Switch The Pitch Mobilizes Players Toward Anti-Racist Action
Switch the Pitch supporters clockwise from the upper-left: Angela Hucles Mangano from Angel City FC, CJ Brown from Chicago Fire FC, Ali Riley from Angel City FC, Naomi Girma from San Diego Wave, Miri Taylor from Angel City FC, Justin Morrow from Black Players for Change, Tyler Lussi from Angel City FC, and Andre Reynolds II from Chicago Fire FC.
Soccer Without Borders (SWB) and Common Goal are excited to announce the launch of Switch the Pitch, a first-of-its-kind collective movement to unite the US Soccer community around anti-racist education and action.
Switch the Pitch, designed by Soccer Without Borders with support from Soccer in the Streets and DC SCORES, is the youth-facing component of Common Goal’s Anti-Racist Project (ARP), a movement powered by a wide range of stakeholders from the US Soccer ecosystem including Chicago Fire FC, Angel City FC, Oakland Roots, the Black Players Coalition, the American Outlaws, and the Anti-Racist Soccer Club.
At the heart of Switch the Pitch is an “Inclusive Coach” Training program, which prepares youth soccer coaches to engage their teams in a series of on-field Team Challenges designed to educate, activate, and facilitate an exchange of dialogue around important topics including racial identity, allyship, activism, and leadership.
All training and challenge content is introduced by a combination of expert coaches and professional soccer players from across the ARP coalition. The San Diego Wave’s Naomi Girma, who features in the Activism and Leadership module, was eager to lend her support to the initiative. “Switch the Pitch is a much-needed initiative in the soccer space to help create a more inclusive and anti-racist environment for players of all ages,” says Girma. “Its action-oriented approach to educating players and coaches across the youth game is going to revolutionize the way we learn to combat racism in our sport.”
After a year of collaborative design, the first season of Switch the Pitch is ready to launch. Coaches who register for this pilot season are granted exclusive access to the platform which includes the Coach Training Series, Interactive Team Challenges, and participation in the Virtual League. Every challenge and content module invites feedback from coaches on how to improve and adapt the challenges for future seasons.
“Our goal with Switch the Pitch is to empower and prepare coaches to prioritize building an inclusive team culture,” says Common Goal’s Kaiya McCullough, who joined the Anti-Racist Project after playing for the Washington Spirit in the NWSL. “Soccer is such a powerful platform and coaches have a huge opportunity to use that platform to engage their players and encourage them to think critically about the world around them.”
The Switch the Pitch Coach Training Series is organized around six themes of Inclusive Coaching: Empathy, Safety, Vulnerability, Appreciation, Awareness and Authenticity. Each theme begins with an introductory video featuring an expert coach and includes three key skills that coaches can immediately incorporate into their next practice plan along with any of the 36 interactive Team Challenges.
The Team Challenges are organized into six different modules: Identity and Perspectives, Allyship and Collective Action, Activism and Leadership, Preventing and Responding to Racism, Access and Resources, and Power and Policies.
"Switch the Pitch was designed by coaches for coaches," says Soccer Without Borders coach and Switch the Pitch coordinator Mia Golin. "Our standard all along has been to make sure every piece of content we put out is something that we would do with our own SWB teams."
Among the challenges, you’ll find activities such as In a Teammate's Shoes. Found within the Identity and Perspectives module, this challenges players in a discussion on the relationship between perspective-taking and empathy after taking on a new role or position on the field. For example, a goalkeeper who normally sees the whole field ahead of them may be challenged to play as a midfielder, where players often have action happening from every angle. A striker may be asked to referee, making decisions about when something is a foul or a legal tackle. Just as there are different positions on a soccer field offering a different perspective on the game, everybody has a different position and perspective in their life.
Team challenges leverage the experiential aspects of the game and the team experience to invite players to educate themselves and their teammates, to exchange ideas and experiences, and to take action to make their playing experience and communities more inclusive for all.
The Switch the Pitch pilot season, which is still accepting registrations for a few remaining spots, is an important step in a larger plan to scale the program to meaningfully engage the entirety of US youth soccer. The pilot will incorporate feedback from coaches, with a goal of revising and expanding the number of challenges for future seasons. Join the Switch the Pitch coalition and help support the expansion of the initiative in 2023 and beyond!