Yael Averbuch has been a competitor at every level. Her soccer skills speak for the themselves. As women’s soccer grows, Averbuch is at the forefront for players and continues her own path as a business owner. Here is her story:
1) Tell TGR fans a little about yourself.
I’m originally from Montclair, NJ and when I was nine years old I decided I wanted to be a professional soccer player. Fast forward nearly 25 years and I’ve just concluded a 10-year professional playing career, playing all over the U.S. as well as internationally. I studied psychology at the University of North Carolina and started my own business, Techne Futbol, while playing. I also currently serve as the Executive Director of the National Women’s Soccer League Players Association.
2) When did you begin playing soccer and know you would have a professional future in the sport?
I started playing when I was seven, because my best friend in school played. Very soon after, I got really serious and would say I wanted to be a professional player, but truly had no idea what that meant. But from a young age I was always very serious, with high aspirations.
3) What did it mean to you to have your jersey retired at North Carolina?
It was always a dream of mine to play for UNC. Growing up, the ultimate for women’s soccer was to play at UNC and then the U.S. women’s national team. To get the opportunity to play there, alongside some of the most amazing people and athletes I’ve ever met, and for legendary coach Anson Dorrance, was unreal. To have my jersey retired is an accomplishment I never could have dreamed and was quite an honor.
4) You were drafted 4th overall in the 2009 National Women’s Soccer League draft. What was that experience like?
I always knew I wanted to play pro, so it was very special to get that opportunity directly out of college, and for my hometown team, Sky Blue FC in New Jersey. I had a rough start to my professional career, and it wasn’t as smooth sailing as what I may have imagined as a young player, but that really shaped my appreciation that like anything, a soccer career is a journey with ongoing ups and downs.
5) In comparison to other sports, why is there so much changing of teams in soccer, including your own career?
Women’s soccer, and soccer in general, is still very new in our country and culture. Because there hasn’t been much stability and budgets are small, it’s hard for clubs to always attract the best coaches and front office staff to set up the “perfect” experience for players. Because of that, players often have tough decisions to make – selecting between a coach and playing style that favors them, a city they enjoy living in, a salary they can live on, etc. It’s very difficult to find the best playing situation, so there is a lot of movement in the player pool, with players always trying to find the best possible experience. Additionally, I played in a league that folded, for teams whose coaching staffs changed mid season, and a lot of other things that caused me to seek new situations.
6) How does playing for the US National team compare to your regular season; in terms of competition, comradery, and experience?
The US National Team is an INCREDIBLY competitive and ruthless environment. Even more so than with professional club teams, each player is the very best in the world at what they do well. Every single day and minute of training sessions is a constant tryout process, so there’s a lot of pressure and internal competition. But that’s what makes the team so successful. The people involved on the pro and National Team level are all phenomenal individuals – on and off the field. The National Team is just a step up in every aspect of the game and the margin between success and failure is so, so small.
7) What were feelings around the Women’s recent success and fame? How important will it me to the growth of soccer in the US?
The USWNT are now cultural icons. It’s important that people see and understand what it means to be the very best in the world. These women are fierce competitors and dominate on the field and are not afraid to be who they are. They are wonderful role models in the growth of the game in general, but for all women and all people really.
8) What was your Jewish life growing up and how do you connect today?
I was not raised traditionally Jewish, but my family visited Israel many times when I was young because my mom lived there for a while after college. So I grew up in a household where Hebrew was often spoken, and culturally I have always been very aware of my Judaism – from my Hebrew name to the fact that I rarely have had Jewish teammates. Today I appreciate being Jewish even more and as an adult have connected with the Jewish community in many of the places I’ve lived, including Gothenburg, Sweden and Kansas City. I feel that it’s important to be a role model for other Jewish athletes and although I am still not traditionally Jewish by any means, I very much value that aspect of who I am.
9) Recently you spoke at a conference at Fordham University on Anti-Semitism and Sports. What was that experience like and why was that important to you?
It was truly an honor to be part of one of the panels at the conference. I learned from many Jewish people in the sports world about their experiences in sport and how we can break down barriers through sport and dispel a lot of anti-semitism that still exists in the world. Personally, I have not experienced overt anti-semitism, but I know what it feels like to always be different and to live in a very Christian world, especially the women’s soccer world. It was powerful to connect with others about these topics and it left me very hopeful for the impact we can all make through sport.
10) Where can fans find you on social media?
My website: yaelaverbuch.com / Twitter: @yael_averbuch / Instagram: @yaelaverbuch