By Joanna Lohman
Professional Soccer Player
There is no denying the irony. As I struggled to write my piece this month for Be Inkandescent Magazine’s issue on “State of the Future,” I did what any Generation-Yer would do, I tweeted for help. As my followers conveniently pointed out, the answers were right before my eyes.
I had to laugh because the ability to harness the power of the Internet is something that I regularly discuss with my family.
In fact, it is a running joke in my family, who keep asking when am I going to get a “real” job. I’m the only official female athlete in the group, and a professional at that, but my grandparents find it very difficult to comprehend that this is my “real” job.
Why is it such a strange concept for people in the Post-War generation to wrap their brains around?
Well, it is simple. Being a professional women’s soccer player was not a job that existed when they were 20something.
But there are other reasons for this gap: Title IX and social media.
Let’s start with Title IX.
Being a member of the WPS (Women’s Professional Soccer League) for three years and a female American athlete for my entire life, I feel I have often taken Title IX for granted. I, and all of those women and girls who came after me, never experienced the real struggles women once faced to be recognized as legitimate sports figures.
The generations before me—who grew up before incredible athletes such as Mia Hamm, Billy Jean King, Martina Navratilova, and Jackie Joyner-Kersee captured our imaginations—didn’t have female sports role models that I grew up admiring.
Those incredible women blazed the trail in gender equality, and they gave me something to shoot for. Indeed, I was one of the lucky ones who reaped the benefits of their struggles.
I have bemoaned the fact many times before that the United States is not a country that boasts a strong soccer culture. But, I could never complain that my sport-loving nature was not encouraged from a very young age.
That must explain why America is able to produce some of the world’s greatest athletes. Girls’ athletic abilities are nurtured, promoted, and now, expected. We can run fast, jump high, and move mountains with our strength.
We always could have. But without the assistance of Title IX, we still might be playing the high school sports that my mother’s generation of Baby Boomers was encouraged to participate in: cheerleading and field hockey. Cheerleading because they needed a group of pretty girls to cheer on the “real” athletes—the men. And field hockey, because you had to wear skirts.
Yes, it is good to be a Millennial. Thank you, Mom!
Now, let’s talk about that fabulous technological development: Social Media.
My grandparents, and their Post-War cohort, will never truly understand the platform I have built as a professional athlete—because most of it exists in cyberspace.
My grandmother doesn’t even own a computer. The only way to contact her is via a landline telephone or through “snail mail.”
My mother just opened a Facebook account and is navigating what she perceives as the dangerous waters of friend requests and wall posts.
I am an avid user of all the technology that life has to offer. The followers that I have amassed on Twitter, the friends I have collected on Facebook, the readers of my blog, and the subscribers to my YouTube page are members of my global network of influence.
People can follow my daily activities, and I can personally communicate with fans all over the world. The connection is real, and it is extremely powerful.
My elders may never genuinely grasp what I do and why I am so passionate about it, but the capacity to affect and impact the world around us is stronger than ever before.
I believe that it is safe to conclude that this strength will only compound in the generations to come.
My mother always said, “It is a small world,” but I don’t think she ever would have predicted how small it truly has become. With one simple click of the mouse, a message can be spread, watched, read, and heard around the world.
Now, this is something I need to Tweet about.
About Joanna Lohman
Professional soccer player Joanna Lohman has played in the WUSA Festivals in both Minneapolis and Los Angeles in 2004, and was a member of the 2005 Freedom Reserves. She trained with USWNT during the 2004 Olympic Residency Training Camp and was a member of U21 US national team from 2000-2005, captaining the squad from 2003-2004. She helped lead her U21 team to three Nordic Cup championships, earning MVP honors in 2002.
In college at Penn State, she scored 19 goals and had six assists her senior season, finishing her career at No. 5 in all-time goals scored (41), No. 2 in assists (37), No. 4 in points (114), and No. 1 in scoring game-winning goals (8).
Among other honors, she was named Pennsylvania’s NCAA Woman of the Year in 2004, was a two-time M.A.C. Hermann Trophy finalist (2002-2003), a two-time Honda Sports Award Finalist (2002-2003), and a finalist for the Collegiate Women’s Sports Award for Women’s Soccer in 2003.
Originally from Washington, DC, Lohman currently lives outside Philadelphia and plays for the Philadelphia Independence soccer team.