In the offseason, Seattle Reign FC traded Havana Solaun and the rights to recent draftee Arielle Ship to the Washington Spirit for midfielder Christine Nairn. Added to that trade was the NWSL rights to 22-year-old goalkeeper Madalyn Schiffel.
Although the Spirit drafted her, Schiffel opted to play for Norwegian side Avaldsnes IL in 2016, and she wasn't just some rookie riding the bench — she beat out the other goalkeepers on the team to be the starter for all 22 league matches. Now Seattle is where she plies her trade, and it's time we get to know a bit more about the goalkeeper and what she thinks of her time in Seattle so far.
On what expectations she had coming into Seattle:
I want to learn something. And definitely this season, working with a new coaching staff and a new group of players has been phenomenal and definitely I've been able to learn and grow as a player and also as a person. It's been phenomenal. You obviously don't want to have high expectations, and so just going in very hopeful and excited, really amazing, blown out of the water.
When the trade was announced, you couldn't help but think what Schiffel could learn from the Reign FC coaching staff, specifically from goalkeeping coach Ben Dragavon. And while Dragavon is no longer part of the coaching staff, we all know the foundation he built, what he did with Hope Solo and Haley Kopmeyer.
Coming in with Ben, [he] was probably the most influential coach that I've had. He has a brilliant mind, like a football mind. Working with him, he sees things in totally different ways that most people don't see. That was exciting. Every day you're learning something new and he's teaching you something and you're really embracing what he's teaching you. It's awesome training with Haley. She's been in the club and around for so long and knows the ins and outs. It's been a really good, all around club experience from coaching down to players.
On working with Haley Kopmeyer:
We have probably the best dynamic I've ever had with another goalkeeper in training. It's very much like, build each other up.
Schiffel went on to mention that off the field, Kopmeyer is fun-loving, but when it comes to the business of preparing for a match, she is super hard working and it's a focus that Schiffel shares and appreciates. Schiffel sees a mentor and role model in Kopmeyer, and we just might get a glimpse into that camaraderie in the next episode of Stops With Kop.
I interviewed Schiffel at the joint press conference hosted by Athlete Ally and the Seattle Reign FC, Seattle Sounders FC, Seattle Storm, Seattle Mariners, and Seattle Seahawks to kick off a week of sporting events celebrating Pride Month. The press conference was also a declaration that the sports franchises and Athlete Ally would stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community and embark on efforts to educate and advocate for inclusion.
The power of the public platform held by professional athletes and their ability to influence others is nothing new, but for Madalyn Schiffel this is a particularly important topic.
You may remember the post where we discovered a powerful monologue that Schiffel performed while a student at the University of San Francisco. As part of today's press conference, Schiffel took the Athlete Ally pledge and became a Pro Ally,* and I asked her if today's event was something of a full circle moment for her as a gay athlete.
It's phenomenal. It's more than just my parents, it's the way I was raised. Completely being shut down, oppressing that part of who you are as in your sexuality/sexual orientation — and so, being in a city very progressive like San Francisco, where I got a platform to speak about this, and now being in Seattle, being around other people who also have this progressive thinking mindset has been really phenomenal. Being at this and seeing everyone up there, especially Megan, it's powerful. And it's a privilege that we have as gay athletes or allies who want to make things more inclusive, this is exactly what I want to be doing with football. This is what I want to use my platform for.
And if you haven’t seen the monologue or want to watch it again, here it is.
I asked her about the monologue with regards to any reservations she may have had while making/performing/recording it, and certainly the reaction from friends and family that would follow.
In doing it, I knew I was in a safe space. It was performance for my class, I invited my closest friends and my partner. That felt good, but then in looking at it afterwards, I was really hesitant on what I wanted to do with it. I knew that if I posted it on Facebook, my parents would see it and there was still some negative energy going on at the time and that's where the hesitation came. So I posted it and was like, alright. I didn't share it on Facebook, I just put it out there on YouTube and randomly people would see it. I didn't feel the need to put it on blast right away. People will find it and it will reach a certain community that needs it, whenever they are ready for it.
In the Reign FC's press release announcing the trade that brought Madalyn Schiffel to Seattle, she said, “I am excited for many reasons to have signed with the Reign. Working and playing every day with top players, coaches, and club will provide phenomenal experience on and off the field. Also, to be back in the States on the west coast, in a beautiful and progressive city, could not be any more ideal. As a person and player, this upcoming season will bring many opportunities for growth. I am thankful for this privilege and I can’t wait for the season to start.”
In talking with her at the Athlete Ally event, there's no doubt that life has been good for Schiffel on and off the field. The life of a backup goalkeeper is basically to be on-call, as they could end up between the posts with no warning. Madalyn Schiffel is more than ready to answer that call whenever it comes.
Seattle has two matches next week, and it wouldn't be outside of the realm of possibility for Schiffel to get a start for one of them. The 22-year-old has already shown she can come in and be the starter, and she has strong a desire to learn from those around her on and off the field. You hear the same thing from all of the players, whether they’ve been here for all five seasons or are one of the new faces of the team — playing for Seattle Reign FC and representing the city of Seattle means something special to them professionally and personally.
One of the comments on the post that brought to attention her monologue stated that they hoped Madalyn would be happy here and would grow and excel. If you were to ask Madalyn Schiffel about that, it’s safe to say she'd answer with a resounding yes.
*Reign FC defender & co-captain Lauren Barnes, Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird, Seattle Mariners pitcher James Paxton, and Sounders FC defenders Brad Evans and Chad Marshall also took the pledge to become Pro Allies.