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Philadelphia Independence keeper Val Henderson gives a behind-the-scenes take of everyday life with the WPS expansion club. In the latest installment, Val explains how she she wants everyone at the playoff game this Sunday.

A season’s worth of work - some 220 practices, 60-something video sessions, countless mile suicides, hours upon hours of weights, thousands of abs, day after day of training our butts off, come-from-behind victories, scratched out wins, insane goals, 34 points - will now culminate with the real deal. After six and a half months, we’ve finally reached the punch: Playoffs.

And while it seems we’ve been through so much together, all that matters now is what we do from this point forward. It’s time to get the job done.

We have a simple three-point plan:
1. Beat the Freedom.
2. Beat the Breakers.
3. Beat the Bay Area.

(I know; it’s genius).

Phase one of mission one is to have one helluva last home game. In order to do that, we need to fill the stadium. And while I think that should be an absolute no brainer for everyone in the surrounding area, we still need to jam in some last appearances and do all that’s possible to help get the word out and remind people that there’s no better way to spend a Sunday than watching two of the best women’s soccer teams in the world battle in the playoffs.  

I am always eager to help get the word out and encourage people to join, but I’ll admit some situations are a little easier than others. Sitting in a cubicle in our front office, staring at a list of names with corresponding phone numbers, I stalled as much as possible before picking up the phone. It’s not that I don’t want to make the calls, or reach out to our season ticket holders. It’s just that it feels so funny calling and feeling like a solicitor. My purpose is to thank them for their support and encourage them to come out to our playoff game. It makes sense. It can just be a little awkward.

To my right Heather Mitts is already on her third call: “Yes, it’s really me, I promise … yes, that Heather Mitts!” She giggles and settles into an easy conversation.
I roll my eyes. Yes, for Heather Mitts, the Heather Mitts, this is not so bad. I, on the other hand, am sweating.

When the first person I call doesn’t answer, I leave a message: “Hey … this is Val Henderson from the Philadelphia Independence,” I freeze for a second thinking - should I have specified that I’m a player; should I have reminded them we’re a women’s soccer team? I’m silent a bit longer. Of course not Val. They’re season ticket holders. They know we’re a soccer team … ahh say something, you’ve paused too long. “I just wanted to thank you for your support this season and make sure you know we have a playoff game coming up…” a couple more awkward pauses and I finish the message and hang up.

I look over at Nikki who’s relaxed, laughing as she talks to someone about how great our last comeback against the Freedom was. Why can’t I just do that? Twelve messages and a couple conversations later, I may have started to sound like a normal person on the phone, but I am no less tense. I guess I’m just not a natural on the phone.

However if you’ve seen me outside of an Acme handing out fliers and talking to people or at a soccer camp coaching keepers or just kicking the ball around with some kids, I think you found me a little more in my element. I love meeting the fans and chatting with everyone. Whether on the phone or in person, the point is, the more contact we can make, the better. Without the fans we’d have no one to play for, so we’re really grateful to our supporters.

But we’re going to ask one more favor for this year. Come to the game!! Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET at West Chester University. Bring your brother and your sister, your mom and your uncle, the weird neighbor, and the girl you met at the hardware store. Tell your cousin and your dentist, the mailman and your classmates, the person you passed on the street and the cop that pulled you over. Wear your Independence gear and scream your heads off.

If you can take care of that, we’ll take care of the rest.


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