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S2, Ep.4: We Love Lussi

Portland Thorns forward Tyler Lussi joins the podcast to share her own ideas for reinvestment in the NWSL, her experiences growing up in a family full of athletes, and her time at Princeton.

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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EPISODE TRANSCRIPTION

Tyler Lussi: [00:00:00] The next case, in order to create an additional source of added revenue year two and beyond, we do that by branding the equipment that you already bought for enemy soccer cleats, balls, shin guards, jerseys, everything, NWSL owner or property of NWSL owner. And that little bit of extra money, about five percent to ten dollars of the already minimum two hundred dollars you spend on the equipment will be the next piece in order to create reinvestment, to create the brand, to continue year two and beyond. And that minimum money will then generate between 40 to one hundred and twenty million dollars.

Caroline: [00:00:45] Hi, everyone, and welcome to Forward Progress. I’m Caroline.

Soph: [00:00:48] And I’m Sophia.

Caroline: [00:00:49] A lot has happened since we last talked on the podcast. So let’s just get right into it and get started with the sporting news.

Soph: [00:00:57] The sports.

Caroline: [00:00:58] NBC announced that it will air twelve hundred hours of coverage of the 2021 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, which runs from August 24th to September 5th. At the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, NBC aired more than six thousand seven hundred hours, compared to a mere 77 hours of Paralympic coverage in the US.

Soph: [00:01:19] Wow, that’s so that’s such a small percentage of the actual number of hours played.

Caroline: [00:01:25] It reached a record number of countries. So it’s just crazy to see that there were so few hours of coverage in the US especially.

Soph: [00:01:33] Well, from 77 hours to twelve hundred hours. That’s that’s pretty good. We’re getting there.

Soph: [00:01:39] Maya Chaka becomes the first black woman official in the NFL. Her direct quote was, “This moment is bigger than a personal accomplishment. It’s an accomplishment for all women, my community and my culture.” She’s a graduate of Norfolk State, which is an HBCU, all sorts of wins. Speaking of black excellence, for the first time in women’s conference tournament finals history, the head coaches for both teams were black women. They are Joni Taylor and Dawn Staley. South Carolina won 67-62 over Georgia for the SEC championship. You love to see it.

Soph: [00:02:12] The PWHPA, which is the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, their games have been aired on CBSSN, which is CBS Sports Network and the NHL Network. Billie Jean King even announced the games before they played their first time ever in Madison Square Garden, which was really cool. One of the PWHPA players is Kendall Coyne Schofield, and she recently became a part owner of the Chicago Red Stars, which is a team in the NWSL, and Sarah Spain, who’s an ESPN personality, journalist, podcast host, all of the above, recently became a part owner of the Chicago Red Stars as well. She’s been a fan of them for a really long time. So it’s really cool to see women entering the ownership stakes of women’s professional teams. The WNBA draft is going to be televised on ESPN and on April 15th, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. We are getting amped up for the WNBA season this summer.

Soph: [00:03:09] In the Players Tribune A’ja Wilson wrote an article about depression. We’ve talked about A’ja before because she had a statue put up on South Carolina’s campus and it was an incredible speech. And she won MVP last year. And with all of those successes, she’s experienced anxiety and panic attacks and depression. And it’s really hard for people to talk about that. And she also talked about the compounding pressures of being a black woman and having to be strong. And in black culture, it’s even more difficult or the pressures are different in terms of talking about depression and talking about those things. And I think it’s just really cool to see someone who’s very successful and who’s at the top of her game, talk about how it doesn’t make her happy all the time. And that doesn’t mean that she’s invincible as a human. And I don’t know, I really loved it. It was one of the more honest articles I’ve ever read, and I appreciated her talking about it.

Caroline: [00:04:01] So together

Soph: [00:04:02] OK, arguably the best day… Togethxr was launched and togethxr as a social media brand platform e-commerce e-commerce platform.

Caroline: [00:04:12] Run by and run for women.

Soph: [00:04:15] Get it. The four athletes that are representing Together are Simone Manuel, Chloe Kim, Alex Morgan and Sue Bird. Just a couple of goats.

Caroline: [00:04:23] So this is a little bit of cycling news and I would not have found this without the help of my brother. He does listen to our podcast and he saw this article since he is super into cycling and he forwarded to me. So thanks, Nick. Trek-Segafredo, an American professional cycling team for men and women, announced that they would be increasing their women’s base salary to either match or surpass their men’s. And the governing body of world cycling, The UCI, plans on steadily increasing the salaries for the Women’s World Tour, but Trek decided not to wait for the mandate and went ahead and are setting the standard themselves.

Soph: [00:05:00] Get it.

Caroline: [00:05:01] All right, Sophia, time to introduce our guest for this episode.

Soph: [00:05:05] Ok, I know I know that I say this every single time, but this was one of my favorite episodes to record. Caroline, I’m so excited about this episode. I’ve been waiting for it. My head coach at Princeton, Bob Surace, has been waiting for it because he knew it was coming. And I’m so excited for you guys to hear it all and enjoy it as much as I did. Today, we have a professional women’s soccer player in the NWSL. She plays for the Portland Thorns. She’s a Princeton alum where she was a history major. She’s a three time first team, all Ivy League and also for the NSCAA All-Mid-Atlantic Region first team. During her four year collegiate career, she established new records with 53 career goals and one hundred and twenty two career points. That’s for the men and the women. She was a third round draft pick of the Thorn’s in 2017, and she’s also been called up to the U-23 US women’s national team. Today we have the Tyler Lussi.

Tyler Lussi: [00:06:08] Yeah, thank you so much for having me. Listening to your podcast, I just see the both of you are so dedicated to listening to other people’s stories and investing your time into women’s athletics, not just soccer, but all women’s athletics. And I had to jump on because I knew that, Sophia, you had a connection with Bob. And Bob spoke so highly of you as well. I needed to jump on and get to know you all.

Soph: [00:06:30] So, Tyler, I wanted to ask growing up, what sports did you play other than soccer and kind of what was that experience like?

Tyler Lussi: [00:06:35] So I grew up in a very sporty family. I think one of our mottos is “three sports a day is the Lussi Way”. So soccer was my first love. I played tennis, golf. I swam from a very young age. It was actually very helpful in terms of the load on your body and then played ice hockey, water skiied, snow skiied. I probably played almost every sport, there’s as a couple I didn’t try. But just was involved in anything. And I think always being so passionate about sport from a very young age, because that’s what my family and my two parents instilled in us to get outside, be active, have fun with it, and to have my older brother and younger brother both involved in sports and still involved in sports now just really grew that confidence in me and that passion to always just get out there and have fun with it.

Soph: [00:07:20] Are you better than your brother’s? Real quick.

Tyler Lussi: [00:07:24] Hahaha. So my older brother Hunter is a professional triathlete, so I’m not better in those three sports because insane just in his mentality. And growing up with an older brother who’s the world’s youngest Ironman, he completed a full Ironman triathlon at 13. So not in that I would say in soccer and better than my older brother. But my younger brother Morgan is also a soccer player. He’s hopefully on his way to becoming a professional soccer player. I’d say he is definitely better than me. And I’m trying to be as humble because he has far better skills when we were younger, because we always played together. It was awesome to have a brother that I could just train with and have just my best friend just go out in the field and work with, but skill wise is something that he really focused on so that he always teaches me new tricks. So any time he does a trick, like, really complete it. I was like “Can you teach me?” And it took me a little bit longer to figure out, but slowly I worked my way up to having some skill. But Morgan is definitely a better soccer player than I am. I will say that.

Soph: [00:08:17] And he’s still in college and you’re playing professionally and you’re giving him all this credit.

Tyler Lussi: [00:08:21] He went Loyola University in Maryland. So he’s now actually in grad school and he’s a graduate assistant soccer coach as well. So he’s helping those guys become better every single day. And hopefully he’ll get his call to become a professional soccer player soon.

Soph: [00:08:35] A bunch of pro athletes, man.

Tyler Lussi: [00:08:37] Trying to.

Caroline: [00:08:37] So I don’t know. I heard something like both of your parents played sports in college and maybe something about the Olympics in your family. Is that true?

Tyler Lussi: [00:08:47] Yes. So my dad’s side, my great grandfather was a figure skating coach. They coach Olympians and world champions. And then my grandfather was in the Winter Olympics for the Nordic combine in 1960. So incredible stories about him. And I just have such a great relationship with my grandfather. And then my grandmother still is a figure skating coach and she’s in her eighties. So that’s incredible that she’s still out there and coaching young athletes. And then my dad was a figure skater. When I say that my dad was a figure skater, people tend to be like, that’s unique which it is but it’s in my family, you know, my background and it makes sense. So he figure skated until he was 20, and then did other sports, but was always involved, and then he did Ironman Triathlons. So that’s where my older brother was involved. And then my mom, my mom is the badass. She’s a rock star athlete. She gave us all the coordination. I know my dad did, but it’s all my mom. My mom is the rock star, so she played soccer and lacrosse. So that’s where I was introduced to soccer. And then she did as well. When my parents got married, they did Ironman Triathlons together. So it was really cool just to have that experience. And hopefully after my long, long soccer career, I will attempt to do an Ironman triathlon because I have the best resources. But just seeing how much energy and time and dedication you have to put into doing three sports every single day, but then doing it to those extended distances, it’s just it’s insane. So anybody who does Ironman maybe has a little screw loose, but it’s in a good way. Very sporty family.

Caroline: [00:10:14] That’s awesome.

Soph: [00:10:14] That’s that’s hilarious. They’ve got a screw loose. When did you realize you were going to play soccer in college and possibly professionally?

Tyler Lussi: [00:10:23] I started playing when I was three and just my mom threw me out in this little park field with a bunch of kids, and I just ran around and fell in love with soccer. And I think I just think soccer is my first love. I always want to play soccer from a very young age professionally. So having the resources and being surrounded by the people I was, my family and the coaches I had, really pushed me in that direction. So I played on my club soccer team, because a club in Maryland where I’m from, from when I was six to 18 and had basically the same coaches that entire time. So they really grew my abilities and confidence in myself to push me in that direction. They always worked with me outside of practice. And I think that’s so important is the dedication. You have to do the hours and work outside of the two hours of practice you have every day, especially as a young kid. If you really love it. And that’s the most important thing. You love what you do. You’re going to be dedicated. So it was around 14, 15, kind of once you get to high school, they start going through the recruiting process. You sent a bunch of emails and we went to a bunch of tournaments with my team. And we were always very focused and determined like it was such a unique group to be a part of my club soccer days. We were all kind of on the same team for our entire stretch of our career. You know, I visited a lot of schools and when I went and visited Princeton, I just saw how unique and incredible Princeton is and what Princeton has to offer. And the most important thing is I saw that there was such an incredible community that supported women athletes and Princeton was just my best fit. So obviously I had to have incredible grades to get into Princeton. And the Ivy League doesn’t offer athletic scholarships. So I had to have grades to get in and do well. But Princeton just has this mentality of the team around the team that no matter who you are, where you come from, your background, you’re going to be supported no matter what, and you’re going to be heard and you’re going to be listened to. I had incredible four years of Princeton. And it’s really helped me grow into the person I am today and be able to handle so many different obstacles, not only as a professional athlete, but also in life outside of the soccer field and the business world and different ideas that I have.

Soph: [00:12:24] You talked about Princeton setting you up for pro life and then obviously after your super long soccer career. And can you talk about specific things, whether you went through adversity and learned those things or you talked about the team around the team, what kind of support staff, those kinds of things that you learned to be able to set you up for being a professional?

Tyler Lussi: [00:12:43] So I think… And I’m going to mention Bob Surace. You have to mention, Bob. So I remember my freshman year, we had a team barbecue at his house. That was the first time I met Bob. And his wife, Lisa who also was on the Princeton women’s soccer team and as an alum. So it was so cool to meet him, to see his interaction that he has with Lisa and just the passion that he talks about Princeton, just this drive and passion that he has for every athlete, whether you’re female or male. Having his support has helped me so much, not only him, but having the entire football team. They came to so many of our games. I remember my first year, freshman year, first game, first goal I ever scored. One hundred plus football guys were screaming and cheering and going crazy. And I was just like, wow, this is what I talk about with the team around the team. Is having a male athlete first led by a male football coach, to come support women athletes in a completely different sport. And just the enthusiasm they had to show up every single game that they were free and they didn’t have their game really brought us together. And I know Bob has built such an incredible winning culture for the Princeton football team, but also Princeton Athletics and Princeton University and build such a team first mentality. So when I first met him, I already understood that. So when I started Princeton, started my classes, started practicing, had games. I never took anything lightly. It was, I want to do the best I can and be excellent. And I think that’s what Princeton really teaches you, is, yes, you’re going to have ups and downs. You’re not going to do well in classes. The first couple of classes I was like, I have no idea what they’re talking about, but there’s so many resources and alum who want to help you and tell you where to go and how to help you study and everything. That team around the team, not only for sport, but in your education, really, really helped me. And to have that incredible relationship that I have with Bob is really unique. And I will always be so grateful and thankful because he really was one of the the main people in my Princeton career that was just always super supportive, especially as a woman athlete and even some incredible coaches at Princeton. I talked to Sean Driscoll, the head of the women’s soccer coach, and he said, when I graduated, he’s like, you want to come back for four more years? Kind of just joked around with me some time. And I go, yes, I would love to, because the energy and enthusiasm at Princeton Soccer and Prince Athletics has is just so supportive and very empowering. So continuing that mentality into professional soccer. I’ve been prepared because of my family and background. How to recover, how to eat healthy, sleeping enough hours, everything that goes into it, so I kind of had that professional mentality even before Princeton, just because of how I grew up and being surrounded by triathletes, generally just need to figure that out. So taking that into professional soccer is, Yes, you’re on a new team, but you’re surrounded by some of the best in the entire world. And how do you get into the lineup? How do I get into these games? How do I make a mark for myself as a professional athlete? And I think I was so fortunate and am so fortunate to have been drafted by the Portland Thorns and play here at Providence Park, because this is the best environment in the entire world for women’s soccer. The fans and players. This experience is unlike no other. They want you to work hard every single day, bring your best attitude. But at the end of the day, they really just want to know you as a person and how special and incredible you are because you’re here for a reason. And to be surrounded and have my teammates. I mean, Christine Sinclair is the captain of my team. She’s my teammate. She’s the best in the world for scoring both female or male. And as a forward, I have her as my example and my teammate. And I look to her every single day. I just try to focus on what is she doing, what can I do better? What can I learn from her in practice? And just any time she speaks, listen to Sinc. She’s our captain. She knows exactly what she’s doing. She’s the goat. So listen to Sinc. But also other players. I mean, we have Lindsay Horan, we have U.S. national team, we have international stars. But at the end of the day, yes, we have all the stars, but every single person is important on this team. Every single person is needed to make this team special. And in order for us to win and do well. And I think last year, 2020 with a pandemic, we didn’t know what was going to happen, but we became so much closer as a team on and off the field and really off the field as people and really getting to know each other more. In that time because we had the Challenge Cup in Utah and spent so much time together and that bond is just continued this season. Everybody was just so excited to be back. Being a professional athlete for the Portland Thorns is the – I mean, there’s so many words I can use, but there’s also just like it makes me just get goosebumps because it’s an incredible environment to play soccer.

Soph: [00:17:32] And yeah, I think the Portland Thorns is excellence in the NWSL and then also just in soccer and globally, like you said. And then same with Princeton. It’s just Princeton Athletics is excellence and it’s a whole team. I know there’s thirty seven teams on campus for Princeton and it all feels connected. It doesn’t feel like individual teams that have no idea about each other. And that’s so exciting that all the guys were at your games and now it’s OK, How do we get NFL players involved with the NWSL? And I’m not just talking about JJ Watt being married to Kaelia Watt. Like, I don’t want you to have to be married to be invested. It doesn’t have to be for life, you know what I mean? It doesn’t have to be that kind of investment. But I think that’s kind of the point of how Princeton’s gotten so phenomenal is that relationship that you have a fantastic relationship with the head coach of a football team. And I don’t think many women’s soccer players in the entire country at the collegiate level could say they have a relationship with a coach that’s not their own. But you talked about the NWSL. There was the challenge cup this summer. It broke viewership records. There are more people interacting with women’s soccer than ever before. And it was like four hundred percent increase, something like that. Massive amounts of people watching your sport, watching you play. You know, we talk about the growth of the league. There’s been expansion teams in Kansas City now in Louisville. And there’s one going to Angel City, which it’s in L.A. The expansion draft was pretty crazy. Some people with different teams. You’re going to be playing with Crystal Dunn, who’s arguably one of the best defenders in the league, but she can play any she’s like a chess piece. She’s the queen of a chess piece, like everywhere.

Caroline: [00:19:11] 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.

Soph: [00:19:45] Can you talk about what do we need in terms of more expansion and not just more teams and we know the investment needs to be there in terms of big corporations, more fans. From your perspective as a player, you’ve been in the league now for a couple of years. What else needs to happen? And how can Caroline and I be a part of that growth? Because we’re not Verizon.

Caroline: [00:20:06] Unless I have public shares that I could buy for 50 dollars.

Soph: [00:20:13] You’re smarter than us. Lay it out. What is what needs to happen?

Tyler Lussi: [00:20:16] This led me into what I’ve been working on since I graduated from Princeton. You guys, like, read my mind. So to create reinvestment. To have more people involved as fans, you all. My idea is to take the league public. So a fan and player shared experience. And by doing that. So I’ve been working on a white paper on all the numbers and everything. They change a lot. It’s by selling a stock at five dollars per share the initial year of an IPO. And that’s the money we need because that will fix a lot of the salary problems and the experience of owning a league, not just the team, because we know Green Bay Packers have done that and I can talk about that. But it’s owning an entire sports league is never been done before, and this stock will pay dividends and can be bought and sold. So unlike the Green Bay Packers, they sold stock in their history, I believe, about five times. And that stock is because they needed more money. They needed reinvestment to keep the lights on, especially the initial couple of years in the nineteen thirties, I believe. But the thing is, with that stock, it’s only a certificate. You can’t buy and sell that stock. So once this is all bought up the first year of an IPO, how do we create reinvestment? What do we do year two and beyond? Because the fans and players will want to be seen that their owners and an entire league you want to be represented like I’m wearing a Princeton shirt as representing Princeton. You’re wearing your forward progress, representing your podcast and what your mission is. So fans and players, they want to be seen. So in order to do that, the next piece in order to create an additional source of added revenue, your team and beyond, we do that by branding the equipment that you already buy. Branding the soccer cleats, the balls, shin guards, jerseys, everything, and to be self owner or property of individual owner. And that little bit of extra money, about five percent to ten dollars of the already minimum two hundred dollars you spend on the equipment will be the next piece in order to create reinvestment, to create the brand, to continue year two and beyond. And that minimum money will then generate between forty to one hundred and twenty million dollars because between four and 12 million girls and women play soccer at some level in this country. And it’s roughly around..The stats change a little bit, but it’s roughly around twenty four million people at some level, young old men, women play soccer in the country. That’ll be enough money to fund new teams, bigger stadiums increase our salaries because they are capped right now, increase our salaries two to three times.

Soph: [00:22:48] Put that first. Put that first, Tyler. Put that first. We don’t-

Tyler Lussi: [00:22:52] Increase our salaries, please! So for players and coaches. And the owners would still be the owners of the teams and it just creates a shared fan and player experience. That’s what we need right now. And I think it’s a big idea, it’s not little and an IPO usually takes about a year and a half to two years to fully with all the paper work and everything to figure out. But I think we need this reinvestment now. And I know we are expanding, but it only marginally every year. It’s only a team or two every single year. That is great. We’ve had huge brand sponsorship us. We’ve had, as you said Sophia, huge viewership. But even only four percent of women’s soccer is broadcasted on media and we need to change that number.

Soph: [00:23:34] No doubt. I think the whole problem with, just to stop you really quick, the problem that is always presented with women sports is that.

Caroline: [00:23:40] You have to go to find it.

Soph: [00:23:41] There’s no demand for it. No, no, no. Like they just say there’s no demand for it, which is why they make it stupid hard to find it. And so I’m over here like streaming your games and I’m like, why am I able to watch, like a replay of an NBA game that happened in nineteen ninety four.

Caroline: [00:23:56] And I have to watch this on Twitter.

Soph: [00:23:58] And I have to watch this crap on my phone. Like this is dumb and this is not helping at all. But I think what you’re talking about is like there are so many fans that want to be involved that want to help. Open the door.

Tyler Lussi: [00:24:10] Completely agree with you. I think if people were given the opportunity to buy stock and say that they are owners and own 50 percent of a sports league, we’ll create more people to want to be involved, I think people want to be involved with something important and empowering and to see strong female athletes and watch strong female athletes is empowering. And I think it’s crucial now because we’re still in a pandemic. And I think it could really work right now until we find a better way to have fans back in the stands safely, tested more regularly, have the vaccine out faster. We can’t have the fans right now to keep everybody safe. So right now. Fans can buy stock. Of course, they’re going to watch more. Of course, people are going to be investing more because people want to be involved in something that’s important and empowering. And we need to increase women’s empowerment in this country, in the world, because we’re 50 percent of the population. We should be seen and watched all the time. It blows my mind that people don’t realize that. And I know yes male sports and athletes viewership has been around a lot longer. We know the history of that. But it’s time to change that number, that four percent that needs to change. And this is just the idea of creating reinvestment. And I think it’s really exciting from a financial standpoint because I want my salary to increase. You know, I work two to three other jobs. I work in my own mentoring company. I work in real estate. I work in my family’s assisted living business. I have to do work on the side. And then also my main job, the job I really, really love is professional women’s soccer, because I love this game. So I’d like to be supported more. So I have to come up with these ideas in order to increase that. And I think it’s really exciting from a women’s empowerment standpoint. So people need to be involved because fans want to know more and be involved. And I know that for certain.

Caroline: [00:25:49] You said you’ve been working on this for quite a while now. So what’s the process of presenting it to your league or to the federation or how does that go about?

Soph: [00:25:58] Do you talk about it with your players association?

Tyler Lussi: [00:26:00] They know. So I actually presented this back in December of 2019 when Princeton had its first Princeton soccer conference. That was the initial idea. And then I have mentioned it to teammates, to fans, just to get everybody’s sense of could this works. Do you think this could work? I’ve talked to big investors and stakeholders of other teams and professional leagues, and then I’ve mentioned this to different owners and stuff. And I’m trying to trying to get big names involved, investing. But it’s still a long process because the numbers change and just getting people’s opinion if this could work or not, because it is a big idea. So I think if people like the idea and I can get it out there more, then people will hopefully give me good feedback. And I’ve also gotten feedback from a professor of economics at Princeton, Leah Boustan, and she was like, yes, this this definitely could work. You just need bigger names and bigger people to help push the envelope.

Soph: [00:26:56] For sure. And there’s plenty of big people that are going to be co-owners of Angel City FC. So, like, if they have a hand at what you’re doing and they get exposed to what you’re doing, they have all of the capital to do it. Just want to ask you really quickly, the black players at the NWSL have formed their own coalition. Is that something that you talk about with your teammates and you talked about being in the pandemic and getting to know your teammates more? And it was tough, especially in sports, like I think it was really tough on black players in this past year of actually their voices being heard. And that wasn’t it. And I mean, tough as it like they were never heard before and they were never asked these questions before because.

Tyler Lussi: [00:27:31] And then everyone was just going to them.

Soph: [00:27:32] Yeah. Which is like, you know, we’re not all experts in this or, you know. Are you sure you want to hear my experience now? But I wanted to ask you and kind of put you on the hot seat a little bit here, but that’s something that was created and you’re a white player in the NWSL. So what are some of those conversations like? What are you doing? Or what are your white teammates and non black teammates doing to kind of bolster them, help them out or be a part of that movement?

Tyler Lussi: [00:27:55] Yeah. So I think we really started it was mainly from the NWSL Challenge Cup bringing about the light of Black Lives Matter. And we really had conversations daily and weekly with our team, the entire group, our coaches as well, talking about this, talking about what our black players have gone through and their experiences. And yes, it was very difficult because I’m not in their shoes. As a white player, as a white woman, I know I have more privilege. And in this country, not everyone has the same equal rights and treated equally and have the same opportunities. And I think it’s really about speaking out against racism and injustice and taking a stand for what is right. And it can be controversial. This country is very separated in these issues, but it’s about human beings that are not given the same opportunity. And we need to realize that they’re not given the same opportunity. And I want to be on a side that includes all of us, because at the end of the day, it comes down to respect as human beings and doing what is right. And yeah, we had a lot of tough conversations, but the continuing education of growing and learning and re-learning things from history. As a history major, you learn so many things in a set textbook, and that’s that textbook is probably done by a white male. It’s relearning history and different sides because in textbooks you never get the side of a black person, typically, unless you were taking a class on racism or black history, you don’t learn those things in a typical history class, especially from a young age. So it’s about speaking up and as a white woman, speaking up for people that are oppressed, or minorities that are oppressed, because their voices aren’t as heard as we are. So if I can do something to change that, I’m going to because I want us to be united. And a united front needs everybody, no matter race, gender, sexual orientation, background, religion, politics. You have to be able to come together and have honest conversations and actually listen and learn and take a second before responding. Of what did this person just tell me, do I understand, if I don’t understand, ask more questions, but do it in a way that is respectful to the other person because you can’t be in the other person’s shoes. You don’t go through what they go through on a daily basis. And as a white woman, I never will. I will never understand with a black person goes through what I can do something about it. I can take a stand to help fight for them.

Soph: [00:30:06] Well said, Tyler, that’s awesome. And it’s huge. I mean, you talked about being on a team with black players and with obviously your captain, Sinc, like she’s Canadian and you’re going to have players from all over that you play with and different ages and backgrounds. And you’re a history major and have this incredible experience where you might have a foundation of, oh, I know that things aren’t created equal. And other people might be raised that well I was always told that we’re all equal and we all share the same opportunities. So it’s harder. Those conversations are really tough, but that’s what this is about. Like you can’t move forward if you’re not willing to face what’s the truth and what’s genuinely honest. And it gets messy and tough. I want to switch massively, we’re take a huge left turn. So you’re the co-founder NCRC, National College Recruiting Center. How did it start? What’s its mission? What are the kinds of things you do? You have like 10 jobs.

Tyler Lussi: [00:30:55] I try to be, you know, kind of dabble in a lot of different things, which is good because I’m not just a professional athlete. I don’t want to just be defined as a soccer player. There’s so many more things I can do in this life. So I founded it back in 2017 with my little brother, Hunter. So we started it because obviously we both went through college experience with athletics and then professional experience. So we really wanted to have a platform for young scholar athletes. So it’s a text based platform. I can text whoever signs up and there’s different levels to it, but it basically connects myself or a college level athlete to a young scholar athlete doesn’t matter the sport, it can be any sport, and connects us and their parent or guardian because obviously they’re minors, to us. So we give them either daily or weekly mentoring in terms of how to prepare for your sport, how to train, how to fuel, how to study, how to deal with the life and just the time commitment it takes, especially if you want to go to a better college than you otherwise assumed you could go to the really giving them all aspects of what we went through. Because, you know, I think we’re the perfect example of what you can do and how far you can take it if you’re really passionate about what you do and it just being that support system for them. And it takes a certain level young scholar athlete, they kind of have to have that drive and dedication already and their parents being connected as well to have that really strong bond with them. Because without my family, without my parents driving me to practice, without them, you know, picking up meals and making food for me, I wouldn’t be able to do what I did today. So having that and then having us as mentors and as an extra piece is so crucial. But it’s really unique to see the athletes, sometimes it’s just a couple of months, sometimes we’ve had them for a couple of years, just grow and develop into incredible people. And that’s really the main point is how are you taking what you’re learning from us, school, sports, life and being a better person?

Soph: [00:32:49] So cool.

Caroline: [00:32:50] We have two more questions for you. So, number one, what is a sport that you wish you knew more about growing up? I know you did a lot,

Tyler Lussi: [00:32:58] I did a lot, probably women’s ice hockey. So knowing that my mom still plays ice hockey today, which is just awesome. As a young female athlete, I remember was like eight, you know, when I started playing, it was like a coed league. I never knew the top female athletes because they didn’t have a professional league 15-20 ago. I think their first NWHL, it was 2015, I believe. And I didn’t know anybody when I was younger because obviously, again, like I say, women are not promoted in the media. So you have no idea! I mean, they knew a lot about soccer because that’s what I grew up with. So I could watch, you know, us women’s soccer team and the Olympics and World Cup. And I knew all the stars, but with other sports, I didn’t know a lot of top athletes, especially in ice hockey. And I loved ice hockey like if I wasn’t playing professional soccer, I was like probably ice hockey or tennis. You know, I’d go that direction, but who knows? But I think watching the Winter Olympics in 2018, I believe was then I was like, oh, rooting us women’s ice hockey. I was so into it. I mean, beating Canada in the finals. I remember I looked up a bunch of history when I was watching. I, like Canada, always won. I think US won like a first initial year’s in the Olympics, which is only like 1998. And then Canada always won. I mean I know Canada is really good at hockey, both men and women, but like watching the women and just how badass they were. And I was like, now, I know so much more about women’s ice hockey. As a young kid when I loved that sport so much, and I obviously I did like transition pick soccer and soccer so much with training. I would have loved to have seen women’s ice hockey game from Maryland and D.C. I went to the Caps games all the time, so I knew a bunch of the players, like the Ovechkin is one of my favorite players, but like I didn’t.

Soph: [00:34:31] O-V!

Tyler Lussi: [00:34:33] Yeah! Ove. Yeah, I wish I knew that. Women’s hockey.

Soph: [00:34:36] Yeah me too.

Caroline: [00:34:37] Yeah, they’re pretty badass. Our final question for you, our favorite one maybe. What is your ideal ice cream sandwich?

Tyler Lussi: [00:34:45] I’ve never gotten that question in any interview I’ve ever done. That’s cool. I like that

Caroline: [00:34:49] Why would you?

Tyler Lussi: [00:34:51] Why would you? Nobody brings up sweets. Like I don’t eat sweets a lot, but if I’m going to do my favorite ice cream, I probably do like an Oreo cookie with coffee ice cream and then chocolate chip. I like that combo. Yeah.

Caroline: [00:35:03] OK, so like one Oreo cookie, coffee ice cream and then a chocolate chip cookie?

Tyler Lussi: [00:35:07] No the bottom of the Oreo cookie and then chocolate chip in the ice cream.

Caroline: [00:35:12] Ok, like wrapped around it. like rolled the chocolate chips.

Tyler Lussi: [00:35:15] Yeah.

Caroline: [00:35:16] OK, two Oreos, coffee, chocolate chips around it. Wow. Yeah, that’s a lot.

Tyler Lussi: [00:35:21] Out here in Portland, there’s Salt and Straw. So it has a uniquest flavors I’ve ever had and they always have like new flavors. But it’s pretty cool.

Caroline: [00:35:29] I was like the ice cream answers. They’re pretty unique. And of course you don’t get asked that in an interview. No one’s asking you when you get off the pitch like, hey, what ice cream, you’re going to eat right after this, you know what I mean? Like, that’s not a thing.

Tyler Lussi: [00:35:40] That’d be fun though! I feel like it’d be like a cool ice breaker just to be like, oh, hey, you had a great game or not: what flavor ice cream do you like, well, you know, I’d be like my brain would go like, what did you just day?

Caroline: [00:35:51] Do you did you see that we lost? And now are you talking about ice cream? What am I, a child. Yes. I mean, we all.

Tyler Lussi: [00:35:59] We’re all kids at heart. That’s what you got to do.

Caroline: [00:36:01] We really are.

Soph: [00:36:04] Caroline and I have to get out to Providence Park and go watch you play soccer.

Caroline: [00:36:07] Yes, definitely. And you guys have a crazy fan base. So it’s awesome.

Tyler Lussi: [00:36:11] Yeah. I mean to have twenty thousand fans every home, more than that. Stadium fits like twenty six thousand. But to have the same fan base as the Timber’s because they’re all the same time fans. It’s like no other place. Even before the game starts, they’re already there in full force and it’s mainly the Rose City Riveters behind one of the goals. They’re just chanting, they have songs for every minute. There’s different chants and different cheers and they’re doing it 90 plus minutes. And it’s just the coolest. It’s like electric. That’s how the best-

Soph: [00:36:42] Have they come up, was like a chant with you, like with your name, because I know they do like different chants for different players and whatever. And it’s like a big thing if you get one with your name in it. So have they come up with a Tyler Lussi chant?

Tyler Lussi: [00:36:52] So I don’t know if they have a chant. They do make banners and posters for every single player. They kind of find out what’s unique about you or what goes with your name or rhymes with your name. So mine is I Love Lussi. So they have like a heart with like a little picture of my head on it and everything. Or like one is another one is like big goal energy. It’s like really cool to have that. And they’ll have big banners. And like I connected with so many fans, I just know them more on a personal level, you know, this is now my fifth year with the Thorns. To have that over so many years is just what makes this place so special.

Caroline: [00:37:23] That’s awesome. Thank you so much, Tyler, for joining us on the podcast. It was a pleasure to meet you and hear all about your history at Princeton and what you’re doing now and what you hope to see for the league.

Tyler Lussi: [00:37:37] Well, thank you, Caroline and Sophia, so much. You guys: best hosts. You guys bring so much energy. And thank you, Sophia. Our connection started and I know with Caroline it will continue with both of you. You guys are awesome. And I love your message and what you’re trying to do and bring so many awesome and cool women athletes to share their story and their experiences because we need to do more of that. We need to share our stories. It’s about women promoting women. And you, too, are a great example of that. So thank you for having me.

Soph: [00:38:10] Thank you so much, Tyler. Wow, what an incredible conversation. What an incredible athlete and person. I think one of my favorite things about our conversation was talking about her impact beyond the field and talking about the other jobs that she has and then even putting her on the spot and asking her about the questions that she has had with teammates about racism and in particular, racism in soccer. It’s something that we’ve been talking about for over a year now, and it’s not going away. And so to be able to talk to a white player about it is really important for us. And yeah, I think Tyler handled that really well. But also just I know what kind of person that she is, and I knew that she would. And she’s not someone to dodge that conversation or to dodge the responsibilities that we have as white women to be supportive and also bring awareness and keep educating ourselves because there’s so much more that we can do on our end as women in sport. What do you think, Caroline?

Caroline: [00:39:04] I mean, you’ve spoken really highly of Tyler and you’re a fan of the Thorns. So it was really nice to talk to her and just get to hear her perspective on the league and her experience in athletics. And I think it was just really cool to hear about her idea for making the league go public. I think it’s a good idea. I hope people who have the money hear it and also think it’s a good idea and believe it can work. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of it?

Soph: [00:39:30] And that also speaks to the ownership. I mean, we’ve got Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Kendall Coyne, and Sarah Spain. More women investing in other women regardless of the sport that they play, like Kendall’s a hockey player. Naomi and Serena are at the top of tennis and they’re investing in women’s soccer, and so it’s really exciting to see Tyler coming up with ways of expanding the league because she knows it really well, super excited for her in the Thorns just the way that their organization is first class. And I think that the faces of women’s sports are going to look different. The way that we market them, the way that we talk about them, the way that we love on them, how much we pay them. All of that needs to change and it’s got to change in a good way. And I think it’s a start.

Caroline: [00:40:15] Yes.

Soph: [00:40:16] And so when women are at the head of it, it’s going to be gorgeous.

Caroline: [00:40:24] Forward Progress is produced by Caroline Mattise with a little help from Sophia Lewin.

Soph: [00:40:28] True.

Caroline: [00:40:29] 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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