Haley Carter wants to change the NWSL.
For years, the former Houston Dash goalkeeper and U.S. Marine has tirelessly advocated for women athletes. But by moving into an executive position within the league, Carter sees a chance to move the NWSL toward a brighter future directly.
“I feel like every personal and professional decision I've made in the last 17 years has led me to this point,” Carter said in an exclusive interview with Orlando-Pride.com this week.
“It was becoming more and more clear that I needed to do what I could to get off the sidelines, and instead of just being this outspoken advocate on social media, really being part of the solution.”
So Carter, an accomplished talent scout and coach as well as a player, put it out there that she was interested in taking charge of a club front office. Immediately, the Orlando Pride jumped out as an exciting destination.
“It immediately stood out to me and conversations with leadership of the club, ownership group, the board, Mark [Wilf], that they're really serious about this investment,” Carter said. “For as philanthropic as the Wilf family is … this is not a philanthropic effort. This is not a charitable effort. ... I would not take a position in an organization that I didn't truly believe means to do the right things and to make a genuine investment in not just in the club, but in the women's game.”
Carter was officially announced as the Pride’s new Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manger on Monday, beginning a mission to take Orlando to the top of the NWSL.
“This club is a sleeping giant,” she said. “The potential that's here – the facilities, the setup, the environment – it is just ripe for excellence.”
Carter has spent this week introducing herself, taking stock of the current setup, and building relationships with the players and staff, including new permanent head coach Seb Hines, who was deeply involved in the hiring process for the VP/GM position.
Count the new boss impressed with the work Hines has done already, carrying over from his impressive interim tenure last summer.
“Seb has done a very good job of setting the tone early,” Carter said. “We are going to grind [it] out, we are going to be the hardest working team in the league, we are going to focus on the details. We're going to be blue-collar workers with chips on our shoulders, and everyone has bought into that.”
Carter believes she and Hines share a vision on what the ideal Orlando Pride player looks like as they begin to recruit together: “Somebody who's an ambassador for the game, who's going to get out in the community, who's a blue-collar worker with a chip on their shoulder, who is technically and tactically supreme, and then from a physical standpoint is fit enough to run and run laps around opponents in this heat.”
It’s a prototype that looks a lot like many of the players already on the Pride roster. Carter reiterated multiple times throughout the interview how much she believes in this group of players, and has spent this initial week communicating that belief to everyone involved in the organization.
“My key message to the team in our intro meetings on Sunday was [that] they have to have the belief that we can and we will win NWSL championships and a commitment to that belief,” she said. “It’s early days. This league season is a marathon, and we will have incremental goals as we work through, and we will have highs and lows. That's the natural sway of the game.
“But to have the belief now on Day 1, from the minute that you step onto that pitch for the first training session, that we can and we will win these championships and we will bring them home to Orlando is critical.”