RACING LOUISVILLE RECLAIMS THE GAME WITH NEW FERTILITY SERVICES
This week, we’re spotlighting a soccer industry first that prioritizes the fertility needs of players in the women’s game. Check out how Racing Louisville FC has set a game-changing precedent by becoming the first team in the NWSL to support new health benefits specifically for players’ fertility. The team’s commitment to the holistic health needs of players is how Racing Louisville reclaims the game!
INTRODUCING DIRECTORS OF PLAYER EXPERIENCE
For too long, many athletes in the women’s game have felt like they have been forced to choose between maintaining their athletic career or starting a family. Brynn Sebring, NWSL’s first-ever director of player experience said, “In my time in women’s sports, I’ve seen athletes get to points in their careers where they have to decide if they want to continue playing, or if they want to start a family.” As a result, Sebring set out to create a new partnership for the club with the support of Dr. Robert Hunter, the founder and director of Kentucky Fertility Institute, to ensure that players at Racing Louisville have more freedom to choose how to balance their soccer career and hopes for a family. Sebring’s actions at the club showcase how valuable it is to have someone in a position dedicated to securing resources that protect and support players.
WHAT ACTIONS CAN BE TAKEN?
Racing Louisville has taken an action-based approach to raising the standard of care that their athletes receive and in return, this will enhance their player’s performance on the pitch – win/win! “Fertility preservation became the solution: Not only is this the right thing to do fundamentally for people, but it’s a competitive advantage for players to feel supported,” stated Sebring.
The partnership between Racing and Kentucky Fertility Institute will provide players with access to complimentary services, including egg freezing, embryo freezing and long-term storage. Even if a player departs the club via trade or retirement, Racing has promised to cover their cryo-storage fees.
“Professional athletes shouldn’t have to choose between their careers and their plans for a family,” said Dr. Robert Hunter, founder and director of Kentucky Fertility Institute. “We know this is a priority for Racing’s players and appreciate the club’s support in making these services accessible.”
WHAT STORIES NEED TO BE HEARD?
It’s crucial that as a soccer community we work together to share and speak out about the realities of biological pressures that affect soccer players who want to become pregnant. Celebrating pregnant soccer players who are at the peak of their career like Alex Morgan and Crystal Dunn is something the women’s game now welcomes more. Yet, there is still very limited research available on reproductive health for our players and even fewer industry resources dedicated to supporting this element of our athletes’ lives. USWNT star Sydney Leroux paused her career twice to have children and remains a standout striker in the NWSL. However, Leroux was vocal about how immensely demanding it can be for athletes:
“When you give birth your body is different,” Leroux said. “I still have baby weight from my pregnancy. You have to almost learn how to use your body again. It’s like your mind works but your body doesn’t keep up. I still feel like I have a ways to go but every day I feel stronger.”
Most recently, Carli Lloyd, who decided to prioritize her national team and NWSL playing career, has retired at 39 to focus on having a family.
Raising a family is an incredibly difficult choice to make for anyone, let alone a professional soccer player who relies on peak physical abilities to make a living. Sharing these stories will ensure that pressure is placed on more soccer clubs to prioritize support for fertility treatment and more reproductive choices for players.
HOW DO WE KEEP PROGRESSING?
As soccer fans, players and industry workers, we must continue to push for a soccer culture that fully supports reproductive choices, maternity leave for birthing and non-birthing parents and inclusive family practices. Racing Louisville FC is a pioneer with its fertility clinic partnership and Sebring explained, “My dream is that in the future we have player experience standards set by the league across all teams…and more clubs create positions for directors of player experience!”
- As a member of the soccer community, what can you take from this story and suggest to your own club?
Kentucky Fertility Institute’s partnership with Racing Louisville has shown that improvement in the soccer industry can come from unexpected places. The trailblazing partnership will hopefully set a trend of industry-wide changes to prioritizing players’ wellbeing on and off the pitch. We support all of our athletes’ right to choose how and when they have a family.
LET’S KEEP RECLAIMING THE GAME!
WIS member spotlights are created and written by our content producer Pip Penman.