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Q&A With Julie Foudy: Her Leadership Academy, Women's Euro 2022, NWSL Ownership & More

Julie Foudy speaks on the pink carpet before an Angel City FC game.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 29: Julie Foudy is interviewed on the pink carpet ahead of the game between Angel City FC and North Carolina Courage at Banc of California Stadium on April 29, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

The summer is a busy time for Julie Foudy. During those few months, it seems the ESPN analyst is always on the go. 

We caught up with Foudy this week in New Jersey at her annual Sports Leadership Academy for girls ages 12-18. It's the 17th edition of the program, which is much more than just a sports camp.

In addition to running her namesake event, Foudy will trek to Bristol, Connecticut to call tomorrow night's USWNT game against Colombia. Next week, she'll head to Europe for ESPN's first-ever broadcast of the Women's Euro championships.

Even with all of this happening, Foudy made time for an interview with us. We discussed her summer plans, her NWSL ownership, the future of the USWNT and more.

Let's get started: 

The Spun: Obviously, the Julie Foudy and espnW Leadership Academy has been your baby for a while. It's in its 17th year. What changes and advancements have you made over the last few years?

Julie Foudy: We've added sports, which is always really hard. We've added locations. It started as just soccer but we always knew it was going to be more than just soccer. We added lacrosse about 10 years ago and then we folded in basketball and water polo three years ago. 

The Spun: This camp is about much more than just the athletic component. What other opportunities are here for the girls in attendance?

JF: Honestly, I think the gift of sport is learning all these things about how to be a good teammate, how to work with a group, how to deal with setbacks, all these things that will serve you well no matter what you do in life. I always felt we never talk about that enough with sports and make it more overt in terms of the link between sports and life. That was our goal from the very beginning, to weave the two together constantly.

We spend half of the day doing sports, and then the other half is all leadership stuff. It's team-building, it's fun little activities that we're doing where they are debriefing. They're in classrooms together. There's evening sessions. It's just a mix of some crazy, out-of-the-box fun stuff to get them out of their comfort zone. 

Also, this week because of Title IX's 50th anniversary, we've done a lot on Title IX and what that law is and understanding why it's important and what it has meant to girls and women in this country. 

Another new thing this year is we have a lot of international kids. The State Department brought 60 girls from 12 different countries. We've got Suriname, India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Kenya and Bolivia. It's so fun.

The Spun: You mentioned Title IX and its 50th anniversary. What kind of initiatives are you a part of with ESPN to commemorate the occasion and then what do you try to impart on these kids when you talk about it in camp?

JF: Here, we've been discussing what it is, why it was put into play, what their rights are as female athletes, what it means for their school and things to look for. Just a basic primer on what the law is and how it helped us and how it continues to help us and then what we can do to make it stronger.

For ESPN stuff, we've done a bunch of podcasts on it. We did four bonus episodes and a live podcast in New York City on Friday night actually. They had a big screening in New York City as well of the four-part series "37 Words" and I hosted that. The third episode has a lot of soccer and a lot on the US women's team and the 99ers and stuff like that. Then, they've got a lot of programming happening revolving around shorts (videos). With Google, they created all these shorts that they are doing around it as well. There's a lot of buzz about it, which is great, but I hope that it doesn't just die out after the 50th anniversary. We've got to keep it going.

The Spun: You were also recently involved covering the Special Olympics. What was that experience like?

JF: It's just amazing. You feel lucky to be doing it because it gives you such perspective. All of these Special Olympics athletes are so pumped to put on the uniform and play. I say to my kids "You need to be doing stuff with Special Olympics. You need to see it, because it's such good grounding experience." This is what the joy of sports should be about. It's why I love the Little League World Series when I do that. There's a purity to it that I think is lost in sports today with it being so intense and competitive. We've sucked the joy out of it for kids and that's what you get with those two events I cover.

The Spun: You're part of the ownership group with Angel City FC. Last year when we spoke, you were getting ready to launch. Has the first season been everything you expected?

JF: It's better than I expected honestly. We knew it was going to be great, but it's just incredible to be alongside all of these amazing female owners like Natalie Portman and Billie Jean King and Candace Parker and all of the former [soccer] players. The list of owners is phenomenal. It's like a built-in reunion for our national team as well [laughs]. Fourteen of us are owners so we all get together and come to the game. I don't ever get to go to a game as a fan very often. I'm usually working or calling it. So I get to sit and be a fan and bring my family. It's just a ton of fun.

The Spun: Angel City is the newest NWSL franchise but there is a lot of talk about the league expanding, especially in regards to the Bay Area where Brandi Chastain and Danielle Slaton are among the people trying to get a team. How beneficial is that for the league? 

JF: There's a ton of interest. That Northern Cal group is awesome: Aly [Wagner], Danielle, Leslie [Osborne], Brandi. There's a whole group of them that have been working on it. The thing you hear from the league is that there's tons of interest [for expansion] from a lot of different areas. The challenge for the NWSL is to put some procedures in place to think about what that looks like strategically for expansion. But I know from speaking to that Northern Cal group how interested they are in getting that off the ground. It would be fabulous to have another West Coast team.

The Spun: In regards to the USWNT, there's a little bit of a changing of the roster going on. The current group that is working out in Colorado has a lot of newer or younger faces mixed in with some veterans. What do you think that process of integrating the new talent will look like in the coming months and years?

JF: I think it actually will be good, because it will be new energy and I think even the older players would say that. We used to love with the national team when you got the young ones in because it's fresh and it's new and it's different. All of a sudden, they're seeing things that you kind of take for granted that they get super excited about. It definitely raises the level of intensity and energy I think. The challenge is, you've got so many young ones. We'll see with the qualifiers coming up if everything goes well. But you've got a lot of young talent that's playing well in the league [NWSL] like a Mallory Pugh or a Sophia Smith. Alex Morgan is playing really well right now, leading the league in goals. I think the challenge is you've got to get the balance right, because you definitely need the experience and those veteran players.

The Spun: You're set to go call the Women's Euro 2022 for ESPN. It's the first time the network is broadcasting the women's version of the event. How excited are you for that opportunity?

JF: I may or not have said 500 times 'Why aren't we doing the women's Euros?' (laughs). We've had the rights to them and we do a tremendous job with the men's Euros. So I'm super pleased that we're going to do it this year. The last Euros were in the Netherlands, the Dutch won it and it was a big deal. 

We've got a great studio of people, a great team of people. I think we're going to call 30-plus games. Most games are going to be on ESPN and ESPN2. It starts July 5. After this week, I go home [to California] for three days, pack and then head out to Bristol.

The Spun: Speaking of going home, you told us last year you were getting into surfing. Have you had any time to do that recently?

JF: I did a trip to Costa Rica in January with a bunch of girlfriends which was fantastic. But since then, I haven't been able to much because I'm back to my crazy grind. Izzy, my daughter who I surfed a lot with, we were saying that we miss the days of not having a schedule every day and you can get out in the water more. I hope to get to it when I'm done with the summer chaos.

The Spun: You also have your "Laughter Permitted" podcast and you have said in the past you'd love to get Jason Sudeikis and Brendan Hunt from Ted Lasso on. Any other dream guests for you?

JF: I always said my first two guys [as guests] would be Ted Lasso and Coach Beard. I may give them a shout eventually. My other dream guest was Ruth Bader-Ginsburg but she passed sadly.

I also would love to get Michelle Obama. Put her on top of that list. I'd love to get Gloria Steinem together with Billie Jean King. They are in the "37 Words' documentary together and are such legends of the women's movement in so many different ways. Oh my gosh, my list could go on and on! I'd take Oprah too, I guess [laughs]. 

You can read more of our interviews with athletes or media stars here.