Ashleigh Shim Photo

Raising Our Game: A Player's Perspective

25 May 2020
Ashleigh Shim fulfilled a childhood dream when she went with the Jamaican national team to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, but the journey to France was fraught with complications reflecting the substandard conditions many women’s footballers face.

Following stints at clubs in Germany and Sweden, Shim quit professional football in at age 25 because she felt she was pushing herself daily without the support needed to reach her potential. She has since founded a soccer academy in Miami.

In this article, Shim (above right in the photo) describes her experience of preparing for the first appearance of the “Reggae Girlz” at the FIFA World Cup. Alongside her comments are some of the international standards FIFPRO is advocating for in the Raising Our Game report on behalf of players like her.

Accommodation

Ashleigh Shim: “Ahead of a game for Jamaica against Colombia in Barranquilla in 2018, we arrived at our hotel for a training camp at 3 a.m.: it was a compound circled by fences topped with barbed wire. The metal doors on the rooms made it feel like we were staying in a jail, and we were told that six people had to fit in a room suited for two.”

Raising Our Game: Specific accommodation conducive to a high-performance environment for teams is important to ensure that they are well-rested during competition. This has implications for the number of players per room, the distance between the hotels and the training grounds, and various other elements of these arrangements.

Match Schedule

Ashleigh Shim: “Some teams might play too much, we played too little. After we were knocked out of qualifying for the 2016 Olympics, our national team players was effectively disbanded for almost three years.”

Raising Our Game: Competitive tournaments and major competitions must have a suitable number of games with appropriate spacing between matches… National federations must be mandated to use the International Match Calendar windows allocated to them and participate in competition.

Reggae Girlz

Player Payments

Ashleigh Shim: “We got our contracts from the Jamaican football federation before the World Cup – it was the first time Jamaican women footballers received contracts. We were due to be paid monthly from January 2019. However, some payments were late, after the tournament had ended and their contracts had expired.”

Raising Our Game: Every player has the right to share fairly in the economic activity and wealth of their sport and receive fair and just pay and remuneration, including prize money. For some female players competing for their country, the overlap between club and national team can add a layer of stability and job security.

Team Staff

Ashleigh Shim: “The team staff worked hard to keep everyone healthy and ready to play - the coaches even spent their own money to pay for things the federation should have paid for. The conditions were difficult but they helped bond us. I called it positive suffering.”

Raising Our Game: It is crucial to the team’s performance that it has an experienced and capable staff. The national team delegation should include at a minimum a head coach, assistant coach, team coordinator, press officer and an equipment manager, as well as medical staff. At least 30% of any one gender must be represented in the staff.

“We spent 24 hours on a diet of airline food. Our bodies were aching from being so long in economy-class seats.”

— by Ashleigh Shim

Tournament Preparation

Ashleigh Shim: “We came together for between five and 12 days for a training camp before a major tournament. When we flew to Scotland for our last practice match before the World Cup we had to complete an exhausting 24-hour long-haul journey with two stopovers.”

Raising Our Game: Resources and support provided by the tournament organiser as preparation should be the same for male and female players competing in the respective events. Resources going into preparation via the federation, the club or directly to the player must reflect gender equity.

Transportation

Ashleigh Shim: “For our last World Cup warm-up in Scotland, we flew from Miami, passing through Morocco and two London airports, before arriving in Glasgow. We spent 24 hours on a diet of airline food, and by the end our bodies were aching from being so long in economy-class seats.”

Raising Our Game: The conditions of transportation for national teams to competitions and between matches are crucial to the wellbeing and performance of players. This has implications for mode of transportation as well as features of travel including flight class and directness of routes.

Interview by: Helenna Hercigonja-Moulton

Pictures: Hollandse Hoogte

Follow Ashleigh Shim’s Trained2Go soccer academy on Facebook and Instagram at @ttgsocceracademy

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