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Dreaming of Beijing : experiencing the changing landscape of elite women's soccer in Canada McGhee, Ashley N.

Abstract

On April 9, 2008 the Canadian women’s soccer national team secured its first berth into the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Despite this great accomplishment, since its formation in July 1986 Team Canada has struggled to develop and maintain consistency at the international level. Furthermore, although soccer is currently the “game of choice” for young girls and women at the recreational level in Canada, there has been little support for women’s professional development in Canada (Hall, 2004). Despite this limited support, however, a number of changes have taken place in recent years in an attempt to elevate the landscape of elite women’s soccer in Canada. More specifically, in 1999, the Canadian Soccer Association hired a full-time international head coach for the women’s national program. In February 2006, the Vancouver Whitecaps FC also hired a full-time head coach for its amateur senior women’s team. These fully-funded positions provided critical human and financial resources for the development of elite women’s soccer. My research objectives are two-fold; first, I construct a chronological account of the development of elite women’s soccer in Canada focusing primarily on some major changes that occurred in 2006. Second, I examine how these changes have impacted the experiences and attitudes of female players and staff members involved in elite women’s soccer in Canada. In-depth interviews were conducted with two sample groups (players and staff) drawn from the 2006 Whitecaps FC women’s team and the Canadian women’s national team. In general, participants from both groups expressed overwhelming support for the changes that took place, however deeper readings of the data revealed more complex themes and troubling issues such as the level of sacrifices players were forced to make in their personal lives and their sense of losing levels of control over their playing careers. This research will complement an increasing focus on the socio-historical development of women’s soccer globally and its effects upon players and coaches (Hall, 2004; Williams, 2003). More importantly, the findings will add to existing literature by offering a critical examination of how the professionalization of women’s sport impacts the lives and experiences of elite female athletes.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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