Women's Professional Soccer announced its 2010 WPS Year-End Awards on Thursday.
The Citi Sportswoman of the Year Award, which recognizes the player who demonstrates exemplary community involvement, went to Chicago Red Stars defender Natalie Spilger, whose grassroots organization GreenLaces has brought awareness to global environmental issues and energy conservation by using athletes as environmental leaders in their countries and communities.
"I'm excited and honored," Spilger said. "There are so many women in this league who are deserving of this award, and I'm just really flattered."
Spilger's work has been chronicled in numerous media outlets. She has been recognized at the United Nations as part of their "Champions for Change," and GreenLaces now has more than 1,000 people who have "Made a Promise to the Planet" to reduce waste, promote reusable products and conserve natural resources by doing little things every day.
Her involvement within a grassroots-focused WPS has been a natural fit for Spilger on and off the pitch.
"This league allows you to be engaged within the community," Spilger said. "A smile, or a wave, a hug, the fact that we can inspire girls to come back to a game -- I've had a chance to affect them positively. Being a good person goes a long way, and this league is so important in showing that they can be leaders, too."
The laces (100 percent recycled plastic) are a symbol for participants' promises toward a green lifestyle, and the movement has drawn professional athletes such as Alecko Eskandarian (Major League Soccer), Dhani Jones (National Football League) and Cat Osterman (USA Women's Softball). For more on GreenLaces, visit www.GreenLaces.org.
In addition to Spilger's honor, the second-year defender had a successful campaign for the No. 2 defense in WPS. Spilger set career highs in games (19) and minutes (1,368), and she earned her first assist on a game-winning goal during Chicago's 2-0 victory over Sky Blue FC on July 10. The back line of center backs Kate Markgraf and Whitney Engen, flanked by Spilger on the left and Marian Dalmy on the right, was a cohesive group throughout the 2010 campaign.
"Honestly, it was so nice to be able to settle into a position without stressing," Spilger said. "It allowed me to have so much fun this season. I loved playing with Kate, Whitney and Dalmy. We had each other's backs, and that was the most comfortable feeling."