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  • Sophia Goethals, SWB

Global Goal Five Update: SWB Boston Captains’ Program

Soccer Without Borders’ Boston Middle School Girls’ program has seen significant growth since it started in 2012. In addition to increasing the number of participants, program coaches have implemented holistic supports such as Girls Clubs and homework help. The Middle School Girls have also created a solid pipeline of participants to the High School Girls’ program. Program Coordinator Caitlin Saupe is using her Global Goal Five Action Plan to take things to the next level by creating codified captain roles for these teams.

The SWB Global Goal Five Accelerator uses soccer as a tool to advance Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality. The SWB USA Accelerator aims to support coaches and female leaders to increase girls’ participation in programs, strengthen their own leadership skills, and build a more gender-inclusive Soccer Without Borders.

Creating captain roles is integral to growing any soccer program. These positions allow for peer leadership opportunities and can steer programming in a more youth-led direction. Saupe made the responsibilities of the role clear with written position descriptions and selected three girls from each team. The captains held their own meetings to reflect on each players’ personal experience in SWB and how they can further create those experiences for other girls through their roles as captains.

“The core of this is about empowering girls to strengthen their leadership skills and give them more ownership of the team,” Saupe said. “In turn, they've established a team culture of positivity, encouragement, and respect by being role models to their peers. They've created a safe and inclusive community for their teammates -- one of the things they value most about being on the team!”

The captain roles run the gamut from setting up the field for practice, to leading warm up and stretches, to facilitating team discussions, and even filling in for Saupe if she has to miss a practice. The girls have all stepped up in ways that are critical to fostering a community of mutuality and empowerment for all participants. As the captain roles have grown throughout the spring, Saupe has also created check-in times for each girl, so that she can talk through any challenges encountered.

These roles have allowed new girls to see peers, rather than adults, as the face of the team — something that Saupe sees as important for creating an inclusive and youth-facing program. Captains recently supported Saupe at a tabling event to recruit new girls to the team and have engineered new ways to do outreach. Leading by example, these girls have created an SWB space that is safe and welcoming.

As Saupe looks to the future, she sees captain roles becoming more solidified and professionalized. The girls’ captains may have begun as a Global Goal Five Action Plan, but they’ll become ingrained into the fabric of SWB Boston girls’ program moving forward.


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