“No athlete should have to decide between becoming a parent and playing”

By Emma Middleton Journalist

Arin Wright plays for Chicago Red Stars, a club in the USA’s professional women’s soccer league, the NWSL.

“It just lights up your world”

Arin Wright plays for Chicago Red Stars, a club in the USA’s professional women’s soccer league, the NWSL.
She’s also mum to her little boy, Grady.
“Having a child has brought the life of soccer back for me… you’ve got this little human who loves you so much it’s hard to carry a loss for too long.”
She’s one of few players who returned to elite level after having a child. The journey wasn’t easy…
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“I felt like my insides could fall out”

Just six weeks after having Grady, Arin told the club she might make it back for a big cup game. It turned out to be three months before she could properly return...
“I think I got a little ambitious… three days later I went on a run and it was the slowest run ever!”
“Your whole body has to shift to accommodate a baby, organs are moving, abs are separating… it changes your stride, how you lift.”

“I feel bad saying this, but…”

On finding out she was pregnant, Arin says she felt scared.
Back in November when we spoke to Arin, there was nothing in players’ contracts about what would happen if they became pregnant.
The only thing that the league provided was a childcare grant of $750 dollars per month, capped at $5,000 a year.
“Which sounds great but in reality of what children cost… it doesn’t come close to covering it.”

“This is game-changing”

The NWSL Players’ Association and the NWSL Board finalised a players’ rights agreement in February 2022, after over a year of negotiations.
It’s the first of its kind for women’s professional soccer in the United States.
Among other things like minimum salary increases, it includes maternity benefits, like 8 weeks paid parental leave and private nursing care.
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“The girls were stoked about it”

Fertility treatment costs a lot. Like, a lot. The cost of one IVF cycle in the US can be up to around $20,000.
Racing Louisville recently became the first club in the NWSL to offer its players free fertility services - like egg or embryo freezing.
“I remember being in the locker room when that news came out… the girls were stoked about it.”
Arin’s club, Chicago Red Stars, are now offering it too. The idea is to give players more flexibility about when they start a family.

“We’re trying to set a stage for women’s professional sport”

A final thought from Arin: “no athlete should have to decide between becoming a parent and playing”.
Here in Huddle we’ll be continuing this journey, looking at how different leagues across the world support their female athletes, and ultimately, whether more should be done…
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