Life Knocked Her Down, So This Former Soccer Player Kicked Some Balls
Though society has progressed past disallowing women to vote, there are still areas where gender discrimination is apparent. One of the more visible places is in women’s sports, where female players are treated as less than their male counterparts, even if they have had a more successful record. Women’s soccer is one such area, and Jackie Gutierrez seeks to give women’s soccer a platform that truly represents what it is made of.
Jackie Gutierrez is a University of Oregon student getting her master’s degree in journalism, works a fulltime job, and is in charge of all the content put out by Women Kick Balls – an independent sports newspaper seeking to accurately chronicle women’s soccer.
Gutierrez’s love of soccer began as an athlete. She was 14 when she first saw a professional game and was swept up in the tension. That game was the 2011 World Cup final United States Women’s National Soccer team vs. Japan, and the loss of the USWNT stuck with her. It was surprising, but she said she saw the determination of the team even in their loss.
That determination shone through the first match Gutierrez ever saw live, when the USWNT defeated Mexico.
Soccer had been a huge part of her life growing up. But her senior year of high school, health reasons curbed her time on the field and halted her dreams of playing in college.
Luckily, her love of the sport was not conditional on her participation.
Women Kick Balls
Whether it be interaction with players, seeing history firsthand, or the experience of being in an energetic crowd, Gutierrez has a passion for every aspect of the game.
However, a passion does not always equal journalism devoted to women’s soccer. Gutierrez said that her Uncle Joe was the inspiration behind her work. When she was in high school, he asked her what she wanted to do in the future, and she said she wanted to be a sports journalist for women’s soccer. He encouraged her to set up a blog – she has had two before her current website – and told her that he believed people would be really interested in what she had to say.
Gutierrez also wrote for other publications like Urban Pitch, and Girls Soccer Network.
In 2019, Gutierrez created her own brand, Women Kick Balls.
WKB serves as an independent news source, where Gutierrez updates readers about the latest games and news. Those who subscribe can also get exclusive content sent to their emails, as well as a sticker that says “Women Kick Balls.” During the interview, Gutierrez had 452 subscribers; she passed 500 before the end of the year.
“I’m very grateful for the people that subscribe and the athletes that I get to meet,” Gutierrez said.
When talking about Women Kick Balls, Gutierrez said she attributes some of her success to marketing and because she labels herself as “An independent news source, that exists to capture women’s soccer in an authentic voice.”
She is in the same press box as the other journalists, after all.
Throughout the interview she spoke about her goal to create an honest platform where soccer stats shown are not only for the men, and female soccer players had their words put in context.
Gutierrez said it best herself in an article she wrote called “How Women’s Soccer Changed My Mindset as a 14-year-old.”
“With this platform, the intent behind publishing every article is to showcase women in this sport with respect for who they are as players and people. From believing in these powerful women, I have the privilege to watch and document players from my assigned seat in the press box and am constantly amazed at how they continue to influence the fans within the audience and those around the world,” Gutierrez wrote. “So yes, I’m a sports journalist for women’s soccer because the women that represent our country on a national and club level don’t just need another reporter from the media to rip them apart for their personal beliefs or to make false statements without knowing the full story, they need people who believe in them too.”
Coverage on women’s soccer players is limited and often bias, with more of a bent towards the men’s teams. For those who say that this is because men are better, faster, or stronger, Gutierrez says that is not the case.
“I mean, we see just within our country alone, the U.S. Women’s National Team have won four World Cups whereas the men have zero,” Gutierrez said. “But the women don’t have the same playing conditions and actually have dangerous playing conditions on turf fields, and the men get whatever they want and you know, like where are the results.”
Gutierrez said that whether or not people agree, they should be able to find facts about women’s soccer players, “rather than just putting men at the forefront” and only reporting about them.
A Beacon of Encouragement to Dream-Followers
Gutierrez learned a lot from her Uncle Joe, like how important it is to carry yourself with assurance. She saw a void, and took a risk to pursue her passion.
“Just own it. Like even if you’re still figuring it out or you’re unsure, just be confident and be professional and you’ll kind of just take on that role in what you do.” Gutierrez said.
In her article “The Pursuit of WKB: Insights to fear, failure, and success,” Gutierrez wrote about how what she learned grew with the support of her uncle, and encourages everyone to chase the things they love.
“So while settling in the present may be easier, the reward of investing in yourself and your passions are far greater when you’re ready to put in the work,” Gutierrez wrote. “And while you’re at it, remember that failure will come and mistakes are bound to happen, but the growth of it will eventually lead to success beyond your understanding. Just find yourself an Uncle Joe, strip the doubts of your High School self, and you’ll be set to do things you never thought possible.”