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. SWB Oakland launched the first of its Accelerator projects, a new girls league, with an event that engaged over 30 girls on March 6, just before International Women’s Day.
September 2020 marked the inaugural season for the Castlemont High School girls team at SWB Oakland. Now, with more female participants than ever before, this new team is a crucial step toward the goal of launching a Global Goal Five Girls League at SWB Oakland, and creating parity with the already-existing SWB Champions Boys League.
“One of the main goals we have for the league is to show the girls that they are part of something much bigger than their individual girls teams at Soccer Without Borders Oakland and that they’re part of a larger community of female athletes,” said Program Coordinator Maddy Boston.
The Global Goal Five League brings girls together from across teams to participate in soccer and non-soccer events, providing opportunities to experience competition and success, meet new people, and step into peer leadership roles. Providing safe spaces for girls to connect, learn, and try new things alongside one another is vital towards allowing girls to grow. The program aims to give girls a wide range of opportunities to experience success — from playing soccer to creating art and beyond — and thereby feel more confident in themselves.
“We also really wanted to create opportunities for mentorship across age groups,” said Boston, “so we worked on providing high school girls with moments where they could guide younger participants and have those younger participants look up to older girls, and then we also tried to cultivate all of those moments of shared learning in between.”
To launch the league, all of the female participants in Oakland came together for a sunny day of soccer, food, and celebration. Participants were placed on small teams with girls from other programs to play in a round-robin tournament. Mixing ages, schools, and backgrounds enabled the girls to make new connections and see themselves as part of a larger community of female athletes.
“My favorite part of the whole day was when we created the teams and started playing,” said Heykee, a player on the Castlemont High School Girls’ Team. “One thing I learned was to socialize with people I don't know. I was very proud when I started talking to other girls who were not from my school and felt included in everything.”
By the end of the day, participants had made new friends, experienced different levels of competition, and established a larger network of SWB female athletes. And, as a space for just girls, it enabled them to feel safe learning from one another and diving into new experiences. Above all, the event allowed girls to see themselves, their peers, and their female coaches succeed — embodying the slogan, “If she can see it, she can be it.”