U.S. Soccer Foundation Program Reaches More Girls

The U.S. Soccer Foundation recently announced that more than 121,000 girls from underserved communities have benefited from its soccer programs in the past three years, tripling the number of girls in its programs annually. In addition, the Foundation and its partners have engaged 5,475 coaches who identify as women or non-binary over the same time frame.

Some 57% of new coach-mentors engaged since 2019 identify as women or non-binary, up from 46% in 2019. This bucks current trends, as the Aspen Institute Stay of Play reported that in 2020 only 25% of youth sports coaches were female.

These new data come as the Foundation wraps up United for Girls, a three-year initiative aimed at increasing opportunities for young girls and women from underserved communities to play and coach soccer and reap its many benefits. Launched in 2019 ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the initiative aimed to help combat the severe drop-out rate and lack of participation of girls in sports.

“Over the past three years, we’ve worked with community-based organizations that have taken innovative approaches for engaging more girls in soccer programs and using these programs as a means to increase their physical, social and emotional well-being,” said Sarah Pickens, vice president of programs at the U.S. Soccer Foundation. “Thanks to the dedication of these organizations, we now have promising practices that others can use to recruit and retain girls and women leaders more effectively. While we’ve made great progress, there is still more to be done and we hope that these strategies and practical learnings can help us collectively continue to move the needle.”

The Foundation also released “Count Her In: A Playbook for Youth Sports Programs to Engage Girls.” The guide provides tangible tools and guidance based on real-life learnings for how to design more gender-equitable and inclusive programs.

According to a 2018 Women’s Sports Foundation report, 40% of teen girls do not participate in sports, compared to only 25% of teen boys. Furthermore, by the age of 14, girls are dropping out of sports at twice the rate of boys. The Playbook will help organizations take practical actions to address the gender gap in youth sports and add to a continuing body of research on tackling these issues.

Throughout the course of the initiative, the foundation worked closely with a cohort of 21 community partners to develop strategies and tactics to increase the number of girls who participate in soccer and to ensure that their experiences are positive—especially girls from underserved communities. The six strategies focused on: partnerships; program design; organizational structure and leadership; family engagement; marketing and outreach; and recruitment of women coaches. Twenty additional organizations were given Innovate to Elevate awards to then use the preliminary learnings from the partner cohort to fast-track scaling and dissemination of promising practices.

The United for Girls initiative builds on the foundation’s mission to provide access to innovative play spaces and evidence-based soccer programs that instill hope, foster well-being, and help youth achieve their fullest potential. To learn more about the U.S. Soccer Foundation and get involved, visit ussoccerfoundation.org.