SWB Baltimore is the latest US site to implement its Global Goal Five Accelerator Gender Action Plans. In November 2020, Soccer Without Borders Programs in the U.S. launched the Global Goal Five Accelerator Program.The Accelerator is designed to use soccer as a tool to advance Global 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.
Accelerator coaches formulated Gender Action Plans to improve girls programming on their specific teams and at their sites. As SWB sites safely resume in-person activities, those plans are being set into motion. In Baltimore, staff have created individual plans that feed into their Baltimore-wide plan: an end-of-year tournament and day of celebration.
For Senior Program Coordinator Kat Sipes, that individual plan revolves around LIT (Leaders In Training) — a leadership development group consisting of 11 high school girls. The program includes six sessions, each of which covers a different aspect of leadership, and teaches participants how those traits can be incorporated into their respective teams and personal lives.
“There is so much natural talent in this group,” Sipes said. “They have years and years of SWB support and we wanted to make that support more formal and geared to elevating girls voices so that they could learn and grow more.”
In the first session, coaches reviewed different leadership qualities and girls identified what they saw in themselves, with the goal of defining their leadership style in one word. They then thought about how they could bring that quality into how they interact with their teams and peers.
“Girls have an idea of how others think they lead, but throughout the session we wanted to make it all more self-focused,” Sipes said.
With her own Accelerator plan, Program Associate Erin O’Brien is laying the foundations of leadership with the Baltimore Middle School Girls program. O’Brien’s sessions create a space for girls to explore their leadership skills while forging bonds with one another. The training provides them with tools to utilize in their daily life while preparing them for future success.
The high school girls’ program in Baltimore has grown significantly since its inception in 2017 and the leadership group is a natural progression from that growth. Showing girls that they have the natural ability to lead is also integral to creating internal leadership pathways for participants, and equipping them with the tools to be leaders outside of Soccer Without Borders.
With input from the participants, the sessions will cover topics ranging from confidence to public speaking to social anxiety. Incorporating the learning goals of the participants is paramount in creating a program that truly serves its purpose and members, so that girls can both see and be leaders. As the semester progresses, the goal is that girls will emerge with more tools and confidence to be the best leaders that they can be.