By Charles Boehm
Louise Waxler has run more than her share of soccer tournaments over the years, including many whose size and complexity dwarfed that of her 2012 Headers For Hope event, which takes place at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown, Md. tomorrow.
In a recent conversation with The Soccer Wire, the longtime soccer executive ran through a general logistics checklist with practiced familiarity: volunteers, facilities, scheduling – “It’s pretty easy; when you only have eight teams it takes, like, five minutes to schedule that,” she noted of this weekend’s event – sales, referees and so on.
But when it comes to significance, few of them can match Headers For Hope, the non-profit that raises funds for cancer research and treatment by treating soccer fans to annual exhibition events which usually feature an unusual mix of college, amateur and pro teams. Waxler founded HFH in honor of the close friends she has lost to cancer and continues to run the organization despite having recently taken a new post as executive director at Northern Virginia club McLean Youth Soccer.
“With Headers for Hope, being able to give back is something that I strongly believe in. So yeah, that’s a passion for me. I just can’t do one thing, unfortunately. I get bored!” she said with a chuckle.
“All of us are affected by cancer. We lose people every day in our lives, whether they’re friends, relatives, kids. I’ve seen so much of it over the past few years that I think we as a community in soccer have an obligation to give back.”
This year’s edition of HFH features college squads from Villanova, Navy, William & Mary and Loyola (Md.), each of whom will play two daytime matches, while Maryland will face off against W-League side D.C. United Women in the evening showcase match at the SoccerPlex’s Championship Stadium.
Also taking part are new Women’s Premier Soccer League (semipro) club Maryland Capitols FC and, perhaps the event’s biggest wild card, the Women’s Professional Supergroup, a collection of WPS players gathered by Philadelphia Independence coach Paul Riley to train and play while the beleaguered pro league is shuttered for the 2012 campaign.
Admission costs $10 and thanks to gracious donations from many different parties, almost every dime will go directly towards the fight against cancer.
“NISOA, the National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association, have been great partners with me over the years and they provide all the referees on a complimentary basis,” explained Waxler, “and the feature game with Maryland and D.C. United Women, that is assigned by the [U.S. Soccer] Federation, so we have three female, federation-level referees who will be doing that game that are also donating their time and their services.
“Of course, the SoccerPlex donates the fields and I have a great crew of volunteers that I met when I was with Washington Freedom back in 2001,” she continued. “A lot of people come on board to make this happen. It’s amazing, the people that step forward to help out. Adidas is on board as a sponsor, so we’ll be giving stuff out to the players and the refs and the volunteers. So we’re ready to roll.”
Waxler hopes a strong crowd will flock to Germantown, whether it be for the daytime doubleheaders, the evening feature or all of the above, to enjoy good soccer that supports a good cause.
“All the money that we raise is going to Holy Cross Hospital and Cancer Center [based in Silver Spring, Md.] and their mammogram assistance program services,” she said. “With the money we raise, we will be able to provide free mammograms for people – for women and men – that don’t have the resources to pay for it. So if we could save one life or two lives from the money that we raise here, then we’ve accomplished our goal.
“This is about more than just taking the pitch to play soccer, this is about giving back to all of us, because all of our lives have been touched by cancer.”