Margaret Purce took a recruiting trip to Virginia and nearly committed on the spot. Her dad convinced her to give the decision some more thought.
“My father is one who thinks about decisions, and he really made me think about my future and what I wanted to be,” Purce said after the Breakers made her the first Ivy League player taken in the 1st round of an NWSL draft. “He really made me think about my future and what I wanted to be, and at the time I wanted to be a doctor. Pre-med at Harvard is what I had my heart set on. I went to school to go to school, that was the (biggest) priority, education.”
So Harvard it was. Four years later Purce has a finance degree, a popular Twitter handle (@100purcent – a game of rock, paper, scissors with her older brother in high school earned her the rights to it) and an opportunity to be a professional soccer player. Ivy League players have dotted the women’s soccer landscape from Emily Stauffer at Harvard who played in NWSL to current Princeton grads Diana Matheson and Jen Hoy. But with no athletic scholarships available, there remains a cap on how competitive the Ivy League can become.
“It has developed. This year was the toughest Ivy League I have ever seen. There are tons of quality in the league that work really hard and can play at this level if they put the time and work in.”
One other thing that has changed since Purce got to Harvard is the scope of the professional league available to players after college. Her freshman year started as NWSL’s freshman season was wrapping up. Freshmen who dared to dream of playing in WUSA and WPS were crushed when those league were out of business by the time they gradated.
“When I was a freshman the only future I could see and aim for was with U.S. Soccer,” Purce said. “To have another paradigm to prepare for was amazing and an exciting thing to prepare for. When I see my fellow Harvard soccer players preparing for MLS draft and I see other colleges doing that, it was inspiring and I was excited to be able to be a part of it.”
Speaking of Purce’s fellow Harvard players, the men’s team at the prestigious school was in the news earlier this year for all of the wrong reasons. Their season wound up being cut short after documents were uncovered revealing men’s players cataloging their female counterparts regarding a number of inappropriate categories. Purce was ready for the question, starting off by saying, “I was waiting for it.”
“I don’t speak for the rest of the players on my team,” she continued, “but in terms of moving forward, that has nothing to do with me. It doesn’t define me. It is in no way a part of who I am or my legacy at Harvard or anything. It’s really not a thought on my mind. I’m all Boston Breakers right now.
“I think it’s bigger than the (Ivy) league and I think it’s bigger than the school. It’s a world problem that we have right now with the way that we look at women. We allow people to create this really strict and narrow view of how the female body and person can be seen and how character is overlooked and aesthetics is prioritized. It’s acceptable for us to view and speak about women in very derogatory terms in the locker room or out of the locker room. So I think that’s a bigger problem. That’s something that we as people in the world community need to work on.”
“It’s not really even a response to them. I don’t think it even invites a response. It was just wrong. I think our Ivy League (championship) win this year was, if there even was a response, was like ‘Hey, look.’”
Strong words from a young woman just finishing up her college career and speaking to a small group of women’s soccer journalists. The remarks brought up more advice from her upbringing.
“My dad always says the person is bigger than the player. I live by that – but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a good players too.”
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