Soccer Without Borders was founded in 2006 with a vision for an inclusive and equitable world, where all youth have the opportunity to reach their inherent potential. We envision a world where every individual is valued and cared for. We imagine a world that has the courage to restructure its systems to be equitable, to be just, and to be inclusive. We are devastated by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and by the knowledge that these are three of innumerable instances of injustice and violence based on race. We want to be explicit in expressing our solidarity as an organization with those who are fighting for justice for Black communities, and state in no uncertain terms that Black lives matter.
We believe that our direct service with underserved youth is our loudest response and most effective tool to combat the consequences of systemic racial injustice. It is essential that we actively create a more inclusive, just, and equitable world through our actions. We may fear that our efforts, even when added up all together, may not be enough. But the change we see every day in our participants, in our teams, and in ourselves, shows us that’s not true. We can make meaningful change by together building safe, inclusive spaces that reflect the world not as it is, but as it could be.
In soccer, the average player spends less than 5% of the game with the ball. The outcome of the match relies much less on what you do when you have the ball and everyone is watching, and much more on what you do without it, when you think no one is watching. You communicate. You create space. You listen. You defend. You support. You lift up. To do this, you draw on the foundations of the hard, uncomfortable work you’ve already put in, challenging yourself and your teammates on a daily basis.
Every public call for change must be underpinned by those same foundations. At SWB, we must put our Diversity & Inclusion policies and practices under a microscope, sharpen our lenses of racial equity, and critically scrutinize whether and how we are living up to our values. Where we fall short - as we have in our goal to have our staff and boards meaningfully reflect the communities we serve - we must re-double our efforts. We will challenge others to do the same.
As individuals and as an organization we are committed to continuous learning. One of our learning agreements is called “Step Up/Step Back.” When we are in the room together, it means that if you are a person who often steps up to talk, try to step back to make space for others. It also means the reverse. Within Soccer Without Borders and within the public sphere, we will be intentional about when we speak and when we listen. We will elevate voices that need and want most to be heard, particularly those who are most affected and those who are most marginalized. Most importantly, we will take action every day, seen and unseen, to build a more inclusive and equitable world.