Create the Space Retreat

A first-of-its-kind mental health retreat with professional soccer players from across the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League). 

Over the past year, footballers from around the world have come together to prioritise mental health within the game through Create the Space, a programme designed to tackle mental health issues in football and society.  

The project was announced during the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup in a campaign led by Naomi Girma involving the U.S. Women’s National Team in sending the message "Vulnerability is a sign of strength, not weakness".    

But beyond starting conversations, in the USA, the players are changing culture from within.    

They are taking mental wellbeing in football to another level by bringing the project closer to themselves.  

What’s happening? 

A first-of-its-kind mental health retreat that will feature 20 professional football players - including USWNT Captain Becky Sauerbrunn - representing all NWSL clubs (14).    

The programme, powered by Common Goal's mental health movement, will take place in San Diego in January, from the 13th to the 15th. 

These professional soccer players are transforming the sport into a platform for improving the culture around mental health at all levels, starting at the highest. Theirs. 

Naomi Girma, USWNT and San Diego Wave defender said: “We keep saying, as a sport, it’s time to move beyond just words and take action.  

“It’s incredible to see that only a few months after launching the Create the Space campaign, we are doing exactly that.”   

“The only way we can genuinely redefine the narrative of mental and emotional health across soccer is to work together. I could not be prouder to be part of this inaugural group that will inevitably change the game, for good.” 

Players taking action 

Many of the players involved have a personal connection to mental health issues - they have a story to tell.  

Through this athlete-led project, everyone will find common ground to take action from their personal motivations and turn them into something much bigger while creating their own safe space to express themselves.    

Sinead Farrelly, Ireland and Gotham FC midfielder, said: “Create the Space is the perfect example of athlete-led collective action.  

“Together, we have to normalise conversations around mental well-being and create an environment where athletes feel empowered to seek help and support one another.”  

“We need to continue to create spaces where addressing mental health is the priority. This not only leads to the success of the athlete both on and off the field, but also to a more compassionate and sustainable approach to competitive sports.”   

Dedicating time to mental well-being 

The Create the Space retreat is a new dimension that shows that footballers can give the valuable commodity, something usually limited by their match schedule, which is their time, evolving to a proactive and involved approach. 

The players are committed to combining both their preparation for the new season and at the same time focusing on taking care of their mental health.  

Their daily competitive pre-season training will be run by the Ethiopian-owned and lead training centre, Golden Boot Academy at Surfs Sports Park.   

Common Goal U.S. Executive Director, Lilli Barrett-O’Keefe, said: “The fact that so many of these amazing athletes have committed to travel from all over the U.S. to convene for three days speaks to the vital importance of mental health in the sport and in our communities.”   

“Common Goal has been consistent over the years in calling for integrated solutions that harness the power of soccer to create meaningful change.  

“The support shown for this first Create the Space retreat from the grassroots to professional ranks shows both the continuing leadership of women in global football and also what is possible when we commit to working together.”   

The retreat is co-designed by E-Motion and Common Goal. E-Motion is an organization that has developed transformational content to harness the power of community, movement and ritual to enhance coping and resilience. This groundbreaking, action-led approach to tackling mental issues in soccer and society has been made possible by Founding Partner FOX Sports and its parent company Fox Corporation and BetterHelp, with support from Women in Soccer.