The U.S. Soccer Foundation’s recently announced a new initiative called United for Girls, which aims to increase soccer opportunities for young girls and women from underserved communities.
United for Girls has an ambitious goal over the next three years: double both the number of girls impacted by the Foundation’s programs, and the number of U.S. Soccer Foundation female coach-mentors. Adidas, the initiative’s founding partner, is working with the Foundation to get more girls on the field, and combat their high athletics drop-out rate.
The Women’s Sports Foundation—which was founded in 1974 by tennis legend Billie Jean King—notes that 60 percent of teen girls participate in sports compared to 75 percent of teen boys. By age 14, girls are dropping out of sports at twice the rate as boys.
Increasing the rate of soccer participation among girls will include efforts to better recruit and retain players; increase the number of female coaches, mentors and leaders; increase young girls’ access to mini-pitches as part of the Safe Places to Play program, and expand the Foundation’s nationwide network of partners.
“Unfortunately, too many girls—especially girls living in underserved communities—are being left out of the sport because there are too many barriers to overcome in order to play,” said Ed Foster-Simeon, President & CEO of the U.S. Soccer Foundation. “As a result, many girls are less likely to reap the many benefits that come with playing soccer—like teamwork, perseverance, and improved decision-making skills.”
Founded in 1994, the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Soccer Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) committed to increasing youth participation in soccer and fitness in underserved communities. It partners with local communities to create cost-effective, long-term initiatives that meet youth-development needs and provide safe environments where kids thrive.
Adidas is a founding partner in the United for Girls program, part of its She Breaks Barriers initiative to inspire, enable and support the next generation of female athletes, creators and leaders. “We believe that through sport, we have the power to change lives and this partnership further exemplifies our commitment to removing barriers to sport for girls,” said Nicole Vollebregt, SVP of Global Purpose for adidas.
United for Girls supports the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s It’s Everyone’s Game initiative which aims to ensure that children in underserved communities nationwide enjoy soccer’s health and youth development benefits. It’s programs include the Soccer for Success after-school program, Passback which collects and redistributes soccer equipment to children in underserved communities and Safe Places to Play, which funds field-building and enhancement projects.
No doubt the United for Girls announcement by the U.S. Soccer Foundation and adidas was timed to coincide with the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The month-long tournament is played every four years and is currently underway in France. It features teams from 24 nations and will culminate in a final Cup-deciding game on July 7 in Lyons.
The issue of gender discrimination is a pressing one at all levels of sport. The U.S. women’s soccer team filed a lawsuit against U.S. Soccer in March. The key element in the suit is the substantially lower pay that members of the women’s national team receive compared to their male counterparts.