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  • Soccer Without Borders

A Message from Our Board of Directors on Mary Connor's Transition from SWB

Dear Soccer Without Borders Community,

Today we are writing to share an important update on our succession and transition process. After an intentional multi-year process, Mary Connor will be departing from Soccer Without Borders. We are eternally grateful for all that Mary has championed in her years as SWB’s Executive Director and impassioned leader. 

Mary has been transitioning the Executive Director role to SWB’s new leader  Jennifer Tepper. As a Board we are so thankful for the intentional effort and are deeply appreciative of both Mary & Jennifer, shepherding the organization through this important transition process.

As a sport-for-development organization, we can’t help but use soccer analogies - and if SWB is our team, Mary has been its committed coach every step of the way. 

From an all-volunteer organization to a global staff of nearly 100, Mary has led and grown Soccer Without Borders with a passion and a tirelessness admired by all. Joining a nascent SWB in 2007, Mary channeled her commitment to getting girls in the game into launching SWB’s first year-round girls program in Nicaragua. She served as Director of SWB Nicaragua for seven years, growing it to become an anchor for SWB’s global work to advance gender equity. When SWB as a whole grew to the point of needing full-time leadership, Mary was named SWB’s first Executive Director in 2010.

Internally, Mary designed and established infrastructure and systems across all aspects of the organization from finance and operations, to program delivery and quality assurance, to people and culture.  As SWB grew, Mary worked to understand the needs, talents and opportunities within the organization, so that she could bring the necessary coaching style to the moment: building new programs, mentoring staff and coaches, fostering a vibrant SWB culture and adapting organizational tactics to meet global challenges and opportunities. 

Externally, Mary consistently sought out the people, information and connections to support, advance, and sustain SWB. She built bridges and relationships that led to long-term partnerships and financial sustainability. She navigated countless challenges with compassion and integrity - from guiding the organization through socio-political challenges affecting SWB youth and families to rapidly responding to the Covid-19 pandemic with new programmatic tools and a strategy centered around creating belonging.

Mary’s resourcefulness, optimism and authenticity as a leader also led to countless opportunities. In the lead up to SWB's 10 year anniversary, Mary led a comprehensive strategic planning process to create a roadmap for SWB's second decade. In this same year, Mary and Founder Ben Gucciardi had the opportunity to lay out this roadmap in Wharton Business School's Lipman Family Prize competition, winning the $250,000 grand prize and unlocking new horizons for the organization.

Mary has been a resolute champion for gender equity in sport, including designing the framework for the Goal 5 Accelerator and serving as an expert partner for the Equal Play Effect globally. In 2021, Mary launched SWB Assist to diversify and expand mission delivery, supporting partners to advance gender equity and social inclusion worldwide.

Mary has also been an indefatigable recruiter for SWB’s Board of Directors. She nurtured many relationships among SWB community members, drawing people in in a way that made them want to work with her and support SWB. Many SWB supporters have received Mary’s heartfelt gratitude through a thoughtful update or handwritten card.

For all of these accolades and many more, Mary’s selflessness stands out today. Even though Mary has been a larger-than-life leader to SWB, Mary built the organization to be bigger than any one person, including herself. Mary helped build SWB to sustain itself without her as its leader, because in her words, “the next generation of SWB leaders is already here”.

We wish Mary all the best in all future endeavors - and know that she’ll remain a close friend and collaborator with the SWB community.

With deep gratitude,

The Soccer Without Borders Board of Directors


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