RECLAIMING THE GAME AT ALL LEVELS
This week, we’re spotlighting how our soccer community is safeguarding players’ wellbeing from youth to pro levels. Dive into this spotlight to learn how the actions of youth club leaders, mental health advocates and industry changemakers have led to positive institutional change as well as highlight the need to keep pushing for a safer soccer future. This is reclaiming the game at every level in soccer.
YOUTH CLUB LEADERS RECLAIM THE GAME
LAMBDA RISING SOCCER
LAMBDA RISING SOCCER provides inclusive, gender-affirming soccer programs for youth and adults in San Diego County.
This club takes a proactive approach to diversity and inclusion, prioritizing gender-affirming practices such as encouraging the use of pronouns in the club’s culture. LAMBDA RISING SOCCER is more than a club– it’s a MOVEMENT!
Tip: Everyone’s identity includes pronouns, for example, she/her, he/him, they/them, or a combination like she/them. Pronouns immediately signal to others that you are supportive of all the LGBTQIA+ community and they normalize discussions around gender.
Join the LAMBDA movement today by inquiring here about coaching and student volunteer opportunities.
Developing this community further will take more voices and resources. If you’re in the San Diego County area you can join here. Or you can donate or spread the word on social media to amplify their impact.
LAMBDA RISING SOCCER is dedicated to making soccer accessible to players of all identities, backgrounds and abilities. Does your rec club provide a supportive and celebratory attitude towards diverse gender identities and backgrounds?
You could also contact LAMBDA RISING’s founder and program director, Xavi Valdez (she/her/ella) CoachXavi10@gmail.com for tips on inclusive practices.
PORTLAND COMMUNITY FOOTBALL CLUB
PCFC provides high-quality, affordable club soccer to low-income, immigrant, and refugee youth ages 5-18 in the Portland Metro area. The club also prioritizes being a safe and inclusive space for LGBTQIA+ youth.
This Portland club recognizes that many barriers can exclude many players and their families from soccer. They prioritize removing financial barriers, keeping season fees affordable, providing free uniforms to all players and cleats/shin guards when requested.
PCFC also proactively eliminates:
- Language and cultural barriers –“We work hard to make sure that all our forms are translated into Spanish.”
- Transportation and socio-economic barrier–PCFC is dedicated to eliminating these barriers by assisting parents in finding transportation solutions such as carpool or our coaches and staff providing rides when needed.
- Gender identity or orientation discrimination–PCFC is the first youth soccer club in Portland to have an open acceptance policy for LGBTQ+ players, coaches, and families.
If PCFC sounds like the club for you then you can join here and find the level that suits you. Or the club provides many ways you can support their mission from food bank donations to volunteering coaching positions. Spread the word!
- Could your club benefit from including some of PCFC’s inclusive practices?
You could also contact Founding Executive Director Kaig Lightner to learn more about how to implement things like an open acceptance policy.
MENTAL HEALTH ADVOCATES RECLAIM THE GAME
NCAA SPORT PSYCHOLOGIST RECLAIMS THE GAME
Dylan Firsick, PhD, CMPC, the Assistant Athletic Director, Director of Mental Health and Performance at the University of Georgia gave our squad an exclusive comment on what reclaiming the game looks like to him.
“As a sports psychologist, it’s my job to help athletes achieve their best, yes as competitors, but most importantly as people. For this reason, I’ve partnered with the reclaim the game campaign to speak out against abuses of power in soccer. Abuses of power have occurred at every level of our sport–youth, college and pro. Young professionals and coaches have also been victims of abuse of power, disproportionately women and people of color. I think it is essential that we speak out against the abuse of power in soccer and amplify athlete voices so that we can reclaim the game.”
Follow and spread the word about organizations at the college level that support mental health wellness for athletes:
Does your college athletic department have a mental health specialist who can support athletes with the pressures of school and collegiate sports?
You could also contact Dylan at Dylan.firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about his work advocating for and supporting athletes’ mental health.
OAKLAND ROOTS MENTAL HEALTH & SPORTS PERFORMANCE SPECIALISTS RECLAIM THE GAME
Lisa Bonta Sumii is Oakland Roots’ Mental Health & Sports Performance Specialist. The club is one of the few teams in the United Soccer League with a staff member who helps players with mental health both on and off the field.
“[Lisa] has definitely unlocked a different mental side of my game that I believe has helped me through situations that occur on the field,” said team captain Emrah Klimenta. “More so it has helped me off the field and how I approach life problems as well.”
Explore Lisa’s business AthMindset which provides unique support for athletes’ mental well-being through the understanding that performing in their sport is a part of their identity. Lisa takes an intersectional approach to support the pressures athletes face and has done work specifically to address the challenges affecting black female elite athletes at the collegiate, Olympic or professional levels, offering advice on how to cope with the challenges that affect women of color in sport.
Does your professional team have a mental health specialist who can support athletes with the demands of the pro leagues?
You could also contact Lisa at email@example.com to learn more about her work supporting athlete mental health at Oakland roots and all levels of the game.
FEARLESS & CAPABLE RECLAIMS THE GAME
Founded by WIS Expert Member Candice Fabry, Fearless and Capable is the mentorship program our sports industry desperately needed. The organization provides innovative mentorship that supports the specific challenges women and marginalized people in sports face in their careers.
Candice is a passionate advocate for mental health resources and an outspoken survivor of assault. Reclaiming the game means to Candice, forging a space in the industry that could be trusted to support the mental and emotional needs of marginalized people in soccer. “I really needed a mentor who could relate to the specific demands of my job as a woman in soccer. I needed someone who understood what it was like to be a mother and a coach and someone who could understand the threat, or experience of, working in the space after being a survivor of sexual assault. I was determined to set up a reliable mentorship space for anyone who needed a safe space to feel supported and excited to be a woman or marginalized person in a male-dominated sports world.”
Dive into this spotlight and learn more about how Fearless and Capable mentorship could be game-changing for your personal and professional goals.
Join the Fearless and Capable movement today if you would benefit from a mentor who understands the pressures of working in soccer as a woman or marginalized person in the game. Join for a free trial and when you love it, contact womeninsoccer.org to get a WIS discount code.
In addition, you can access our Coffee & Progress resources on mental health and trauma-informed support in partnership with Fearless & Capable.
Do you know someone working in soccer who would benefit from Fearless and Capable mentorship? Support this innovative women-run business by recommending it to a friend in need.
INDUSTRY CHANGEMAKERS RECLAIM THE GAME
CONCUSSION LEGACY FOUNDATION
Chris Nowinski co-founder and CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation gave our squad an exclusive insight into how they are working to prioritize player safety:
“Reclaiming the game to CLF means working together to protect the brain health of all women’s soccer players. Soccer is meant to promote physical and mental health, but we now know that concussions and repeated head impacts can also take away from brain and mental health. Reclaiming the game means educating players on the risks to their brain, then working together to change how we play and practice to promote the health interests of the players. It also means that soccer players need to teach us how to reform the game by volunteering for clinical research and pledging to donate their brain to science.”
Learn more about concussions, how to treat them and how to cope with living with brain injuries by exploring the CLF Resources Center.
How could you further the impact of the CLF?
Support the CLF by participating in research, becoming a CLF Champion, starting a fundraiser and more! Get involved here.
KIM SHORE INDEPENDENT TASKFORCE CREATOR
Institutional abuse of power, discrimination and lack of mental health support has sparked momentum for industry leaders to critique the validity of soccer organizations dealing with player safety themselves.
Kim Shore, a WIS Expert Member and former board member of Gymnastics Canada, is currently involved in the creation of an independent taskforce that will work to establish a culture of sports organization governance that protects players first and the industry second.
Listen to Kim’s powerful interview on The End of Sports Podcast about how as sports fans, parents, coaches and industry workers we can begin to right institutional failures and implement practices that keep our athletes safe and institutions accountable.
Share Kim’s podcast with your own club, team, organization as a learning tool for how we can critique institutional practices that do not criticize player safety and wellbeing.
For Kim, part of reclaiming the game means giving the power back to athletes by teaching them how to express concerns in direct terms like, “Coach, when you said X it made me feel Y.”
Listen to the full podcast for expert advice and tips on how we can implement institutional change.
What other lessons could you take from Kim’s experience holding sports intuitions to account and apply to your organizations?
As the soccer industry expands, professional leagues are investing in proactive measures that will ensure player safety is prioritized. For example, the USL has recently created a director of player safety and compliance role. This will ensure that someone’s sole responsibility is to oversee the wellbeing and safety of players against historic abuses of power in the game.
At every level of the game, these trailblazing experts are showing how to prioritize player safety. Each story takes a different approach to how we can make soccer culture a safer place and sharing the advice of our experts with your own organizations will promote industry change that takes a holistic approach to support our athletes’ wellbeing.
Join us at the General Council Meeting on March 8, 2022, to discuss actionable steps we can all take to continue safeguarding the soccer industry. Your voice in this space is crucial.
Together, we reclaim the game.
WIS spotlights are created and written by our content producer Pip Penman.