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Orlando Pride’s Chioma Ubogagu embraces role as NWSL Players Association representative

Before getting completely swept up in the commitment it takes to be a top soccer player, Chioma Ubogagu was a student council representative.

She didn’t have too much time in high school for it, but she said her time to shine as a student council member was in middle school.

It was a time for her to represent her peers and make sure their voices were heard.

This season, she’ll get another chance to shine off the pitch.

Ubogagu, who started 17 matches for the Orlando Pride last season and was resigned by the club in February, is the Pride’s primary representative with the NWSL Player Association. The represents players in the league whose salaries are not subsidized by the U.S. and Canadian soccer federations.

“It’s just good to get our voices heard,” Ubogagu said.

“It’s really just a platform for us to communicate with the league and just try to get everything smooth. Obviously, we want this league to succeed. We want it to keep growing and there’s some things from our end that we feel like could be a little bit better that they have no idea about. It’s just a platform for us to communicate directly to the league. It’s really great.”

Ubogagu was one of the team’s representatives last season after she spoke with NWSL Player’s Association President Yael Averbuch, who plays for the Seattle Reign.

“I just really like getting informed,” she said. “I don’t think you can ever be under-educated, so it’s just really cool to hear what’s going on and how we can keep getting better and better.”

One of issues Ubogagu said she hopes to bring to the league is about when Lifetime’s Game of the Week kicks off each week.

Last season, NWSL announced it was moving Game of the Week kickoff times from 2:50 p.m. to 3:50 p.m. after Houston Dash forward Rachel Daly collapsed during a May game against the Seattle Reign in Houston. It was 92 degrees at kickoff.

“The fact that now we’re getting our games televised is awesome,” Ubogagu said. “It’s a platform we have for people who may not know about women’s soccer, they turn on TV and they see our game, but I think maybe playing at night versus the middle of the afternoon might be better. Just because of some of the league’s locations, ours included and Houston being another one, it’s just very, very hot and I think that will kind of just deplete the product.

“I think stuff like that, just communicating, ‘Hey we love that we’re on TV. We love that you got us a partnership with so-and-so, but is it possible to have this kind of night game instead of a game at 3 p.m., stuff like that.”

That particular issue is one veteran teammate Ali Krieger brought up last season, too.

“We’re fighting with the Lifetime Movie of the Week, also,” Kreiger said with a smile.

“We have to kind of chip away a little bit each year. Obviously, they understand it’s so hot in the middle of the day. Especially here in Florida. We’re playing at 3:30. I remember a couple of games last year, we had I don’t know how many water breaks just because it’s pretty dangerous to be out and some players who aren’t as hydrated might get sick or get hurt or faint or any of those incidents.

“It would be great if we could play a little bit later, when it’s not so hot out.”

Krieger, one of the founders of the United State Women’s National Team Players Association, is the Pride’s secondary NWSL PA representative.

“I just wanted to be kind of an advocate and supporter of [Ubogagu] and just kind of stay in touch with what’s going on,” she said.

“I’d rather have a lot of the younger players kind of want to take control and take initiative and be more of the face of that. I’m just here, also, for support and to kind of add in bits and pieces of what I’ve learned through our U.S. Women’s National Team PA.”

The Pride open their season Saturday against Utah Royals FC.

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