Girls Academy League Feb. Player Journal

Girls Academy League Feb. Player Journal
by Izzy Halunen
February 1, 2023

This is the first in a series of blog entries by Girls Academy representatives through the end of the 2022-23 season. The intention of this series is to provide stakeholders a platform to write about things they find important both on and off the field. First up is Izabel “Izzy” Halunen (third from left), a class of 2024 midfielder and defender who plays for Salvo SC. Izzy is a member of the Girls Academy’s Advisory Panel and serves as a Mid-America Conference Representative. In honor of National Girls & Women in Sports Day, Izzy chose to write about her experience as a young woman in soccer.

My experience as a female athlete is remarkably different from that of women years ago, as women’s sports have changed for the better in many ways. Though, as athletes did years ago, today's athletes still want a safe space to learn, develop, and compete. While progress has been made, steps must still be taken to improve the safety and well-being of players.

In recent seasons, scandals have plagued the NWSL, other spaces in the soccer community, its coaches, and its players. These indefensible acts have no place in the world of soccer, or anywhere for that matter. Girls deserve to become young women and grow their love for the game without fear. We have collectively increased focus toward the prioritization of athlete mental health and victim support; however, measures to prevent things that negatively impact mental health must also be stopped at their root.

Not only have the perpetrators failed the players, but so have some systems built to protect them. Unfortunately, when incidents are reported or evidence is clear, there is still a lack of appropriate response to these situations. When I experienced broken boundaries and disgusting behavior from a person in a position of authority in recent years, I wish I had felt more heard by those with the power and ability to hold this individual accountable. As they continued to cross boundaries and hurt others, additional harm could have been prevented had something been done when I initially spoke up.

Thankfully, I've also been super fortunate to have great coaches, trainers, physical therapists, and others who have helped with my soccer journey at my club and at my high school. Soccer has connected me with so many people and I've built amazing relationships as a result. I'm proud to represent an organization like the Girls Academy that actively works to hear its players' voices and addresses issues much larger than the game. The developments made in the GA to provide a safe and healthy space only a few years after its founding are incredibly exciting. I can't wait to see what else is in store as women in sport continue to redefine and take ownership of their athletic journeys.

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