For The Love of the Game: The Dick, Kerr Ladies and Women’s Professional Soccer

By | February 6, 2019

It has been said that most women play professional soccer purely for the love of the game or for the experience of it. Most women’s professional soccer players don’t get paid very much and in some cases the facilities and training situations are less than idea. So why do they play? Well, because they love to! And maybe it was a dream since their childhood to play professional soccer, and now they have that opportunity. The same was likely true for the ladies on the Dick, Kerr women’s soccer team.

Gail Newsham did a splendid job of sharing the history and the story of the Dick, Kerr ladies in her book In A League of Their Own. She uncovered the expansive history of the most successful women’s professional soccer team in their time and arguably of all time, and through interviews, newspaper clippings, and journal entries, shared a behind the scenes look into the lives of the players and the ins and outs of the life of the team.

Throughout her book, Newsham emphasizes how the ladies got next to nothing out of playing for this team besides the chance to compete and play a game they love and to gain experiences they never would have otherwise encountered (not to mention the small compensation that were given for missed days of work). But the mere fact that they had to work on the side of being professional soccer players just goes to show how much they had to love to play the game which didn’t give them much in return. The long hours of traveling, the difficulty in finding good fields and competition, the stigma surrounding females in sport, and for some, disapproving families or significant others; these were just some of the challenges that the Dick, Kerr ladies had to face to play their game. But in spite of all this, it was clear from the pictures and the stories, the journal entries and the fond memories shared, that being a part of the Dick, Kerr ladies was by a long shot, worth any difficulties that came their way. Those women loved to play and so, they weren’t going to let anything stop them.

This idea of loving to play can be seen in the world’s modern day professional women’s soccer players. Women in soccer today face many of the same struggles as the Dick, Kerr ladies although great strides have been made in the progress of women’s soccer. It is not unusual for women’s professional players to hold jobs outside of their soccer careers, and there is still difficulty for women to find good facilities as well as overcoming stigmas about females in sports that still arise on occasion. But the love of the game overshadows all these obstacles and it’s the pure and simple joy that the game of soccer brings to people that has helped it progress from the Dick, Kerr ladies of England in the early 1900s to the world wide women’s professional soccer sphere of today.

2 thoughts on “For The Love of the Game: The Dick, Kerr Ladies and Women’s Professional Soccer

  1. Donovan Bendana

    I too picked up on this idea that women in the sport of soccer really only have the single option of being motivated purely through their love of the game and less so due to monetary or fame factors. I would like to compare this to the “Maradona” documentary we watched for this week. Yes, Maradona too was motivated through his love for his sport, but we can also recognize by watching the film that money and fame also played a role. Maradona himself said that when he was younger he knew he wanted to become a professional soccer player to firstly win a World Cup for Argentina and second, to buy a house for his mother. This admission is a recognition that with success in the realm of male soccer, certain monetary compensations can be expected. In the women’s sport, especially during the era of the Dick, Kerr Ladies, self-sustainment and to an even lesser extent upward economic mobility was never even a possibility amongst even the best of the best in the women’s game.

    However, in the “Maradona” documentary, it also touches on the negatives that can come to soccer players through fame and wealth due to their success in the sport. Maradona struggled with drug abuse that nearly cost him his life. He talks about in the documentary the regret he has over the idea of how much of a better player he could have been if he had not used cocaine during his professional career. This brings up the question of whether the fame and wealth associated with the men’s sport, taints the game in a certain way. I would argue that Galeano is certainly of that opinion, specifically in his regards towards FIFA and the other two international organizations based in Switzerland that seem have autonomy over the sport.

  2. Jacqueline Allain

    Thanks for this post. As I was reading it, it occurred to me that perhaps this love of soccer gets weaponized against women players, the idea being that if they love it so much, money should be immaterial. This may be a bad comparison, but sometimes you hear the same thing about teachers–teachers do what they do because they love it and it’s their “calling,” and so therefore it’s acceptable to pay them less than what they’re worth. An unfortunate situation all around.


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