I just happened to be a little bit taller early on my growth spurt. I think I maxed out at eighth grade, but at that point, that’s when all the boys are really just starting to grow. So I was OK for a while going through it, but I can see why a lot of girls might drop out, which is not a good thing. Right. We want to keep girls in sports.

Caroline: [00:12:32] Definitely. So you played soccer in college and then when did you start to think that you wanted to work and lead in the sports industry?

Alyse LaHue: [00:12:41] I studied international business in college, so I never had sports on my radar, really as a career path. I had been following the WNBA and I kind of had it in the back of my head that that was somewhere I might want to work. But I just really fell in love with soccer and loved being around it. I studied abroad in Ireland and that was when my eyes really opened up to how big essentially soccer was around the world. And it’s not the top sport in the US, especially not back then. But when I went to Ireland, it’s like that it. Every person on my campus was following Man U because they had an Irish player back then. So everybody had a man hoodie. And it was just Manchester United everywhere in Ireland at the time. But it was cool. Like I still remember the Champions League jingle that would come on the TV and watching the games with my pals in Ireland. So it was just a different culture. And that’s when I was like fully in love with soccer and realize like what a world game it was and how passionate people around the world are. And that was cool to see. So it really felt like home for me. And I think that was the first time that I really started to wrap my mind around the fact that I might be able to work in it. And when I was in Ireland, I was playing on the club team. First day I got to school over there, I went and found the club team. I knew I wanted to keep playing to stay sharp when I came back and played in college back home. It was totally student run. So it was a totally different experience. They had a whole council. It was all loaded. So there was a president, vice president, Et cetera, and the students ran everything. They had to find the coach. They had to find the field, get the bus, line the fields, do everything. So I ended up staying in Ireland an extra year and I went up for council. I became the vice president of the club. And I always say that was like my first foray into sports business was just sort of by accident. So we’re out there holding fundraisers in the student pub. We had to interview the coach. Every facet of kind of running a soccer team, I got my hands on and I was nineteen years old. So I think looking back, I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was my first foray into running a club. And from then on, I knew a women’s pro league was going to be coming back at some point. So I had always been keeping an eye on that and just kind of just in the back of my mind. And then when I was getting my masters degree, that’s when I really heard they were ramping up. And a women’s pro soccer league, I’m like, OK, that’s what I’m going to work. And I don’t know, one day I’m like, I’m going to be a GM. I probably just picked what I thought was the highest title. I was like, Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do. I didn’t know what a GM did. I’m going to be honest, but I just targeted it and that was that. From there, I pursued the Chicago team and got in the door and interned and worked my way up from there.

Caroline: [00:14:56] Forward Progress is sponsored by Hi-Viz Safety Wear. They’re a leading provider of high visibility apparel. So if you need safety vests or hoodies and jackets in the wintertime to keep your crews safe and warm, give them a call at 888-554-4849 or visit their website at wearitforsafety.com. They also offer in-house logo printing. That’s 888-554-4849. Or wearitforsafety.com. Nobody does Hi-Viz better.

Caroline: [00:15:29] I know we do have some fan questions, Sophia I don’t know if you want to ask that. So one of our professors at Monmouth University, Dr. Jen McGovern, she is a really big fan of yours. And she said that she would love to write a paper with you on sport merchandise, women’s sport merchandise. She did want us to ask a few questions.

Alyse LaHue: [00:15:51] Awesome. I love that.

Caroline: [00:15:52] You dipped your toes in the sports side and the sports business side. Now, how would you design a sports management curriculum? And how did your own education prepare you for your job? Do you think there was anything that was missing? I know you said you majored in international business, so sports wasn’t directly in the forefront.

Alyse LaHue: [00:16:12] Yeah. I mean, I guess I start with I don’t want to say there’s a traditional path in sports because I don’t think there is. But there’s certainly a lot of sports management and sports based programs now that I’ve had a lot of staff and students that have actually worked in sports programs. I was like, well, you’re way ahead of me. I didn’t do anything in sports even when I got an MBA, like I hadn’t taken a single sports class. so my first foray into sports was that first day I showed up at the Chicago Red Stars as an intern. That was day one. OK, sports, we’re doing this now. So I didn’t have the background. I think there’s a lot of students nowadays that are way ahead of me, but I studied business and that’s sort of the foundation for everything I do as a general manager. But I was doing a sports management curriculum today, which I hope to be one day, actually. So I still study. It’s got to be more equitable even as I teach a fundraising in sports class, which I do through East Tennessee State University. So I’m teaching undergrads just all facets of fundraising in sport. And the textbook is all men’s sport. And I think there should be a disclaimer that there’s only like two pages of women’s sports. And because I’ve been around it so long, I was reading it. Now I’m like, well, that’s wrong. Well, that’s incorrect. It’s like two pages. How do you get two pages wrong? Like, that’s your only data on women’s sports. And you didn’t even make the.

Caroline: [00:17:19] Because a man wrote the book. What do you expect?

Alyse LaHue: [00:17:22] Multiple plural multiple men wrote it. So, yes, that’s the problem. Right. So I think there should be a disclaimer on all these courses that you’re actually studying men’s sports, you’re not studying women’s sports when you go into these classes. So I make a really concerted effort with my students to kind of try to force them to look at women’s sports. And when I respond to them, I say, well, have you thought about this? Or when we’re talking about Title IX, have you thought about it from this angle? So trying to open up their minds to that. I’m really pleased that just recently a book written by women about women’s sports business has come out and I’m still trying to get my hands on it. Actually, it’s a text book. I’m hopeful that there’s some really solid content in there I can use. But I think if I was designing a course, I would make it more equitable that it’s not just men’s sports that we’re historically looking at. But let’s talk about women’s sports, because women’s sports been around for a long time, maybe not in the forefront, but there’s a lot of pioneers way before me that have been working in women’s sports and paving the way. And I would like to talk about them more. They need more recognition.

Caroline: [00:18:12] I agree.

Soph: [00:18:13] That’s insane because Billie Jean King has transformed the model of how women are treated in tennis and is now working with other sports and changing the way women are treated in hockey and softball and in volleyball, and how is that not the business approach to sports? And how do you not teach that? And then when you were studying international business, was it something that all of your textbooks were written by? Man, was it a similar approach, even though it wasn’t sports based?

Alyse LaHue: [00:18:38] Yeah, I wish I had probably paid more attention to my textbooks. I was like a C average student, to be fair. So I’m not even going to sit here and pretend I was like top of my class. I was probably C at best my later years. I actually did better. I got more A’s later in life when I was like, oh, I kind of like school, like I’m Ok with this. But yeah, I think you’re right. I think so much of business and sport has been traditionally written by men and that’s, I’d imagine, the break down. There’s a lot more male professors that are working in sport. I mean, even as I look and as I’ve talked to other women, because I just embarked on a Phd literally yesterday, So I just got started. I’m a student now.

Caroline: [00:19:11] Yes, we saw that. Congratulations. Very exciting!

Alyse LaHue: [00:19:13] Thank you. Thank you. As I’ve talked to women in the field, primarily when I talk to them and there’s even another woman in the program that I’m taking, she’s like, oh yeah, I’m the only woman in my whole class and I’m like, that’s just not cool. So I think women traditionally are left out of a lot of these roles or don’t go as far into these types of leadership roles. And we need more women. We need more women professors, more women in sports that are executives at the highest level. That’s how we’re going to start to change the narrative around how we view things historically so that as I’m sitting here, I can tell you everything about the last two women’s pro soccer leagues because I worked in both of them and I have a lot of institutional knowledge of what’s happened in them over the last ten years. And we need more women in these positions that kind of carry this historic knowledge where you’re looking at things through a lens where like I’m looking at the women that came before me or the women that were in high level roles. And I want to talk about them. I want to talk about the work that they did that I think it’s underrepresented. So I think it’s crucially important that we have more women in these types of roles to write the textbooks, too, because it should be viewed from multiple vantage points, not just from a male lens.

Caroline: [00:20:16] So you have definitely done your own work inside of the NWSL and your other endeavors, including Gonzo Soccer, which has grown to be an international program, so what did you see in sports, specifically in soccer, that made you want to create this sport and leadership program?

Alyse LaHue: [00:20:36] Yeah, it came about somewhat accidentally. It was at a time when I was just a manager back then and I was looking for some extra grocery money, basically. So a pal and I decided to go run a soccer clinic. We were both coaches on the side and we decided to run a soccer clinic. And it was going to be a one time thing and it was successful. We had a great time. It was fun. But the moms came back and just said, OK, when are you coming back again? We’re like, no, that was just a one time clinic. We weren’t really going to come back. They’re like, well, we have nowhere for the girls to go. They don’t have a soccer program. Basically, we just drag them along to their brothers practices and they just sit on the sideline and have to wait. They have nowhere to go. So that was really the catalyst. Honestly, it was the moms going, well, you got to come back now. You coached our daughters, now they need this. They really need this, like my daughter struggling with X, Y, Z. And so when you tug at my heartstrings like that, I was like, OK, I’m coming back every week, OK? I’m going to show up here. And we got really lucky to the facility we were at was like, yes, we want this program for the girls. Here’s the space for free. If you guys are willing to come back and do this relatively low cost, have the space. So it takes the right combination of people that are like, yes, we need this, take it. We’re not trying to make a bunch of money off of you. And so we just started coming back every week and we charged a super nominal fee. I mean, we would be there for like two, two an a half hours thing. We charge every player five dollars, but if they couldn’t afford it, if they could afford two dollars. That was fine. If they couldn’t afford anything, that was fine, too. We did not turn any single player away. And there were some families that had two or three daughters. They couldn’t afford fifteen bucks at a time, so we just said, just come. We don’t want a kid to not be able to come because they can’t afford it. So that was how it started. It was just sort of by accident. And then it went from one day a week to two days a week. I had some of my coworkers would come help coach. We started doing life skills and things like that, honestly, because we only had one little field and there were days that we had sixty, seventy, eighty girls showing up. We couldn’t have eighty girls on like a seven a side field. I mean you should see that mass chaos. It was like hungry hippo like balls flying everywhere and people getting whacked and the life skills kind of came naturally. We were like OK we got to take twenty girls over here for one part of it like what are we going to do. So we started doing life skills. We’re just like, OK, let’s just talk to them about some things going on in their lives, so that was how it developed. So it was a very natural program for us to get up and running and start to develop. And it just came out of a need that we saw in the community. And from there, the rest is history. And we ended up opening it in several other countries as well. But it was strictly need-based and obviously a very exciting project for us.

Caroline: [00:22:55] Have you been able to go to those programs in other countries as well?

Alyse LaHue: [00:22:59] Yeah, many years ago we had to go in like ten days. We had to set up in five different cities in Columbia. I can’t tell you what a mad dash that was. And when I say set up, it was like we had to find the coaches in the fields and interview people. And obviously we did some of the legwork in advance. But it was like a mad dash around Columbia meeting with all these people. and it was in Spanish, which I’m very rusty at. So my brain was mush by day three, like trying to speak in Spanish and like go through this whole process. I was like, oh, good grief, so that was super overwhelming. But an exciting project, certainly. and there was just some funny, serendipitous things that happened. We were, I think, on a flight to Barranquilla and lo and behold, El Pibe, who’s like the most well known male player of Columbia ever, Carlos Valderrama. You know, he’s got the hair. So you recognize him. We’re like, is Carlos Valderrama on our flight? He’s from Barranquilla, I think, and was like, that can’t be real. Like, what is the odds? So naturally, Monica, who is my co-founder, just walks up to first class and sits next to him and strikes up a conversation was like, this is what we’re doing. Obviously we’re meant to meet you. So we know you have fields in Barranquilla like, can you just give them to us basically? So anyway, we end up going to their fields and I think it all ended up working out, if I’m remembering correct. But it was just funny moments like that where it’s like it would have made a great series if you had followed us for whatever the two weeks we were there. Some of it was just comedy, but it was cool. We got the programs up and running. A lot of learning challenges over the next couple of years, some not so good. People working with the program. Lost a lot of money that just went and disappeared. So it’s very hard to run a program from afar we learned. And you got to hope people are doing the right thing, but it can be tough in some of these more developing spaces where women’s football isn’t at the top tier. So definitely a lot of challenges, but overall very fruitful. And it was just great to see these girls have these opportunities to play.

Caroline: [00:24:45] I can’t even imagine organizing everything, building it from the ground up in a ten day period for multiple cities. So that’s just incredible. And I mean, whether it’s here in the US or in other countries, programs like Gonzo soccer are so needed.

Alyse LaHue: [00:25:01] There’s so many other cool programs that women are doing too that. Anytime I see somebody in the nonprofit space and like I have so much respect for you because it is a it’s a grind. Yeah, it’s a tough gig. So a lot of respect for folks that do that.

Caroline: [00:25:13] Yeah, I know it’s really hard to get grants and everything like that. So it takes a lot of work and dedication.

Alyse LaHue: [00:25:18] Totally.

Soph: [00:25:20] I want to ask you on the Sky-Blue side, can you talk about what your hopes are for the season, how excited you are about your staff and players?

Caroline: [00:25:28] What if she’s not excited? No, I’m just kidding.

Soph: [00:25:31] It was a leading question. This is why I’m not- this is why I’m a coach, not a journalist.

Alyse LaHue: [00:25:36] [laughter] It was a good leading question. Of course, I’m excited. We’ve been just doing preseason for over a month. So finally, for the players to get to have competition was just so exciting and feels like we’re getting closer to season now. But yeah, it’s a long pre-season. You know, my goals for the year are I try to keep things relatively simple. I would love for nobody to get covid. So that’s like always step A for me is everybody’s safety. We’re going to be opening up our stadium to fans again, which is long overdue, and we’re so excited for that. But it’s a safety concern, too. So I want to any fans that come to our games to have a safe and happy experience around our games as well. I kind of start with the basic human needs of safety. Can’t forget we’re still in a pandemic. I think it’s easy to forget because we’re all fatigued of it, but we are still very deep in a pandemic. And with that comes just a lot of honestly stress and some anxiety around getting through this safely and providing a safe spot for players, fans, et cetera. So that’s talking about the basic human needs. And then after that, we had a pretty good year. Last year, we made the playoffs of Challenge Cup, fourth place in the fall series. We were very close to getting third place in there. So we’re really pleased by our efforts last year. And that was big because that was the first time Sky-Blue has made the playoffs since 2013. So that was big because really last year was my first full season I had where I had an off season to manipulate the roster, bring in some new talent. So that was exciting. And Freya’s first full year as our head coach as well. We just want to build off of that. I think last year they were learning a whole new system with our brand new technical staff. Now I see the team they picked up where they left off, and that’s really exciting. So now we can build on that in year two, continue to develop some of the talent we have. And I’m just excited to see them back out on the field again. It’s been a long time since it’s felt like all the players are here together. Carli Lloyd was injured last year with a knee injury. She’s finally back. She just trotted out into our preseason game. She scored, I think, three seconds after coming into the game. So I was like, yep, nice to see she’s still got it after all these years. Yeah. So feeling really excited for all of that team’s been working hard.

Caroline: [00:27:28] Cool. Well, that’s great to hear that you’re going to be welcoming fans. Hopefully we can make it to a game. So really excited about that.

Alyse LaHue: [00:27:35] You’ll be two of the fifteen percent we can let in. Now we hope that number is going to go up a little bit, but.

Caroline: [00:27:40] We have two final questions for you. So, number one, what is a sport that you wish you knew more about or saw more of growing up?

Alyse LaHue: [00:27:49] It’s almost ironic that I want to say soccer, isn’t it, because I’m a GM in soccer and this has been my whole career, but I didn’t grow up with any visibility to it whatsoever. I grew up in Iowa, so I had never been to a pro game my whole life, actually, of any pro game ever in any sport. You know, my experience of sport was as an athlete, as a player, I didn’t have a sport family. We didn’t cheer for anybody. We didn’t watch college games. There was never any sports on the TV. I just didn’t really grow up in that culture with my immediate family. My grandma was an avid sports fan, so I think I got a bit from her, her TV and she worked from her kitchen running her tavern, which that’s a different story, but she worked from the kitchen. We don’t have time for all that. But she worked from her kitchen. Always watch the Cubs, always watch the Bulls. Iowa Hawkeye basketball, too. I developed that passion. And she could name every player. I would think she wasn’t even paying attention, like she would be counting money. And then all of a sudden, like, mention something that happened on the TV. And I’m like, do you have eyes like the top of your head? How did you just see that? And like, she knew what players they were. And she would like one of her friends next door would watch the games to another older woman. They would talk about the Cubs players, so it’s pretty cool. When the Cubs won the World Series, they let you write in chalk on the side of Wrigley Field. I actually wrote my grandma’s name. She had passed by then, so she never got to see them win the World Series. But yeah, became a Bulls fan through my grandma. The nineties were very exciting when they had all those championships. But yeah. So I didn’t grow up with that much of that experience outside of just my grandma watching it on TV. That was kind of the only mechanism I had. So I think it would have been interesting to grow up in a soccer culture or to watch games or to have any influence on it. So that is kind of an ironic answer, but I think that’s my answer.

Caroline: [00:29:24] Basically, the only soccer team, the 99s. Right. So people talk now, like when they saw them win, it was like, OK, this could be real. This could be a real way to pursue your goals in soccer and just be an athlete in women’s sports. So that’s really cool to hear about your grandma, though. Honestly, though, like women really just have eyes and ears all over the place. You don’t have to be paying attention, but you just hear something or know something. Remember everything. Our final question is an unusual one, but we like it. What is your ideal ice cream sandwich?

Alyse LaHue: [00:30:00] Oh, ice cream sandwich. OK, this is a real on the spot thing. I’m not a big ice cream person. I was just thinking this the other day and some of our players went out for ice cream for Jen Cudjoe’s birthday. They’re telling me all about it because it’s vegan ice cream and they were so excited. They’re like, it was the best vegan ice cream I was like, I don’t think I really like ice cream that much, but I know it’s weird, but. It would have to be something cookie dough like, I love cookie dough ice cream that I can get into. So if you can make that into a sandwich. I’m good to go as long as it’s vegan, veganize it. I’ve been through what I call the Dark Ages when there wasn’t all this like fake vegan meats and stuff on the market. It was just like you could have like a Boca burger and that was it. And the cheese was really bad. And like now it’s a lot easier to be a vegan. There’s like fake everything.

Caroline: [00:30:42] You know, I’m not even a fan of the fake meats because it’s just like the texture and the taste of meat that I’m not really a fan of. So, like, even if it’s not meat meat, I don’t I’d rather just have like a black bean burger or something,

Alyse LaHue: [00:30:55] Yeah, that’s true. When I first had an impossible burger, I was freaked out. I was like, are we sure? Are we sure. This is not.

Caroline: [00:31:02] This seems too real.

Alyse LaHue: [00:31:04] Yeah. Like I’m from Iowa. I remember what it tastes like and this is a little too close for comfort. Like I don’t know if I feel good about this.

Caroline: [00:31:11] Iowa, it’s like corn, cows,

Alyse LaHue: [00:31:13] Yup, corn and cows. You got to have your veggies and your meats. That’s like every meal for sure.

Caroline: [00:31:18] Sophia and I always get excited when we find a vegan restaurant or something. There’s one in Port Jervis, which is where we typically meet up because it’s halfway between our houses. So we’re always just like, all right, we’re going there.

Alyse LaHue: [00:31:28] Which one is that?

Caroline: [00:31:29] It’s called Fogwood and Fig.

Alyse LaHue: [00:31:31] Oh, OK.

Soph: [00:31:31] And it’s just like a street of Main Street and it’s like this really nice little part of town. Everywhere else there’s like nothing. But there’s one street and at the end of it is this vegan place. And it’s everything. It’s so good.

Caroline: [00:31:43] It’s really good. They also have mac and cheese. Top notch.

Alyse LaHue: [00:31:47] Ok, cool. It’s hard to do a good vegan mac and cheese. So if they do it then I’m going to add them to the list.

Soph: [00:31:52] Yeah, I was really skeptical and it’s really good.

Caroline: [00:31:55] Thank you so much for taking time out of your day, out of one of your few off days to talk with us. We really appreciate it.

Alyse LaHue: [00:32:03] Yeah, no problem. Thanks for all the good questions. And you have to thank your professor for doing some dial in questions as well. Thank you both. This was fun. I appreciate it.

Caroline: [00:32:14] Big thank you to Alyse for coming on to the podcast and talking with us. I’ve liked hearing about her time in Ireland, her journey to becoming a professional in women’s sports and focusing on the business side of sports, but also just hearing the story about how her grandmother was the biggest sports fan. And then, of course, just hearing about Gonzo Soccer and how it has become an international program is having a major impact on so many girls.

Soph: [00:32:45] Yeah, I think it was fascinating as well just how humble she is. I mean, she’s a general manager of a professional team. You could tell that she cares about soccer and just cares about the club and making sure that Sky-Blue is getting better and better every year. And yeah, it was fun to hear her passion when we asked her about Sky Blue and what they’re doing now as well. And for those Carli Lloyd fans out there, I know Coach Surace is; you’ll be excited. She’s healing up well from her injury. And Alyse let us know that within the first three minutes that Carli was put into the game, she scored. So, yeah, same old, Carli. Always can find the back of the net. So I think it’s really cool when a general manager can be heavily involved with not only our own club, but helping grow the sport outside of it. It’s really cool.

Caroline: [00:33:29] Forward Progress is produced by Caroline Mattise with a little help from Sophia Lewin.

Soph: [00:33:34] True.

Caroline: [00:33:34] And is brought to you by best available player. Find more podcasts, articles and video content related to sports and entertainment on bestavailableplayer.com. All the music in this podcast is by James Barrett, a good friend and an even better musician. Be sure to check him out on your favorite music streaming platform. And because we’re all about inclusivity and accessibility, each podcast of Forward Progress will be transcribed and available on bestavailableplayer.com.

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