USWNT Stars Tobin Heath And Christen Press Are Reframing How We Talk About Women’s Sports With Their RE—CAP Show

USWNT stars Christen Press and Tobin Heath are changing the game when it comes to women’s soccer this summer … they’re just doing it from the studio, not the pitch.

The two-time World Cup champions missed out on making the national team’s roster for the 2023 FIFA World Cup due to injuries and frustrating setbacks on their respective roads to recovery. Press had to undergo an unexpected fourth ACL repair procedure just weeks before the tournament kicked off, while Heath has been nursing her own knee injury, one she suffered in the fall of 2022 with OL Reign. Resigned to watching their teammates vie for a record-breaking third Women’s World Cup in a row from their home in Los Angeles, the pair decided to turn being sidelined into a side hustle that could fill a void in how women’s soccer is covered by the big broadcasters.

Enter The RE—CAP Show, a digital talk series hosted on YouTube that stems from the new media division of RE—INC, the lifestyle brand they founded alongside fellow USWNT champions Meghan Klingenberg and Megan Rapinoe. Press and Heath steer the conversation in each episode, recapping World Cup games before inviting heavyweights in the world of women’s football to share their unique insights and thoughtful analysis. They’ve welcomed everyone from former USWNT coach Jill Ellis and renowned performance director and sports scientist Dawn Scott to players fresh off of (and sometimes still competing in) the 2023 FIFA World Cup like New Zealand captain Ali Riley and Sweden midfielder Kosovare Asllani, engaging in candid conversations about the state of the women’s game while giving the kind of unfiltered access fans won’t find on network TV.

Both Press and Heath label their experiment in women’s sports coverage as an antidote to the “bro culture” that pervades broadcasting panels and traditional sports media brands. Their “Gal Culture” umbrella is less focused on generating controversy-stirring soundbites and surface-level analysis — instead, they’re more interested in highlighting the player’s perspective, diving into the issues surrounding the game that inevitably affect performance on the field, amplifying the voices of female athletes, and yes, offering constructive criticism from a lived-experience when necessary. As Press tells UPROXX, there’s more than one way to “create change within the sport,” and the duo’s putting that theory to practice with their new series.

Below, we spoke with Heath and Press about the USWNT’s disappointing World Cup run, the future of women’s soccer, and creating new stories in the world of women’s sports.

You’ve talked about starting the RE—CAP show because a lot of the major broadcasters had an opportunity to cover women’s sports differently and they just didn’t take it. What is it that you were seeing — or maybe not seeing — that galvanized you?

Tobin Heath: It’s not just in traditional sports broadcast — in all of sports media, we didn’t see ourselves. We didn’t see our teammates, we didn’t see the stories of what makes a female athlete unique, what our lives look like outside the sport. We felt very … not even misrepresented, we just didn’t feel represented. We’re asked to do content all the time for other people. We’re being pushed through other people’s lenses. We’re answering their questions, we’re coming through their perspectives. Our traditional media landscape, obviously it’s been created by men because men’s sports was our introduction to sports.

Look, every single sport I learned, I learned through the lens of a man playing it or a man teaching me to play it. And that no longer is the case. We see female coaches, we see female role models, we see female athletes who are inspiring and incredible, and no longer does our sports landscape have to be dominated by men or the idea of what men think a female athlete should be. All of a sudden we have opportunities to build new structures, tell our own stories, be inspired by people who look and sound like us, learn the sport from people who look and sound like us. And that is why we really believe this content is so important.

What sets the RE—CAP show apart from those traditional forms of media and what’s the reaction to it been like?

Christen Press: Pretty much every single thing I’ve done in my life, in football, and for RE—INC, I’ve always set such high goals that they’re almost unachievable. But in the case of the RE—CAP show we did exceed expectations. And we’re super excited. The reception’s just been phenomenal. I think it’s really meaningful that people are tuning in, that people are watching.

It’s a long show. We’re intentional about going in-depth and people are loving the content and they’re understanding the nuance and sophistication of sitting down and really talking about football and really talking about issues. And I think the reception from our teammates has been phenomenal. That’s probably been the most validating part. And also from other media folks who are acknowledging that this is an important part of the media infrastructure that has been long overlooked.

You’ve been very candid in your analysis of the USWNT’s performance at the World Cup. What went wrong there?

TH: We’ve been spoiled as U.S. women’s national team fans for the last two decades. Now we’re seeing the rise of not just a U.S. women’s national team fan, but of a global football fan, which I think is pretty cool. But I want to reiterate we always say that you gain so much experience as a U.S. women’s national team player from world championships, but it’s like, if you lose in the round of 16, did you really gain that experience? And for so many of these players, that was their first taste of what a World Cup is like.

So it begs the question, did you get that experience in the tank? Because the tournament looks very different in a quarterfinal, in a semifinal, in a final. Does just showing up and just barely getting out of group [count]? So there’s that question, and then the question of, what does the future of the U.S. women’s national team look like? Where do we go from here?

What’s the answer?

TH: Everyone has an opinion right now and I feel like there’s this savior complex going on. Like, “Oh, well, I’ll do it,” type of thing. And I don’t really believe that this is a one-person job. I truly believe that we don’t need a savior, we need a strategy. We need a whole federation that knows how to execute a strategy on where we go from here, is confident in the plan and confident in the people that they appoint to execute the plan.

On the show, you’ve talked about having this intangible motivation, something that brings the team together. Looking at the teams that are left in this tournament, who has the most to fight for?

CP: Obviously Spain is in a really tricky situation, having tremendous success this World Cup, having a tremendous amount of issues with their federation and the respect that they’re receiving from their federation on issues that they’ve raised. From my perspective, it’s really hard to know if that’s really unifying or if that’s been a source of tension in camp. I don’t know. I don’t have that insight. What we found when we were fighting with our federation for respect and pay equity was that the more we won, the more our country got behind us and the louder that voice became.

So my call is for every single fan of the Spanish women’s national team to be loud and amplify those players’ messages because the federation needs people to show up and watch those games. And the voices of the fans really do matter — they played an instrumental role in our pay equity lawsuit and ultimate settlement. I hope with the players, knowing that, feeling that, it can be a unifying force behind all of them.

And then there’s always the thought — do fans of men’s sports have to think about these things? Do they have to weigh supporting players versus supporting a federation and what that support does to the athletes whose voices have been silenced?

TH: It’s complicated and this is actually a big part of Gal Culture, and what I think we wanted our content to be born out of which is this idea that women’s sports, it’s not just about sports. These are issues that we deal with as part of our sport. Highlighting these issues, talking about them, showing that it’s not just one story, showing that it’s a collective, is really important because this also isn’t just about athletes. This is about women.

CP: If I think about 2019, the same conflicting feeling could have been felt from our fans. We were saying that we weren’t being paid to our value. And our fans, when they show up to the games and they turn on the TV, they’re supporting the federation in terms of ticket sales and the monetization of the sport. But what our fans did that was so incredible was amplify the message. And so that’s why I just keep going back to that: The players shouldn’t have to say twice that they’re in an unhealthy environment.

The players should be respected when it comes to raising concerns. Those allegations have to be taken incredibly seriously. In life and in sport there’s never going to be a world where two things can’t be true at the same time. The success of the team, I think, can be turned into a real movement for these players if everybody is able to amplify their message.

One of RE—CAP’s greatest strengths is its guest lineup. How have you been able to get players in this tournament to log on for chats?

CP: Well, we’re doing two different things. I think we’re looking for guests who have important stories that need to be shared in person. So we brought on experts like Jill [Ellis] who’ve been in the game so long, Dawn Scott, absolutely top of her field, bringing in people that we want to tell their longer-form stories as players. And then we have our Zoom guests, who are opening up the discussion to a global level. Which was actually not a planned part of the show, but just became so important, especially when we knew all of our teammates and international friends were watching and following along and excited to be a part of it.

It’s been fantastic. We talk a lot on the show about Gal Culture and the people that have shown up for us doing this show, it’s really warmed our hearts that people playing in a World Cup like Asllani would jump on a Zoom from the airport to support us. One of the most beautiful things about the women’s soccer community is how it is a collective that transcends your country. Players have come together to fight for change, everybody’s fighting for each other. That’s what I think the amazing lineup of guests has reflected.

Tobin, are you aware that fans have put your name in the ring for the USWNT coaching job? They wanted to fly you down to Australia for the group-stage matches at one point.

CP: [laughs] If only it was so simple.

TH: I mean, look, I am passionate about the game. It’s a craft that I’ve dedicated my whole life to. But I think when it comes to coaching, I would hope that whoever gets the job has at least the same amount of experience, care, and dedication, that I’ve shown my entire career playing in that career of coaching. We’re talking about the best team in the world. They deserve the best coach in the world.

It’s also not like your playing days are over yet.

TH: No, definitely not. And if there was any motivation to get back on the pitch … I don’t think we’re lacking that at the moment.

This tournament has been so unpredictable and exciting, how do you think it’s going to advance the women’s game globally once it’s done?

TH: Every single World Cup you’re breaking records. It’s just the norm for women’s football, both domestically and internationally, now. I think the business of women’s sports is growing, it’s changing. It’s being developed, it’s being invested in, in many different revenue streams, monetization models. It’s really exciting. And I think it’s a miss for us with the U.S. women’s national team and with our domestic league whenever our team fails a little bit in a world championship. There’s a massive X-factor for our league if our national team is successful. And you only get that chance once every four years in terms of a World Cup.

Football is football. It’s really hard to win a World Cup even if you are the most prepared and have the best players. So I think when we look at our country and the landscape of the sport, I think that our growth as a domestic league can’t be dependent on the success of the U.S. women’s national team. We have to look at that as a structure that needs to be developed and nurtured and start working in tandem with the national team in order to make both a success.

So I would say for all of women’s sports, it’s a really, really exciting time, but I truly believe that independent structures that look and feel like us need to be built for us. Anytime you try to copy-paste what men’s sports is or does, you’re really diminishing the value of what women’s sports is.