BLOG: Breakers Unlaced by Katie Ponce

Breakers Reserve Team player Katie Ponce chronicles her experience during the 2015 season.


Smile Because it Happeneed

By Katie Ponce I Aug. 26, 2015

For my final blog this summer I want to do my best to thank everyone that has made Breakers Unlaced a success. Twelve weeks ago when I started Breakers Unlaced, I had no intentions for the blog being anything other than another way to keep myself busy this summer. As a new college graduate I felt anxious spending my summer playing soccer with a lot of downtime in between. I never imagined that the blog would turn into something I am so proud and fortune to be a part of.  I have felt myself grow up this summer, and I guess I’m pretty lucky I found someone who believed my experiences were worth being documented. 

My biggest thanks are to my bosses who have given me the freedom and opportunity to write my real experiences and share them with all of you. Since graduating, I feel like at every corner the world has had its way of just making things work out. My opportunity to write this blog started at the Boston Breakers Reverse’s second game of the season when the marketing and design director for the Breakers, Seve Hirst, was filming our game. Seve, my current boss, was also my soccer coach a few summers ago. Eager to at least try to put my education to use, I asked for a job. 

With no direct need for my experience, Breakers Unlaced was created. After week one of sending my first blog to Communications Manager Ryan Wood, I knew this opportunity was going to be everything I could have wanted.  Since soccer has been my main priority all summer, flexibility was so important going forward. Never rushed and always allowing me to come up with my own topics, Breakers Unlaced was not a summer job, but basically my summer diary. 

From my camp stories, to getting closer with the first team girls in interviews, everything was true, and it all shaped my summer. I never knew what I was going to write about until the week of when I got in front of my computer screen. Nothing was scripted this summer, which made everything I shared with all of you that much more personal. And while my particular situation is unique, I hope that at some point in these last three months, several of my words spoke to all of you. 

Breakers Unlaced was created with the intention to highlight the life of a reserve team player, and bring more attention to the entire Boston Breakers organization. While this club is a business, the Breakers’ office made my stay comfortable. The love for soccer can be felt in the office of the Boston Breakers, and at no time this summer did I ever feel that anything got in the way of that. I thank the entire Boston Breakers staff for supporting Breakers Unlaced and for sharing the love of soccer, and in particular women’s soccer, with me. 

I’ve never asked Ryan or Seve how many people read this blog. Never checked on how many clicks Breakers Unlaced gets. To me, whether 10 or 100 people read this blog every week, it feels like my messages are being heard. So my final thanks are to all of you that see this. It means so much to feel like I am being heard in this big crazy world of noise. This blog created an outlet of expression and I find comfort in the fact that I am communicating with at least someone out there. 

I’m sad to see Breakers Unlaced end, but I as reminisce on these past 12 weeks, I smile that it happened. Four months ago, I thought Boston would only be for a summer. I thought that come fall I would move to a city closer to home and accept a 9-5 job offer. Soccer, my host family, this blog, everything that has found its way to me in Boston has taught me so much. I’m not entirely sure what comes after I finish this blog, but I’m positive this summer has prepared me for whatever is next. 

While I hope that you all have taken something away from this blog, more importantly I’m optimistic to think you have grown a stronger connection with the Boston Breakers and the entire National Women’s Soccer League, (NWSL). The Boston Breakers have given me a home to chase of my dreams, and without the support of all you women’s soccer fans, there would be no room to dream. 

Please continue to be a fan of the Boston Breakers. This Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET, The Boston Breakers have one final game this season versus the Houston Dash. Follow the Breakers on Youtube, for your last chance to see them play this year. You can also continue to show your support by committing to your 2016 season tickets today. Log on now to learn more so you don’t miss your chance to part of all the action next year at Solider Stadium. See deals and keep up with the Breakers in the off season by following us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.


What Comes Next

By Katie Ponce I Aug. 20, 2015

The 2015 season for the Boston Breakers is quickly wrapping up as the team goes on the road for their final three games at Kansas City, Seattle, and Houston. Only four teams from the National Women’s Soccer League, (NWSL) will get to advance to playoffs, but the Breakers aren’t done as they hope to find results on the road to move up the ranks of the league. While the team continues to compete, I sat down with starting left back, Mollie Pathman, to discuss her plans come this fall. 

The NWSL regular season runs from April to August. Teams report to preseason in March and playoffs continue into September, but during the other five plus months of the year, the women who make up the women’s professional league need to find another way to make an income and still stay in game shape. Pathman is getting ready for her second offseason and shared with me how she plans to once again make sure she’s ready for next season. 

Last year, after being a third-round college draft pick and making 21 appearances for the Boston Breakers, Pathman traveled to Cyprus in the offseason. She played in the Cypriot First Division for Apollon Limassol.  There, she got to appear in two UEFA Women’s Champions League matches for Apollon.

Although Pathman was only there for a month, “the experience was a lot of fun and it was a nice way to get game experience during the offseason,” she said.

After spending time abroad, Mollie went back to her college town and trained with Duke’s men’s and women’s soccer teams. At Duke, Pathman was a two-time All-ACC Second Team selection with 29 career assists, ranking her in third in Duke history. This year, although she will not be going back abroad, Pathman will be returning to Duke to train with the men’s and women’s soccer teams again. When the season ends, and the Breakers all part ways, it is difficult to not have a team to train with. While it is unfortunate the NWSL can’t keep the team together all year round, Pathman gave me her advice on how individuals in the league can best train in their time away. 

“Find a new way to train,” she said. “It is hard to get games in, and it’s even difficult to continuously train with people at a high level. I choose to train with the boys when I can because playing with better players will make you better. Their increased speed of play helps to sharpen mine.” 

Planning to come back next season, Pathman’s soccer plans are set to prepare her for the 2016 season. However, soccer is not the only part of her plans. The NWSL is still new and growing, but currently during the offseason, players must make their own plans for a source of income. This added pressure makes continuing to play even more difficult for the professionals. 

“This upcoming offseason, I will be working at Active Edge. It’s a gym, but I get to do some of the business aspects. I help out with office management,” she said. “My main source of income though is in training individuals [in soccer sessions].” 

Being a women’s professional soccer player in this country isn’t the typical lifestyle we assume when we think of being a professional athlete. Athletes must not only find a way to train on their own, but they also have to find their own alternative to make money. This makes being a part of the league not all the glamour of getting to play a sport you love for a living. Really, the girls of the NWSL give up a certain lifestyle to do what they love. 

“It’s definitely hard because you can’t get a real job,” Pathman said. “All of [the girls on the team] have degrees, but it’s hard to try and only work for six months. We also have to prioritize training so we have to flexible schedules.” 

I think we can all learn from Mollie’s story and the rest of the players of the league. After college, while most of us plan and plan to follow the norm and stay within our comfort zones of what we’re ‘supposed’ to do, the players of the NWSL are making sacrifices to continue to play. The same sacrifices are the hard work that is growing the league and inspiring their fans to dream big. 

Stay tuned to see what Mollie Pathman and the rest of the Boston Breakers do in their offseason. The girls are making plans to get ready for 2016, so make sure you’re coming back out to see all the hard work and time they are putting in for next season. The Boston Breakers 2016 season tickets are already on sale! Fans that order before October 1st will receive 20 percent back in Breakers bucks. Log on now to learn more so you don’t miss your chance to part of all the action next year at Solider Stadium. Continue to see great deals like this one by following us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter. Also check out the Breakers YouTube channel because although the Breakers don’t return home this season you can watch their final three games on the road.


'Tis the Preseason

By: Katie Ponce  I  Aug. 13, 2105

For the first time in a long time, I am not in preseason getting ready to start another fall season. As athletes, we prepare all year for season. The games are the moments we work so hard for, to show how much we have improved. As the games get closer, we kick it into high gear, making preseason one of the most intensely draining times of the year. Physically and mentally, you’re pushed, hoping it will help individuals and the team climax at all the right times during the season. It might be because I am feeling a little more nostalgic than usual (being that I’m a recent college graduate), but this week I am going give my veteran advice on how to best prepare for preseason. 

The concept of training twice a day, plus team meetings, plus team bonding, every day, for a least two weeks is actually kind of insane when you think about it – especially for girls. Asking a group a girls to spend that much time together is just asking for trouble. Scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and seeing my old teammates training for their upcoming season, makes me really miss the freezing ice baths, cafeteria food and practices that end with “Get on the line!”. There is just something about being a part of the experience that drives the competitor in me. It’s more than all the soccer… there are so many factors that go into making a preseason the best it can be. Creating team chemistry is something that every team needs in order to meet their definition of success. I’ve learned every team is different, and even during my four years of college, each year, with new and altering squads, we found new and different solutions for our offense and defense. Despite the changes from year to year and team to team, there are several factors that we, as individuals, control.

It may already be too late, but getting into shape has always been my main priority going into every season, including my season with the Breakers. Being in shape has always been what I have used to make a first impression and it makes the rest of the game much easier. Some of you may be luckier than others with how easy it is to stand out in a fitness test. However, it’s important to remember that coming into preseason prepared and ready to work is a choice we make.

Something I think I still struggle with is limited outside distractions during preseason. Missing home or fighting with an outside relationship is hard to put on hold when it’s time to focus on playing soccer. However, I’ve seen it can really make a difference. Fixating on emotions brings stress, affects our sleeping habits, and in time, hurts our recovery. I’m not suggesting turning off all communication with the outside world; it’s 2015 and that’s almost impossible to ask. However, surrounding yourself with positive thoughts and eliminating the thoughts of what fun the non-athletes are having during preseason is a good place start. 

Finally, my biggest tactic for success and my best advice for preseason is setting goals. I know goal setting may seem corny, but it is absolutely part of my routine before every season. Effective goal setting includes thinking about measurable, realistic goals. Wanting to win the conference, or score the most goals may be totally attainable to you as an individual and both are great accomplishments, but there’s no way to measure if every day you are getting closer to that goal. 

I still have the notecard of goals that I signed and kept in my locker for my senior season of college. It reads: I will not accept my peers not giving me their best each and every day. I promise to give everything I have on and off the field in order to set an example for my team and commit myself to driving them to achieve their full potential. The only way I knew I could meet my goal was if I could honestly answer ‘yes’ when I asked myself each day, “Did I do everything I could today?”

Being that there is always so much pressure on the season, oftentimes players fall short of what is expected from them. I believe the promises I made at the beginning of each of my many seasons, allowed me to constantly affirm I was doing what I set out to do. Here’s my biggest piece of advice for all the athletes about to start their fall season - don’t let this season be one you regret. Don’t be the player that looks back at the end of season and wishes they did more. Season only comes once a year so make the most of it. 

And then it stops coming and you’re graduated spending your time writing about how you miss preseason… 

The Boston Breakers are still finishing this season, before they can have preseason on their minds. But as fans it is definitely time to get excited because 2016 season tickets are already on sale! The first 200 to order will receive a NWSL/USWNT poster signed by Alyssa Naeher! Also any fan that orders before Oct. 1 will receive 20 percent back in Breakers Bucks. Log on now to learn more so you don’t your chance to part of all the action next year at Soliders Field Soccer Stadium. Continue to see great deals like these by following us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter. Also check out the Breakers YouTube channel because although the Breakers don’t return home this season you can watch their final three games on the road. 


When I Grow Up


By: Katie Ponce I Aug. 5, 2015 

Growing up, my aspirations ranged from wanting to be a singer on Broadway, to a professional dancer at basketball games, or of course a professional soccer player. At a young age it all seemed possible, and of course as a little girl, it was more than encouraging to have all of these dreams. 

The inspiration for this week’s conversation again all started at a Breakers’ summer camp. If you sign up for a Breakers’ summer camp, it also includes meeting at least one of the girls from the professional team. On the last day of camp, campers get with a Q&A session with a player, ending with getting a free, signed T-shirt. During this time every week, almost every kid at camp admits they want to a professional soccer player. As coaches, we all smile and encourage the kids to raise their hands at such a beautiful dream to have. This is also the part of camp were we make the weekly joke as coaches of how bad we still all want to be professional soccer players when we grow up. 

Camp last week would be no different as we were joined by four girls from the Boston Breakers. The girls were answering questions about their favorite parts of being professionals and how they all found their way to become one of the Breakers. At the end of all the questions, like every week, the coaches asked all the campers who wanted to be professional soccer players to raise their hands. However, when the weekly remark about how all the coaches wanted the same thing was said, an eight-year-old boy in the front row innocently shouted out to the oldest coach, ‘you’re too old to still want be a professional soccer player.’ 

The crowd roared with laughter, and once our shock was over, even the coaches joined in. A few minutes later, I found myself justifying that being a few years younger made my dreams more realistic, more obtainable. But why? Without dipping into the real chances of my professional soccer career, why is it that even an eight-year-old sees it more possible for me to follow my dreams than someone five years older than me. Does following your dreams have an age limit? 

Undoubtedly, we all recognize that there is an age limit of when it’s no longer cute to ask someone what they want to be when they grow up. There is also definitely an age when society expects or even demands us to start being practical in our career paths in order for us to be taken seriously. As a recent college graduate with no solid plan moving forward for my future, I feel embarrassed to tell people I don’t know exactly what I will be doing next. Instantly, I feel judged, and I constantly find myself trying to make up for my lack of short-term plans with a practical timeline that does a better job of putting everyone who asks me at ease. However, I didn’t know that even an eight-year-old could notice when it was time for me to be a grown up. The problem is in the question. While now the first thing I am asked after my name is, “what do you do,” it once was “what do you want to do when you grow up?”

“Because the expected answer to this question, [What do you want to do when you grow up?], is always a type of job, it reinforces the idea that the way to find identity and value is through career. Our society is already saturated with messages that the title on your business card is directly connected to your worth as a human being. When kids are bombarded by the questions about which job they’ll eventually hold, it trains them to view adult life through the lens of their place in the workforce.” (Fulwiler, 2012). 

No wonder I feel like I need to justify my life decisions, when by age six I believed what I did meant who I was. The sadder part of it all though is as an aspiring professional athlete, and current coach, I spent my entire day around what I love most. So shouldn’t that define me as admirable, not the college graduate who avoids the ‘real world’. 

The way I see it is work place will always be there. I’m not naïve and still holding onto my dreams of singing on Broadway, but there are still a lot of things I want to do when I grow up. The way I’m spending my summer is not how I plan to spend my life and I definitely don’t want it to be the definition of who I am. The definition of who I am should be based off my words and, or my actions. 

So maybe we do stop asking kids what they want to do when they grow. I think the right question is who they want to be. The eight-year old who tells me they just want to be happy when they grow up, or they just want to be a good person; that’s the kid that I think has it all figured out. 

If you like what you read about the Breakers’ summer camps, you can still sign up for the remaining ones this summer near you. The Boston Breakers will also be playing at Harvard this Saturday for their final home game of the season. Tickets are still on sale as they take on the Washington Spirit at 7 P.M. And as always make sure you are joining the #BreakersExperience by following us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram


Works Cited

Fulwiler, J. (2012, February 29). Let's Stop Asking Kids What They Want to Be When They Grow Up 

     [Blog post]. Retrieved from National Catholic Register website: 



Behind The Scenes

By: Katie Ponce  I  July 29, 2015

With only two home games left for the Boston Breakers, I thought I’d use this week to take a look at what goes on behind the scenes for game day. Playing at home means lots of preparation for the Breakers office in Hanover, Mass. From printing tickets to planning halftime, the Breakers’ front office is busy for days leading up to the game. The Breakers front office is made up of a passionate group of experienced employers who all come together to make game day run smoothly. 

“The biggest thing on game day is teamwork. To-do lists are created with jobs allocated so that nothing is forgotten. Everyone needs to be on the same page,” said Assistant General Manager Elise McLear.

Now working for the Breakers for three years, Elise is experienced with the stress that comes with game-day preparation. Her leadership role has taught her the importance of teamwork, and it is felt throughout the entire office. Every asset is utilized in making a difference on game day from top to bottom. Summer intern, Jen Esposito, explained that she definitely notices the difference between the weeks of an away game versus when the Breakers play at home. 

“As an intern, a lot of the little things people don’t think about fall on us,” Esposito said. “It’s important to pay attention to detail so nothing gets left behind. This ensures things run smoothly on game day for both the players and fans.”

This attention to detail becomes a priority when the Breakers host a game. In order to give fans the full Breakers’ experience, the front office shifts gears in preparation for the weekend ahead.

“In the office, attention differs. Away weeks call attention to checking on season ticket holders, and maintaining our relationship with fans. When we are home, there are several factors to consider,” explained Sales Director Edele Branigan. “We need to talk to the field staff to prepare them for how many fans to expect. We spend time printing tickets and preparing ticket packages for fans and every other aspect that goes into a fan’s experience. From the minute a fan walks to into Soldiers Field Stadium, we want to ensure they enjoy their experience. From the game to halftime to meeting the players, there is a lot that goes into making up the entire experience.”

With a sold-out game approaching, Edele and her team have turned it up a notch to make this weekend exciting for everyone. As another leader in the front office, Edele also stressed the importance of teamwork on game day. 

“It is very much a team effort,” she said. “Even when your job is done, from staff to interns, everyone needs to pitch in and stay aware until the night is over.”

Even with great preparation, there is work to be done until the night is over. Marketing and Design Director Seve Hirst acknowledged that some things have to be done last minute.

“A lot of my work behind the scenes gets done early, with preparing all images and design work for home and away games. However, some things are unavoidable,” he said. “[Operations Director, Laura Doran] and I have developed a system, but for a long time I would make two or three images trying to guess the starting lineup. Sometimes this information isn’t confirmed till the morning of game day.”

The stress and hard work is worth it though as the final two home games approach. Aug. 1 vs. Seattle Reign FC is a sold-out game, while the final home game on Aug. 8 vs. the Washington Spirit is running out of tickets quickly. Along with the games themselves, fans can also look forward to the entertainment the Breakers’ staff has planned. 

This Saturday, Soccer Grl Probs, will be hosting a free clinic before the game. The clinic, which quickly filled up, is expected to have 100 kids ranging from ages 8-18 years old. Fans will get to not only meet the girls, but also get free training from the former Fairfield University women’s soccer players. 

This Saturday, will also serve as a tribute game to former Boston Breakers player Cat Whitehill. During her time with Boston, Whitehill, 32, played three seasons. She played the most minutes on the team last year (2,101), starting all 24 games, while registering one assist. A two-year captain, Whitehill debuted with the Breakers in 2012, playing in WPSL Elite. Whitehill also played with the U.S. Women’s National Team, where she won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics.

Looking forward, the Breakers are also excited to bring fans Bubble Ball soccer during their halftime show on Aug. 8. Tickets for this game are still on sale, so to witness the excitement make sure you hurry before they run out. If you can’t make game day, follow all of the action at home by following the Breakers’ YouTube channel or learn more from our FacebookIntagram, or Twitter.


Finding Results on the Road

By Katie Ponce I July 23, 2015

This weekend is a big week for the Boston Breakers, both at the professional and reserve level. The reserve team clinched the East Region Division title and is off to the Women’s Premier Soccer League, (WPSL) Final Four Championship in Oklahoma City this Saturday and Sunday. Here, we will be joined by the Chicago Red Stars Reserves, Oklahoma City FC, and SoCal FC.

While we fly to Oklahoma, the first team seeks to gain three points on the road versus Sky Blue FC. Sky Blue trails behind the Boston Breakers in the league with 11 points to our 12, and this weekend will mean a lot in our standings as playoff time gets closer. 

Winning on the road is known to be tougher, and at any level coaches stress to win games at home and get a result on the road, meaning that even a tie is a success. This was always the case during my college career, and even here at the Breakers, the coaches stress the advantages of being at home.

During 2008, a blog was posted that questioned this idea of it being tough on the road. At the time, it was the NBA conference semifinals and the road teams were 1-15. These are the kind of results we expect since being on the road is such a challenge. However, if there really is a home-court advantage, then why is that?

Well according to FanIQ , “It seems to be that players are psychologically drilled to believe that playing on the road is tougher than it is at home, especially during the playoffs. It's almost like Pavlov's dogs. Turn on the light, make the dogs slobber. Put the Celtics on the road, they can't win. It's not that Cleveland's crowd is the key difference, or that it's making Cleveland play any better, it's that Boston has the preconceived notion that the game will be tougher than it otherwise should be,” (Leitch, 2008).

I have spent at least the last eight years being told that it’s harder to win on the road. Could it really be just in my head or in my coaches’ heads who have been putting this thought into mine? Maybe I just don’t want to accept that I have been the source of my own demise, but I think the challenge of playing on the road is not just in athletes’ heads

First off, the travel. Bus or plane, the extended amount of time traveling can be hard on an athlete’s body. Recently, we hear about how the high altitudes of flying can worsen injuries and cause possible swelling. Not to mention the mental stress top athletes like Muhammed Ali have admitted to having when it came to their fear of flying. These factors all add up to just one element the home team doesn’t have to worry about.

A home team not only does not have these extra stresses, they have everything in their favor. The psychology preparation before a game is its own study now and teams even at the college level are beginning to utilize sports psychologist. The practiced routine that home teams walk through leading up to the game is perfected for every team; even every player to make sure they are at their best. Finding your routine outside of your comfort zone may offset a player on game day even the slightest bit.

And finally, after being here three months, I know all my Boston natives will agree that the fans make a difference. The energy and environment that fans bring is undeniable. Whether it’s a sold-out game at Fenway or 3,000 young girls in Harvard Stadium, athletes connect with a group of people who are there to solely support them.

In my mind these answers seem obvious. Maybe I’m brainwashed and playing on the road is just as easy as it is playing at home. All I need is my uniform and my game should be the same no matter what. I think that at one time this might have been true. Before sports were at the center of this country’s (this world’s) entertainment maybe all you did need was to show up and no matter where that was the athlete decided how well they would play. Today though, with how high competition is, and how much pressure there is on athletes, especially professional athletes that so many us invest our faith in, there is much more to how well someone plays then just showing up. Finding results on the road means over coming all the obstacles of traveling in a new city with new fans, and it means another point or three that you took away from a team at home. The pressures are on for this weekend’s travel, but believe me that the Breakers’ preparation has already started.

If you are not already attending our almost sold out games, buy your tickets now! Or, follow us on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram so you can find out how to follow the game from home.


Works Cited 

Leitch. (2008, May 13). Why Is It So Darned Hard To Win On The Road? [Blog post]. Retrieved from 

     Deadspin website:


The Reserves Take a Shot at Playoffs

Katie Ponce  I  July 15, 2015 

This week is an exciting week for the Boston Breakers Reserve team, and I want to take the time to talk this week about the exciting weekend we have ahead of us. For the second year in a row, the Reserve team has come out of the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) Northeast Division undefeated. 

This year, the Reserve team has been seeded No. 1 and will be hosting the regional playoffs. The playoffs will be held at Hormel Stadium in Medford, Mass. this Saturday and Sunday (July 18 and 19). Coming away with a victory both days will mean the Reserves may have a chance to go to the WPSL final four and compete for a WPSL championship. Before we get ahead of ourselves, the Reserves have their first game to focus on against Yankee United FC, the top team from the Mid-Atlantic Division. Francesco D’Agostino, the head coach of the Reserves, has been preparing the Reserve team all season and is confident heading into this weekend.

 “I think we deserve to be seeded No. 1. I don't think anyone else can do the damage we can in the postseason,” he said. “We have started to play better as the season as gone on with individuals like Riley [Houle] stepping up. If we do what I know we can do we have a chance at this.”

While being associated with a professional team has had many advantages, the Boston Breakers system is meant to help girls move up to the professional team. D’Agostino noted that the more people who leave the team for professional opportunities, the better he is doing at his job. This balance of creating a good team, but still helping players move to the professional level is exactly what D’Agostino has to keep in mind. This summer, players have come and gone in order to chase their love of the game. However, those of us left have been pushed all summer long. 

“[Breakers Head Coach] Tom (Durkin), does a great job of letting us train with the first team. This is the best thing for us because we get to play great competition every week,” D’Agostino said. “It's exactly what we need - to get a challenging scrimmage every week. That’s what European teams do. They play Thursday before their weekend match, and we’re lucky to have that. And when [the team] listens to Tom, they see results. When girls apply what he tells them, they will get better. Then if every year, two girls are being pulled up, mission accomplished.”

I personally believe that this competitive environment here at the Breakers has pushed me outside of my comfort zone and allowed me to improve my game. Not many teams in our league can also say that they practice against professionals every day. The list of teams that are joined by professionals is definitely even smaller.

This is not the first year that the Reserves have made it out of their division. Just last season, the Reserves also went undefeated, but because they did not hold the No. 1 seed in the region, they had to travel down to Maryland, home of WPSL team ASA Charge. Both the Reserves and the Charge were meant to meet in the finals, but both teams were upset in the first round of playoffs. Luckily this year, the Reserves don’t have the same odds against them. 

“Playing at home is big advantage,” D’Agostino said. 

Still being at home with all the talent in the world won’t help this team advance if we don’t want it. The bottom line is in order to move on from this weekend, the Boston Breakers Reserve team will need to prove its desire. 

“I really think if we stick to our plan, and if we can play to our ability, there is no question we will win. We have beaten teams in the past that are going to be a part of these playoff games,” D’Agostino said. “A lot of things still need to go right to come out with a win. I am counting on us to stay together whether we go up or down a goal. Having good chemistry, willing to fight for one another, never giving up - these are the keys to winning this weekend.”

Look out to see if the Reserves will be headed to the finals or come out and see for yourself. Join us this Saturday, July 18, at 5 p.m. at Hormel Stadium, in Medford, Mass. Unfortunately, the Reserves are the only ones home this weekend, but it is also another great weekend to follow your Boston Breakers as the pro team travels to the Midwest to play the Chicago Red Stars Saturday night. Follow them on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram so you can see their game results.


The Pressure's On 

Katie Ponce  I  July 7, 2015

Pressure takes on a whole new meaning in the professional world. As if performing on the field wasn’t stressful enough, professional athletes must also carry themselves in everyday life to be role models in society. To help articulate really what this looks like, I sat down with Boston Breakers rookie Laruen Lazo. Her transition from college soccer to the professional lifestyle has not been easy, but she has made it look easy with five appearances for the Breakers since joining the team, including their 1-0 victory over FC Kansas City.

Lazo, originally from Scottsdale, Ariz., signed with the Boston Breakers this season after finishing her college career at Princeton University. During her career at Princeton, Lazo was made first-team NSCAA All-Mid-Atlantic Region, second-team All-ECAC, and first-team All-Ivy League. From being a clear star at Princeton to making the transition to the Breakers, Lazo has definitely felt like she has had to relearn the ropes. When I asked her if she feels more pressure with being a rookie on the team than possibly some of the other girls, she said, “absolutely.”

“I don’t think it is just me, [Suzane Pires] and [Stephanie Verdoia] are both rookies as well and we all feel the pressure even at practice,” Lazo said. “I think a lot of it is because our teammates hold us to a high standard. It’s not like college where you can get away with mistakes. Here everyone expects your best.”

Pressure of being the new person in town gets even tougher when you come in and quickly find yourself as a starter. Lazo missed the start of the season to finish up with her degree at Princeton. However, being late was no excuse; she still was instantly expected to be articulate with her decisions and would hear it from the coaches if her touch was even slightly off. Still, after signing with the Breakers, she became a starter in the defensive line.

“My first game in the back, I was beyond nervous, the most nervous I’ve ever been. It was a different feeling because I usually don’t get nervous,” she said. “I got through my first games on adrenaline. [Being a defender] was a new position for me, and (head coach) Tom (Durkin) expects [me] to defend well, but at the same time get forward and connect every pass.”

Adjusting into her new role has also changed off the field. Although she has noticed that she does not receive as much personal media attention as she is used to, Lazo has definitely noticed the increased fan attention for the team. Both on social media and at the games, the fan base is much larger than she is used to.

This attention from the job may not seem so bad, but comes with its difficulties. Every year, we hear about an athlete who hurts their image by some of the choices they make. Professional athletes are not just paid for what they do in their sport, but the role models they chose to be in everyday life. Soccer in America is still not in the limelight compared to sports like football or baseball. Minus Sunday’s epic victory over Japan to become World Champions, we hear even less about women in soccer.

Since female soccer players do not get the same attention in sports as men do, there is an extra job of being a part of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). As athletes, we have come a long way, and several women have assumed leadership roles in the public eye. This presence off the field is crucial for female athletes to continue to grow the support for the game. While performing as soccer players is the first priority, being a part of the NWSL does not assume automatic fame. The players of the NWSL are the brand and need to part of the movement to expand the knowledge about professional women’s soccer.

“Some people don’t even know about our games,” Lazo said. “We work hard; we are out here every day just like the men, but we do not have the same attention. The women’s game is a different game, and in order for it to excel we need to promote ourselves. It’s a dream come true to have a league and we have to be a part of the effort to make it stick.”

After the U.S. Women’s National Team’s win Sunday, the country is hooked on the 23 women who brought back the title. Much like the 1999 victory, the female soccer world hopes that this added excitement will bring fans around the country back to the NWSL. With the all the buzz around the game, players like Lauren Lazo feel the duty they have to keep these fans hooked. From appearances to summer camps, Lazo and the Breakers work full time to keep their fans engaged and coming back for more.

Although playing the game at this level and as a female brings extra stress, like Lazo said it’s a dream come true to be playing.  It wasn’t very long ago that the pressure of being a women’s professional soccer player wasn’t a known feeling. When you look at it that way, for this sport, the pressure is not a burden, but another reminder of how lucky these athletes are that they get to live their dreams. The humility of the girls makes them relatable and I find it commendable all that they do for this game. It’s no wonder their biggest fans are young players who hope to be like them some day.

Help support Lauren Lazo and the rest of the Boston Breakers by coming to a game. Learn more by following us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. Join the #BreakersFamily

Lauren Lazo signed as a discovery player on May 14, 2015

Follow on Twitter: @laurenlazo


Play Like A Girl 

Katie Ponce  I  June 30, 2015

I believe that I may be a little late to this trending topic of “play like a girl” that Always presented last summer in their campaign to help raise teenage girl’s confidence, but last week I saw the phrase used in action. Almost exactly a year ago, the ad hit the Internet, and to date, the YouTube video has more than 58 million views. The ad sparked lots of communication about the phrase, its effect on young girls, and how they feel about themselves. The campaign has also sparked other trending topics like Soccer Girl Problems trending hashtag this summer for the World Cup, #screamlikeagirl. Positive or negative, I never thought much about saying or how it made me feel. All the buzz about turning this once insult into an empowering term for young girls didn’t seem all so relevant in my life in my life until last week. 

Summer has started, school is out, and camps are here. The Boston Breakers summer camps are popping up all over Eastern Massachusetts. As a player and coach, I have started working these summer camps, spending mornings with boys and girls all interested in getting better at playing soccer. With the mixture of boys and girls from ages six to 14, there were lots of different ranges of skill levels. For this particular week, I was in charge of the older group, with boys and girls from ages 12-14. This group of early teenagers impressed me with their skill, made me laugh with their resistance to do anything that might hurt their cool factor, and surprised me when “play like a girl” was very much in their vocabulary.

Growing up as an athletic girl who could keep up with the boys, I didn’t have a personal battle with feeling strong enough as a female until, like the commercial, I was a teenager. Starting in second grade, I played soccer every day at recess with a group of boys and thought my biggest accomplishment as a 10-year-old was coming in third place in the timed mile of the entire elementary school. I don’t know what happened on my way to middle school, but suddenly it wasn’t as cool to chase boys on field as it was to in new mini skirts and too much makeup. I was still an athlete, but as a teenager I stopped playing with the boys and was only an athlete at practice. The same progression seemed to be true through the camp.

At ages six through eight, the kids scrimmaged each other, boys versus girls, and besides for the sting of the loss, the boys had no problem with the girls who could beat them in a game. At the other end of the field, my group of kids would tease a teammate and laugh anytime a boy would get beat by a girl. Probably the most interesting part being that it wasn’t just the boys laughing. Boys and girls, no older than 14, laughing at a boy getting beat by a girl. Fourteen. We are not talking about full grown men and women, because trust me I understand my physical capabilities and am not arguing that I am stronger or faster than men my age, at my level. But as teenagers a lot of girls were still bigger than the guys, so why is it a joke when the boys were beat by girls. 

The upsetting reality is that whether it’s the boy being teased for not being manly enough or the girl being domineered because she is expected to “play like a girl” it all plays a role in an individual’s development. I hate to think that society’s gender roles had anything to do with my development as an athlete, but it seems pretty likely. The tomboy on the field at recess pushed to be the best no matter what and hadn’t met this idea of limitations. Now that she’s grown up, I think this me could use parts of her sometimes. 

So how do we fix it? It’s out there. We all see the problem with using the phrase “play like a girl” and what it does to young girls’ development. The question is how we change it so that in generations to come playing like a girl has no attached definition other than the obvious. We are girls, so we play like them. At the very least, how do we make it so that at a kid’s most vulnerable stage, sports are not another outlet where they are influenced by these gender stereotypes. I, for one, am going to be a part of the change. 

In the upcoming weeks, I am going to be at camp with a lot more boys and girls of these same age ranges, similar skill levels, and what I expect to be the same vocabulary. Last week before I got to thinking about this topic, I didn’t do a single thing to change the language at camp. I heard them use the phrase and I saw the awkward smiles of kids who were involved with the teasing, but I didn’t do anything about it. Not even as a coach, but as an aspiring female professional athlete, I think it is my job to be a part of the discussion for change. It doesn’t need to be a lecture, but a voice to simple say, “just play like soccer players” and that action of leadership for young people to see will do the issue justice. 

While these words might not be extraordinary genius or call tremendous action on how to start a campaign to influence young lives, I hope it speaks to all of you. We don’t need to change the world to make a difference. The world is made up of billions of people and when we all do our part it’s going to affect those around us. 

The Breakers want your boys and girls to play like soccer players all summer long. Join the #BreakersFamily and come out this summer to one of our camps. Coached by Breakers players like myself, we hope to make a difference for our campers this summer. Sign up here or learn more by following us FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.


Boston Believes #WeWillWin

By: Katie Ponce  I  6/23/15

It’s an exciting day to be writing about the 2015 Women’s World Cup after the United States beat Columbia, 2-0, in the round of 16 on Monday night. The U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) has given soccer fans something to believe in this summer as they continue the fight to become world champions. Back here in Boston, I sat down with Boston Breakers’ starting center back Julie King to hear about how the World Cup is affecting the game at home. 

Like most of her generation, Julie can remember the summers of the World Cup starting with the legendary 99ers. For those of you somehow unaware of the kick-butt 1999 USWNT, they defeated China in penalty kicks, resulting in an epic celebration of Brandi Chastain sliding to her knees, swinging her jersey above her head as U.S. became world champions. This remarkable group of young women had stars like Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Kristine Lily, Joy Fawcett, and Chastain, making up the female version of the Fab Five. The victory for soccer fans would forever be one of those moments in history where you knew exactly where you were when it happened because at that moment, everything changed. 

“I remember being at a soccer tournament with my sister having to tape the game,” King said. “We were covering our ears after the game so that we wouldn’t hear what happened before we could watch it.”

The 1999 World Cup victory was a pivotal moment for U.S. women’s soccer and would forever shape the women’s game. The 99ers became role models for generations to come and helped make a women’s professional soccer league possible. In fact many of the 99ers played in the Women’s Professional Soccer, (WPS) league before its fold in 2012. Some even stuck around with the return of the league you know today, National Women’s Soccer League, (NWSL).

“Of the 99ers, Kristine Lily was always a role model to me. I remember growing up with a poster of her hanging in my room,” explained King. “A surreal moment for me was joining the Breakers for the first time and seeing Kristine Lily on the bench because she was now helping coach the team.”

Today, the 2015 World Cup is a highly anticipated summer event as the whole country hopes for this year’s team to bring home the title. However, back in the states, the NWSL must also go on. This summer, the 23 U.S. players, plus several international players, have all taken a short absence from the women’s professional game. While this means that all nine of the professional teams are missing some stars, Julie believes that it has also been a good thing for the league.

 “Without the national players, a lot of younger players have been able to step up into more demanding roles,” she said. “Their absence has also allowed the players still left to prove that we can keep the league exciting.” 

Everyone who has been supporting the Breakers and the rest of the NWSL teams can certainly agree. The league is a little less than halfway there and here in Boston from goalkeeper, Jami Kranich stepping up to replace USWNT keeper Alyssa Naeher to rookie Stephanie McCaffrey breaking through as forward, games have been nothing shy of compelling. King also noted that although all teams are missing key players, most of the teams stick to the same style of play and continued to do what they do best.

While King and the rest of the Breakers have embraced the positives of the professional league without the national team players, they certainly still are cheering on their teammates abroad. 

“I obviously want the United States to win. France and Germany both are looking really good. However, Germany had much easier games in their group stages than we did. I think the tough games that the United States had to play will help them now in the elimination round,” predicted King. 

Let’s hope Julie is right in her predictions as the USWNT takes on China this Friday in the quarterfinals. The Boston Breakers are hosting another #FIFAWWC viewing party at City Hall Plaza this Friday. We invite you and all your family and friends to join us at 7:30 p.m. as we cheer on U.S. for what is hopefully the next step in their journey to victory. 

Find out more by following us on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram

Works Consulted:

About Us. (2015). Retrieved June 23, 2015, from National Women's Soccer League website:

FIFA Women's World Cup™ archive. (2015). Retrieved June 23, 2015, from website:


What Happens at the Next Level?

Katie Ponce  I  June 17, 2015

I’m a new college graduate who was forced to put those days behind me, quickly, if I wanted to excel here. Professional soccer is a completely different level than college soccer and there was a lot to learn in a short time. While this blog is about my experiences, the real inspiration for this piece came from my host mom. Her daughter is going through her transition from middle school to high school next fall, and there are a lot of questions she had for me about my experience. I still don’t think I have all the answers, but we were both intrigued by the fact that what her 14-year-old daughter was facing was shockingly similar to this stage in my life.

Everyone from the first team to the reserve team were some of the best on their college teams, the one everyone was counting on. Once leading goal scorers, or shot stoppers, now we all play together and no one cares what you once did, but what will you do now. On the reserve team alone there are five girls, including myself, who all competed against each other for four seasons in the Colonial Athletic Association, (CAA). When we all put on our Breakers gear though, the accolades from our days in conference play don’t define us anymore. One of my past rivals, Sam Lofton, noticed her time at James Madison University may have landed her a spot as a third round NWSL draft pick this year, but didn’t mean professional life would come naturally. “Transitioning from being a college four-year starter and two-year captain to being a rookie fighting for a limited number of roster spots was hard. When you make it to this level, everyone was the star of their respective team, and it was tough to maintain the same confidence when your role on a team changes so drastically,” Lofton said.

This time of transition can be seen at any stage in a player’s career. From going to recreation soccer to club, high school to college, college to professional, pro to national. The same physical and mental transition can be seen at any level and the sooner someone can face it, the sooner their abilities will be seen. Physically, at each level the game keeps getting quicker. Something all good players eventually learn is that players will catch up to their talent. At some point talent is no longer enough and to make it at the next level, and demanding attention to master individual skills is required. Many of us though already know that improving our physical game is a necessary to see results. 

However, what is probably even more important going forward is the mental transition. I will admit when I first got here, I knew how good everyone was, so when I was playing at the bottom of the pack I thought that was where I belonged. I didn’t start really pushing myself until I stopped worrying about everyone else around me. Only then did I gain the confidence to believe that I could actually compete here.  Looking back four ago, I see how I did the same thing entering my college preseason. You think I would learn my lesson, but I found comfort knowing I was not alone. After entering preseason camp with the Boston Breakers, Sam Lofton also saw her mental game being tested. “Definitely the focus that it takes to play pro soccer is a huge step up. The transitions (offense to defense and vice versa) are infinitely faster, and if you check out for a second the play passes you by.” Lofton continued “You have to find confidence in yourself. Pro soccer offers a lot less praise than other levels, and you have to believe in yourself more than ever.”

Still for me the hardest part of this question about transition is how you get through the mental change. I could tell my host mom what it was going to be like for her daughter, but not how she should go about tackling it. Trust me I know that actually working my hardest and being confident in myself each and every day is way easier said than done. In my opinion, some of us are luckier than others when it comes to these things. Just like speed, strength, or endurance, mental toughness is another talent that some athletes are born with. There’s no secret formula to staying confident, while being coachable, to being competitive, but still having a good attitude all while there’s a soccer ball at your feet. In recent years sports psychology has shown the importance of confidence when it comes to an athlete’s game. But what comes first, playing well or having the confidence to do well? 

Like the chicken or the egg, the question will continue to be debated, but undoubtedly both are needed in order to peruse the next level. My advice is the chance to be your best is a choice. At every new chapter of my soccer life, I am the one moving forward. I am the one who faced every personal victory, every struggle. Just like anything in life it isn’t easy and sometimes it has felt like walking away would be easier than to keep pushing through. But what I told my host mom, and what I want to share with all of you; no one is making me be here. After every bad touch I am the only one that decides if the next one will be better, and that is something that cannot be coached.

So whatever comes next is up to you. As Sam Lofton fights between the first team and the Breakers reserves, she tells fans, “no matter what level you are reaching for, commit 100 percent to it. All the great players started at square one. If it's something you're truly passionate about, never settle. There's a place for anyone who is really willing to work hard enough.” 

I hope you enjoyed this week’s read and will look out next week where I talk to Breakers girls about their #WWC2015 predictions. And as always, the #BreakersFamily asks you to check us out FacebookInstagramTwitter, or YouTube. Found out how you can be a part of the Breakers’ experience. 


By Katie Ponce I June 9, 2015

As many of you know the Boston Breakers Academy is the only club in the U.S. with a youth club structure leading into the women’s professional league. The Breakers are a big family and growing. The players are not the only crucial part of this growing family. One of reasons I chose to continue my soccer career in Boston was because the Breakers were one of few clubs that promised me a place to live. However, I did not expect that the Breakers would provide me with a family that is making my stay here feel like home. 

Being a host family for a Breakers player is completely voluntary, and you do not need a player involved in one of the youth club teams. When I accepted the offer to play on the Boston Breakers Reserves I didn’t know much about who I would be living with. Actually, besides for a family name and an email address, that’s all I knew. For the next three months, I committed to live with four strangers in a spare bedroom, more than four hours away from any friends and family. Just to catch everyone up on how out of my comfort zone this is: I’m the girl that cried every night the first week of preseason in college and my coach still uses me as the example to the freshman when they say goodbye to their parents on day one. 

As foreign as it all sounded, the host family program is the only way I could keep playing soccer. I know what I get from living with a host family. Even with a contract, women’s professional soccer players do not make as much as most professional athletes, so a host family is a great option to keep costs low. However, my friends and family, even me, all were wondering why these strangers would want to host a Breakers player. Knowing that this was the first time my host family hosted a Breakers player, I knew that it was not routine for them to have someone stay every summer. Curious as to what they were getting out of the experience, I asked. After another family dinner they were including me on, the mother told me, ‘they wanted their children to have another positive role model.’ I knew when I met my host parents they were special people, but that pretty much confirmed how lucky I was.

From day one, my host parents have gone out of their way to make me feel included in this family. I spend my nights eating dinner with them, and their two kids. I have been to two soccer games, an end of the year soccer party, a birthday dinner, a chorus concert, and they even threw me my own graduation dinner after I finished my final exams. What these events don’t show you is how much this family has given me, simply by being the people they are. I say I’m so lucky because both of the parents are intelligent and strong. The lessons they are teaching their kids and the examples they are setting is exactly how I hope my own family looks like some day. The respect and kindness both of the children give me also says a lot about the environment they come from. When people back at home ask me how Boston is going, I don’t just talk about the soccer. Now, don’t get me wrong, that part is great and that’s what I came here for, but I’m gaining so much more from my stay here than what I’m just doing on the field. My host family has helped me get to know the area and meet new people at my new home. The relationships I’m making in this town are making my stay comfortable and diversifying my experience that much more.

I’d like to think that in return, I am being that positive role model for their kids. Although when they first told me why they decided to host me, it terrified me to think that the 14 and nine-year-old I was living with were going to be looking to me as an example. I have to admit that I’m really proud of that role now. It makes me believe that what I am working so hard for matters. At the very least, I hope that they see that I am just a regular person; a normal girl who just worked hard to get here.

I think through the #BreakersFamily we are both giving each other something and it’s not so much about the physical things other than the moments I can’t really write into words. What I can say is thank you. Thank you to my host family and everyone that choices to become a part of the #BreakersFamily. Because of all of you, I am here.

If this blog interested you at all in joining our family, you can log on and see some frequently asked questions and answers from past host families. Continue to be a part of my journey as I talk next week about the physical and mental transitions from college soccer to the next level.  This transition can be seen at all levels as players move up.

The #BreakersFamily asks you to also check us out FacebookInstagramTwitter, or YouTube. Found out how you can be a part of the Breakers’ experience. 


By: Katie Ponce I June 2, 2015

Soccer has been something I have done since I was six years old, but it didn’t become my dream til I was 16 years old. Like everyone, I tried most sports at a young age, but found I excelled in soccer. All my friends played as well, so it seemed like a good fit. I didn’t think much about my talent, as much more than a hobby til someone convinced me where it could take me. Soccer took me to play D1 college soccer on a full ride, it took me through meeting lifelong friends, finding role models, and it’s taking me on a journey to follow my dreams.

This dream is to someday be a professional soccer player. Luckily, for girls with this same dream, the professional women’s soccer league is back, and it is sticking. Most girls recognize at a young age the desire to play soccer like their favorite stars and entered the path to meet these dreams. Since I was not the traditional soccer junky, I worried that college would be the end for me. However, the Boston Breakers presented a door for me to follow my dreams and are giving me all that I could ask for. A chance to continue to play at a high level while providing me with a home, and working opportunities as I fight to follow this dream.

As a new member of the Boston Breakers Reserve team, I entered into a new family for the next stage of my soccer adventure. Many people are unaware of what it means to be on the reserve team. The reserve team practices most days next to or with the Boston Breakers and are all eligible to be called up if needed, but spend the weekends playing in their own league at a chance for a Women’s Premier Soccer League, WPSL, title.  The WPSL is the largest women’s soccer league in America, and last year the Boston Breakers Reserves made it to the Northeastern Regional semifinals. 

The reserve team players aspire for the day to be called up for the first team, but in the meantime help support the Breakers foundation, fighting to make this program the strongest it can be. Since reserve players are not actually professional, we work for the Boston Breakers Academy, helping to coach and mentor youth teams around Massachusetts. The reserve team is made up of girls from around the country who have chosen Boston as their next stop in keeping their dreams alive. Close to all of us played college soccer and are returning Breakers players or were invited after the open tryout. As long as your college soccer eligibly is up, you may play on the reserve team. From there we are put into host families and report in March with the first team or for many of us in May when our season starts

Typically the reserve team plays soccer four or five days a week, three/four practices and one game. One of these practices includes a scrimmage against the first team to help them before for their weekend game, give them confidence in their shape and strategies, and of course to challenge us. Practices all take place at Harvard, which is one of prettiest sites I could imagine if I’m going to be forced to do our two-mile timed run. The atmosphere is competitive on the field, but am I already calling the reserve girls my friends off the field.  Until schools let out, we coach weeknights, or weekend games and clinics. A side perk is with two off days and coaching only four days a week, there has been plenty of time to also enjoy the home of the Breakers. Personally, Boston is a new city to me, so it’s been nice that the reserve team schedule allows for time for me to get to know the city I am calling home this summer. 

With this being a World Cup year, the opportunities to make the first team have presented themselves more frequently than in previous seasons. Just last week two former reserve team players, Sam Lofton and Chanel Johnson, were named to the roster as amateur call-ups. These girls got to sit with the team this weekend as they beat 2014 champions, Kansas City. It’s exciting when news like this hits the team, not only because you get to see a friend get a shot, but you know that what you are hoping for really is possible. At age 16, if you told me I would be fighting to get a shot with Boston Breakers, I would have never believed you. While that fight is long from over, the chance is a blessing. 

Most of life is what you make of it. There are 20 roster spots for the Boston Breakers team and over 35 girls that make up the first team and the reserve team. The fight for the dream certainly is not easy and does not present an opportunity for everyone. But the entire process - practicing with professionals, stepping way out of your comfort zone to live with strangers, avoiding the workplace for just a little longer, all of it, to continue to do what I love is enough for me. 

At the end of day, following your dreams is really, really hard. That’s why not everyone does it. Luckily, for people crazy enough, the Boston Breakers provide a way for those to take a shot at their dreams. I hope now that you have gotten the chance to get to know who the Boston Breakers Reserves are, you will follow me on my journey this summer. Stay tuned next week to hear more about what it’s like to be a host family for the Boston Breakers. I will be interviewing my host family, who like me, this is their first summer with the Boston Breakers. 

Join the #BreakersFamily and check us out FacebookInstagramTwitter, or YouTube. Found out how you can be a part of the Breakers’ experience. 

Katie Ponce, 22, grew up in Westfield, N.J. She graduated from Towson University with a degree in Business Administration. Currently playing and working for the Boston Breakers Reserve team. Find her on Twitter @breakersunlaced


Official Partners













Dev Academy