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  • Dara Ely, SWB

Longtime SWB Supporter Ann Cook Joins Common Goal

Ann Cook, Associate Head Coach of the Penn State University Women’s Soccer team has become the first U.S. college coach to join the Common Goal movement, pledging 1% of her earnings to support Soccer Without Borders. Common Goal was founded by Juan Mata of Manchester United and streetfootballworld’s Jurgen Griesbeck with the mission to unite the world of football behind a shared social vision. Globally, professional football players and coaches are pledging 1% of their salary to organizations that use football to advance social change efforts, focusing on the United Nations Global Goals.

Three people posing together in Nicaracua: two children on either side of soccer coach Ann Cook
Ann Cook and FSF participants

“I love the idea of bridging the gap from the players in the streets to the players making millions of dollars, as well as coaches and staff who make up professional soccer,” said Cook, who hopes other American college coaches will join her in pledging 1% through Common Goal.

“This has been a year of real introspection for a lot of us and many of my colleagues, like me, are feeling lucky to have a job that we love and that can really make a difference in individual lives. If we could harness that feeling of gratitude and turn it into action in this pretty simple way, something big could happen.”

This arrangement is just the latest chapter in Cook’s storied history with Soccer Without Borders. She has been part of SWB since 2008, making multiple trips to Granada, Nicaragua during the early days of the program which is now a flourishing program hub.

“Ann has already gone above and beyond to support Soccer Without Borders as a coach and advisor, and is always searching for ways to use her platform to make soccer more equitable and accessible for girls everywhere,” said SWB Executive Director and Co-Founder Mary Connor. “We are thrilled that she is joining this global movement and honored that she would pledge her 1% to Soccer Without Borders and the Gender Equality Accelerator.”

Cook has lost count of how many times she has traveled to Fútbol Sin Fronteras (Soccer Without Borders) Granada. “At least seven or eight,” she says. Back in 2008, a trip to Granada meant bringing soccer gear, running camps, teaching coaching clinics, and keeping an eye out for local coaches to continue the program. A bit of SWB folklore involves Cook, Connor (both of whom played professionally after excelling in college) and FSF coach Jose Largaespada taking on a group of local men in 3-on-3 pickup football in the street. The men severely underestimated the SWB group, who won seven games in a row.

The story elicits a smile from Cook, who remembers playing a lot of pickup soccer during that trip, culminating in that night of street football in Granada.

“It’s the nature of those environments where just being able to play garners you a certain amount of respect,” said Cook. “Us being able to play is what allowed FSF to gain a bit of a foothold in that community. Meeting them where they were by playing in the street is a little bit allegorical. We wanted to be where the games were — literally and figuratively.”

A group of soccer players poses in a stadium — the Penn State women's soccer team and the Nicaraguan women's national team. Everyone is smiling.
The Penn State and Nicaraguan National teams

During her numerous trips to Granada, Cook was often accompanied by a few student-athletes from Penn State and other college teams, working team camps and running coaching clinics. In 2018, Cook brought her entire Penn State team to Nicaragua for a trip that still focused on clinics and gear, but also included staying with Nicaraguan families and playing an exhibition game against the Nicaraguan Women’s National Team, in front of a full crowd of community members and FSF participants, as well as a national television and radio audience.

Like the entire Soccer Without Borders program, Fútbol Sin Fronteras has grown significantly during the past decade. FSF is focused specifically on girls and serves nearly 400 year-round program participants while also reaching hundreds more through clinics and camps. Additionally, more than half of current staffers are program alumnae.

“It was always the dream to have Nicaraguan directors and staff who would make it their own,” reflected Cook. “So many alums coaching is a testament to all of the blood,sweat, and tears [the SWB Nicaragua team] has put into those relationships over many years.”

In addition to her hands-on work with the Nicaragua program, Cook has been a member of the SWB National Advisory Board since its inception in 2010. Recently, she has been a proponent of SWB’s Global Goal 5 Accelerator, which takes a collaborative approach to advancing gender equality through soccer, and sport-for-development organizations.

If you are a soccer professional interested in joining the Common Goal movement, please visit:

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