I read an interesting 2 part series this week that talked about why there are not more women coaching in women’s soccer. For those interested in reading it: Click Here.
It followed up a tweet that I put out there, earlier this week asking if anyone knew of any female owned clubs in the country, after a conversation I had with some friends about who controls all the money in girls soccer. From my twitter research, I heard of ONE club whereby women own and operate it, the Legacy Football Club in Sparks, Nevada. If anyone has any other examples, please send them my way.
I have always felt in my gut, that the pieces of the puzzle are there for women’s soccer to be very successful in the US and for girls past the college age, to have the opportunity to play. But there are barriers that are in the way, and at this point, I will go out on a limb and make a controversial suggestion in saying that probably 95% percent of the income generated for girls soccer at the youth level (which I am sure is an absurd number, based on the over 3 million girls registered, playing on premier teams and attending soccer academies), goes to men, men who have no interest in growing the girls game, if it affects their bottom dollar.
In terms of answering the question as to why there are not many women coaching, especially at the club level, in comparison to college, I’d wager a guess that there are also some men, whose paychecks come from coaching girls soccer, that are smart enough to recognize that if there are two equally qualified coaches for a girls team, and the choice is a man or a woman, that the 9 times out of 10, the woman is going to get the job. When men already control everything in women’s soccer, from FIFA down to the club level, why would they promote and try to encourage the very people that could cost them their jobs, when for many of them, they cash in an easy paycheck, year after year running their clubs or coaching girls teams?
And yet, before everyone goes crazy and thinks that this blog is purely about bashing guys in the women’s soccer world, its not. If there is any blame to throw on any gender’s shoulders, for the state of women’s soccer, I’m going to put it on the females. I think as women we undervalue ourselves, and little action has been taken to change things. We play the “poor me” game, and lament how hard things are for us, and the lack of opportunities, but our negative words is where it starts and ends.
We need to realize as current and former elite female players, WE have the power, just by being who we are. We need to see our value, even if just purely as a business commodity, by being females who have played at the highest levels of the game.
I will use the story of how my company girlsCAN Football (www.girlscanfootball.com) started, and the years since, as an example of how change is possible, but how action is necessary.
It was the summer of 2002. I had just finished my NCAA eligibility, and was back home in Vancouver, Canada for the summer, playing and coaching, before I was to embark on my first professional playing stint, with one of the top clubs in Europe at the time, Fortuna Hjorring. My goal after college was to play professionally, but I figured out pretty quickly, that I needed to figure something else out in order to have a decent (read: non-poverty, or just-above-poverty line) income.
At the same time, I coached a summer camp with a couple of my friends, who I knew through attending Canadian national team pool events in Vancouver, and playing on the Whitecaps. They were great girls, great coaches, and players that had been through the whole system, and like myself, were trying to figure out how to continue to keep playing past college and get by financially.
At this camp, we coached and did a great job, and the last day of it, the guy who ran it (read: stood at the registration table when he wasn’t noticeably absent the rest of the week), handed us our pay, about $15/hr for the week, and took us out for a really nice lunch. At the time, it was standard pay for female players who were coaches at camps and clinics in the area.
At first, I thought how generous it was of him to take us to a really nice lunch, until I started to do the math for the camp in my head. There were about 50 girls at the camp, paying $150. There were 4 of us girls coaching, that got about $200 for the week. With fields being his only other cost, I realized that on the shoulders of our work, this guy was walking off with somewhere in the neighbourhood of $6500. Our $200 paycheck seemed even more paltry in comparison. It seemed pretty clear to me; here we were as female players, living and breathing the game, stressed out about how we could have the economic means to continue to play, and this guy who looked like he had never touched a ball in his life, and who had done little to contribute at the camp, was walking away with the riches.
At that point, I was determined to change this. I had the confidence that we could run camps and clinics on our own, and that furthermore, if we as female players came together that no one could touch what we would offer. Even if guys like the one who ran the camp, who put in a half-assed effort in his minimum attendance, decided to actually coach, we’d still be miles better than him. So although I was leaving a month after that to go to Denmark to reach my goal of playing professionally, I talked to my good friend and fellow female player that did the camp with me, and we decided to approach some teams and get girlsCAN off the ground. We decided that all the coaches would be elite female players, and no player coaching for us would get less than $40 an hour and in some cases we’d pay them up to $60, to help support their soccer aspirations.
And in a very short period of time in Vancouver, girlsCAN began gaining steam because a) all the high level female players wanted to coach for us because we paid almost four times higher than all the other soccer groups, and b) parents of the girls, when given the choice, saw the value in having their daughter’s coached by females who had been through the system as players and in a short period of time, we had a business on our hands.
The result was that other organizations, had to match what we were paying coaches if they wanted to get them to work for them, and in a matter of months, the average pay that an elite female player got for coaching multiplied by 3 to an average of $45, where it still holds in Vancouver today, ten years later.
On that note, I have a friend that runs a coaching academy in Ottawa, and he is still in amazement that the pay is so high in Vancouver. I can attribute it to the Summer of 2002, and the birth of girlsCAN, because the change happened before my eyes, with just a minimum amount of effort.
As current and former elite female players, we have a lot of value, and a lot to offer the system, but first we have to realize it, and start claiming that value in our own soccer communities. It’s about taking back the game at the business level, which will trickle on to the field, and then, I guarantee you, we will see the numbers of female coaches rise, especially at the club level.
I truly believe until women who have been in the trenches and feel the passion for the game at the deepest levels have the money in their hands from the youth level, to want to re-invest back into the sport to grow it, we will be stuck going nowhere.
But I know from experience that change is possible, as I see it happening around me every day. Ten years later I still love being a part of girlsCAN and our movement, surrounded by other passionate elite female players and raising the bar of girls’ soccer every day. We’ve grown now into Connecticut from Canada, and I see the small pebble we are throwing into the soccer ocean starting to reverberate farther and farther away.
To this end, I lean on the values that took me to where I got to as a player. To change the structure of women’s soccer, it will take time, effort, the ability to overcome adversity, determination, belief, and teamwork. It won’t be a female-exclusive endeavor, as there are some great guys hacking away in the system, but we will get there. It starts with every person passionate about growing women’s soccer out there taking baby steps in the communities that they are in, and females, grabbing the reins and taking over the control of our game at the grassroot level where the economics and hence power, exists.
Ghandi said it best: Be the change you wish to see in the world.
Every single day, with the choices that we make and the values that we stand for, we have the opportunity to do that.
If you’re interested on finding out more about girlsCAN Football, you can find us on facebook, twitter (@girlscanftball) or at http://www.girlscanfootball.com