For Racing Louisville’s players, the opening of the club’s new 30,000 square foot training center is more than just a building launch, it’s a promise kept.
“The facilities are unbelievable,” said Ebony Salmon after Thursday’s practice. “It shows the direction the club wants to go in. As players, it allows us to be the professionals that we want to be because everything that we need we’ve got here.”
While being recruited, Salmon was told about the world-class facilities the team was building. The fact that they were actually delivered and were as good as promised was critical for Salmon.
“Everything that I got told was going to happen has happened. They’re sticking to what they’ve said and it just shows that the club’s ambitions are as big as they promised at the start.”
While the new training center is exceptional in both aesthetics and amenities provided, it represents more than just a nice place to work. The building, which also houses Racing’s brother team Louisville City and the club academies, is split right down the middle with the men’s and women’s sides having identical, mirror-image locker rooms, treatment rooms, conference rooms, and more. The teams will share the weight room, cafeteria, and the two regulation grass fields outside. Everything else will be unique to each team. This parity is almost unheard of in the NWSL and in women’s soccer worldwide.
“The opportunity to have a home where you can house a women’s team and a men’s team that are treated equally is really important to us as an organization,” said Executive Vice President of Development James O’Connor. “Then we align them with the academy. It’s rare for clubs to be able to house their whole technical side in the same place. The teams can train at the same time if they want using the same facilities with the same standards. That sets us apart from most organizations in the country.”
Yep, big fans of the new spot. 🤩 pic.twitter.com/ik6OUsyXMt
— Racing Louisville FC (@RacingLouFC) June 30, 2021
Captain Michelle Betos has been part of the NWSL since its inception. As a result, she’s seen the best and worst sides of how players are supported across the league. Before housing was guaranteed, she recalls searching Craig’s List desperately for affordable housing in Seattle while still playing in Japan. Her first locker room was a classroom where she only had a folding chair and no shower facilities. She had to bring her clothes and gear home with her after every game and practice. Young players ask how she’s stuck around so long and her answer is simple: “Because I knew this day would come.”
Even before she was a prospect in the expansion draft, Betos was impressed by Racing Louisville’s ambitions. However, she knew that things often look better from the outside looking in. That wasn’t the case in Louisville. To see first-hand that the club is living up to their promises is huge for team morale. And it’s critical in building a sense of pride in the club and the city they play for.
“It’s a good reflection on the league and I think more than anything we’re really, really proud to wear this badge. And when they invest in this, when they walk the talk as they’ve been doing, it just makes us prouder and prouder every time we step out. We really want to win for them.”
“I’m still wrapping my head around it being ours. I hope the league can see the standard now, because this changes it.”
Yep. That sums it up, @MichelleBetos.
This week, players & staff moved into the club's $15 million training facility. The players' first reactions: priceless. pic.twitter.com/WSaDpVTnzf
— Racing Louisville FC (@RacingLouFC) June 30, 2021
“I think what we wanted to make sure is that when the players came in they understand that this is not the norm across the league. This is the exception,” says Coach Christy Holly. Many players on Racing are young and have limited experience in the NWSL, so it’s important for them to realize how unique their situation really is.
Betos takes it a step further: “I want all the young players to really appreciate how special it is and how much we have here, but I also want them to know that this is the standard. They shouldn’t expect any less, they should keep pushing on.”
For a brilliant perspective on how important this training center is, not just for Racing, but the city and the advancement of women’s sports, please read Eric Crawford’s wonderful piece on WDRB.com.
Up Next: The Portland Thorns, Saturday, July 3
Who: Racing Louisville (3-3-1) hosts the Portland Thorns (4-3-0)
When: Saturday, July 3 at 7:30 PM ET
Where: Lynn Family Stadium, Louisville, KY / Live on Paramount+ (subscription required)
This Saturday Racing faces off against the Portland Thorns for the second time. Although they lost 0-3 in their last matchup, Racing may have the advantage this time around. For one, Racing has the home-field advantage. They’re also more likely to benefit from the roster shakeups that have taken place on both sides. While Portland has lost five starters to the Olympics, Racing has added Ebony Salmon and Gemma Bonner. Addisyn Merrick, Julia Ashley, and Cheyna Matthews have also returned from injury adding further depth. And Taylor Otto is newly listed as questionable instead of out for tomorrow’s match.
Even with these changes, Portland will still tough team to beat. The perpetual playoff contenders boast one of the deepest benches in the league. And they have young forward Sophia Smith available after she missed the previous matchup due to injury. Smith ranks second in the league in shots on goal with 11 so far this season.
Still, Racing remains confident.
“The last time we played Portland it wasn’t the result the team wanted, but we’ve improved a lot since then and I think we’ve shown that in our recent performances,” said Salmon. “We’re going to go in there believing in ourselves, believing in what we can do, and try and get a win out of the game.”
While Racing may have an opportunity to earn some points in the coming weeks with all teams but them losing players to the Olympics, they can’t relax or assume they’ll automatically benefit from these changes.
“As teams lose some of their talent, there’s absolutely an opportunity there,” said Betos. “But one thing we’ve really stuck to is that we’re going to focus on our progress week in and week out. You never know what’s to happen on game day. All we can do is focus on ourselves.”