CARY, N.C. (WNCN) – The North Carolina Courage fell to Washington 2-1 Wednesday night, and while they failed to gain a point in the standings, they gained the attention of the Courage organization.
The players were disappointed in the loss, but the post-game press conference wasn’t one for despair and the usual we have to work harder clichés.
The players had a message they wanted to get across. They did not mince words about their new interim head coach Sean Nahas.
“I 100-percent think that he deserves to have the interim taken out of that title,” Courage defender Kaleigh Kurtz said. “He deserves the head coaching job and I think the club would really be missing a very big thing if they decide not to do that.”
Usually players shy away from the press after a loss, and getting answers longer than a few words, or a well worn cliché, is like pulling teeth. But not on this night.
Kurtz said one of the reasons she wanted to talk with the media, was to get the message across about the incredible job Nahas had been doing. She also tweeted her feelings on Sunday and included the hashtag #RemoveInterim.
“He (has) been so good about making sure that we feel supported and heard and everything on and off the field because right now a lot of what we are dealing with is off the field stuff,” Kurtz said. “He (has) been given a crap deal to start off with, and the fact that he has been so good for us, and to us is really amazing, I think we would be a lot worse off without him.”
Midfielder Meredith Speck echoed those sentiments when she was asked about the job Nahas had been doing since taking over.
“I think Sean has been incredibly selfless,” she said. “I think he’s giving us so much space to feel comfortable and secure and everything. He’s putting a lot of that pressure on him(self) and I think we are so appreciative of him as a human being. I find that he’s so respectful and understanding of what we need right now.”
The trust between players and Nahas has been built over years of working together.
Nahas has been with the Capital Area Soccer League (now North Carolina FC Youth) and the NC Courage for 14 years.
In addition to being an assistant coach for the NC Courage, Nahas is a coach for the NC Courage Academy. He has held several leadership positions with CASL including Director of Girls Classic Soccer, ECNL Director and Director of CASL Player Development.
“He is very good at reading a room and he knows if players are not ready to talk or not,” Kurtz said. “The players, especially in the first week, we were not ready. We did not want talk to (the media) we just needed a little time to separate and just get back to loving the game. He took that role and took that responsibility on all meetings here to make sure that we feel comfortable if we don’t want to speak.”
Stepping into the situation has been rough and Nahas admitted as much.
Ideally, a coach would like to take over in the off-season with a clean break from the previous staff and get a chance to start anew, but that wasn’t the case with the Courage. He also said the players have made his job easier despite what they have been through.
“I’m looking at these players and I know they’re hurting but I give them so much credit because they haven’t wavered at all they don’t make excuses. They come into work every single day.” Nahas said. “It’s their outlet and we’ve created an environment where they can feel that they can just perform.”
However, the problems with the NWSL won’t be fixed overnight, but the players have taken the first steps by speaking out.
The locking of arms show of solidarity at midfield, that started with the NWSL, has now gone worldwide, along with the slogan and hashtag #NoMoreSilence.
The first sign things are changing came Wednesday afternoon when the league announced they would move the NWSL Championship from Portland to Louisville. It will now be played at noon instead of it’s original 9 a.m start time.
“Our players see that on social media they know that’s connected to us and all the stuff is happening because of what’s going on here within his league,” Nahas said. “The players across the league have been brilliant. I don’t know every single one of them, but they should keep their heads high because what they’ve done is demand change.”
When Nahas was asked about the systemic abuse of players by coaches his answer showed us why the players on the NC Courage think so highly of him.
“Yeah it’s a systematic issue,” Nahas said. “But it’s also a people issue. And it’s not hard to just treat people the right way.”