—by Jolene Thomson
It’s commonly said that Portland sets the standard for support; certainly, most soccer enthusiasts both in and outside of Portland would agree. Standards must evolve—and achieving and maintaining a pinnacle position means expanding ideas, broadening outreach, and otherwise growing. Those who’ve been to a volunteer recruitment get-together for the Riveters this year know there are already great plans created by those in leadership positions to facilitate growth, with diverse opportunities for involvement and contribution.
Ideally, there will be a strong turnout of skilled, creative, and/or otherwise talented and devoted hands this season.
Some folks will not have the ability or desire to contribute. Reasons will be far-ranging, just as they would be in any other other endeavor that relies on volunteers. Nevertheless, for those who can’t commit to volunteerism, there’s still a small way every individual can easily help to set that standard and continually raise the bar. It’s a challenge each one of us should accept for the upcoming season, and it begins simply with an invitation.
While there were indeed sellout matches in last year’s Thorns season, the average attendance was 15,639. Though that average puts the rest of the league to shame, it does show there still remains an opportunity to introduce the Thorns—and women’s soccer in general—to our friends, family, and business contacts.
For something so simple, there’s oftentimes reticence.
It isn’t uncommon to encounter folks who regularly attend Timbers matches, yet have never seen the Thorns play. Some expect the women’s game to somehow be less exciting, perhaps a less skilled performance, and therefore choose not to give the women’s game a chance. There was an uptick in popularity and interest after the U.S. Women’s Team became our beloved FIFA 2015 Women’s World Cup Champions—an opportunity for a broader segment of the population to see that the women’s game is every bit as exciting as the men’s. But the off season is long, and a refresher may be needed. A modicum of gentle pressure can’t hurt, too.
Recalling Orwell’s words—”To see beyond the tip of one’s nose needs a constant struggle”—calls to mind the need to see beyond the exuberance, attendance, and enthusiasm in the North End, too. There’s a stadium to fill, and often pockets of seats are left unpopulated. This presents a great opportunity to bring in a group—whether officemates, friends, or helping facilitate the “best field trip ever”. Group tickets purchased from the Front Office are often comparable to, if not more affordable than, minor league baseball, Pac-12 (collegiate) basketball, and major junior ice hockey. The benefit of PTFC over any of those is experiencing not the up-and-coming, or maybe-someday stars, but women at the absolute pinnacle of their careers. Pro sports in every sense of the phrase.
Portland Thorns support is a big tent, as well. There’s room for every type of supporter and personality. Don’t know two-stick from chopstick? That’s fine. Thought tifo was an acronym? No big deal. Can’t breathe around goal smoke, or prefer to remain seated? There’s plenty of space outside the North End. Single? You get your pick of seats. Have a family in tow? Admission is cheap. But most importantly: there’s a place for everybody; all are welcome. (Or, to quote former goalkeeper and now goalkeeper-coach Nadine Angerer, “Except Nazis. I don’t like them”.)
With a dynamic new coach in Mark Parsons, and new recruits like Icelandic National Team/FSU standout Dagny Brynjarsdottir, USWNT veteran Meghan Klingenberg, and Paris Saint-Germain star Lindsey Horan coming on board as well, PTFC’s 2016 prospects look brighter than ever. Coupled with beloved returning stars like Tobin Heath, Christine Sinclair, and Allie Long, we stand at the precipice of what may very well be the Thorns’ most exciting season to date.
Growing the game is an effort we can all participate in—and it’s fun, too. Every single supporter/fan can and should commit to bring at least one first-timer to a Thorns match this year—whether they’re North End, South Deck, Value Terrace or “prawn sandwich” territory. It’s a great way to support the club, and one can be confident that their first match likely won’t be their last.
You’d better buy some extra scarves.