The Orlando Pride’s third season isn’t just about making an NWSL title run.
Last season’s success and key offseason acquisitions mean lofty expectations for the Pride. The club finished its 2017 campaign in third place and advanced to the semifinals of the NWSL playoffs before falling 4-1 to Portland.
The expectations for what the Pride will do on the pitch are there, however the club spent the last few days refining its off-the-pitch expectations. Veteran goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris said the group has hosted leadership seminars with motivational speakers to define the club’s core values.
“We tried to figure out as a collective group, what are the principles that we want to live by?” Harris said. “What type of culture do we want to create? It’s the first time we’ve ever done it. It’s been absolutely impactful and moving and it’s good to start the season knowing what we expect out of each other and the qualities, the core values we want to live by.
“We need to embody those core values. It’s not just something that’s said out loud. It’s something that we want to put into action. We are definitely committing just as much off the field as on the field.”
Harris didn’t want to go too deep into want the club’s core values are – she said those are meant to be kept between members of the team – but did say one of the values was trust.
“It’s going to get tough,” she said. “There’s going to be moments when you’re going to question a lot of things. Trust is definitely one of our core values. If we trust each other and we commit to that it will bring us a long way.”
Pride coach Tom Sermanni said he brought in Marlene Bjornsrud, former executive director of the Alliance of Women Coaches, to speak to the team.
He said with the club in its third year of operations, it’s time to firmly establish what the Orlando Pride are about.
The Pride open their season on Saturday at home against Utah Royals FC.
“It was more about doing that and the players making those decisions about how they see this team and how they want to work together,” he said. “That becomes really, really important if you want to establish a successful team and a successful organization. Those last two days, we’ve taken a big step forward in that.
“You can do as many exercises as you like. The key regard is how as a group – players, staff, everybody together – actually lives those values and how we act in those values. That’s the key thing to take out of the last two days.”
Harris said the core values will become apparent for anyone who watches the Pride throughout the season. The Pride play in Orlando City Stadium and were second in the NWSL in average attendance last season with 6,186 fans per game.
“I think the fans will see what this team is about and what type of culture we’re trying to create,” she said. “You’ll also see it in our community aspect. That’s something we are not taking lightly. This organization was founded on community. In order to get people to show up, they’ve got to feel a part of it.
“We have to be out there. We have to show our face. We have to give back. That’s important to us and this city and how we want to move forward getting people to come to the games.”