INTER-AMERICAN WOMEN'S SOCCER EXCHANGE
"We did amazing things while we were in the U.S. and returned to Nicaragua
with so many ideas and plans to carry out."
Estefan Bolaños, phase 2 participant
With funding from the U.S. State Department's SportsUnited Division, Soccer Without Borders designed and implemented the Inter-American Women’s Soccer Exchange (“Exchange”) in 2013. The Exchange was perhaps the most comprehensive effort by a U.S. organization to support the growth of girls' and women's soccer in Nicaragua through a three-phase investment in leadership, capacity, and grassroot level mobilization.
February - March 2013
Diriamba, Granada, and Managua, Nicaragua
In partnership with the U.S. Embassy of Managua and FENIFUT, phase 1 of the Exchange joined together a 16-member team of recently graduated U.S. Women's NCAA Soccer players with the growing girls' and women's soccer community of Nicaragua. Ann Cook, Mary McVeigh and Maren Rojas, a trio at the forefront of women's soccer in the U.S., both as players and coaches, led the team of U.S. participants, assisted by Lindsey Whitford, the SWB Granada Program Coordinator and a former NCAA student-athlete at Lewis & Clark University. The roster of players included an impressive array of former NCAA student-athletes from all three NCAA Divisions and eight NCAA Conferences. As a group, participants represented ten elite U.S. colleges and universities, and hailed from 10 different states.
Exchange players and coaches took their experiences and talents to three Nicaraguan cities, leading a series of skills clinics that engaged more than 900 girls, and coaching clinics for more than 50 local coaches. The Exchange also featured two showcase games between the Nicaraguan U-20 Women's National Team and the Exchange Team at the National Stadiums in Diriamba and Managua.
June - July 2013
Boston, MA and Hanover, NH
August - December 2013
Granada and Managua, Nicaragua
Together with SWB Boston and with the support of the U.S. Embassy of Managua, phase 2 of the Exchange brought a selected group of 10 Nicaraguan coaches and leaders from the cities of Granada and Managua to New England for a 10-day training and cultural immersion. Hailing from all levels of Nicaraguan girls' and women's soccer, the group included representatives from the Department of Education, SWB Nicaragua, FENIFUT, and the Nicaraguan Women’s National Team.
This phase exposed the Nicaraguan coaches to multiple aspects of American culture and sports infrastructure including the American university system and collegiate sports at Dartmouth College, recreational youth sports at camps run by Challenger Sports and MTW Coast Soccer, a sports-based youth development program at SWB Boston, and professional women’s soccer at a Boston Breakers practice and game. Throughout their time in the U.S., participants learned key skills in facilitation, coaching, technology, and program design. They also designed an action plan and position statement to take home, implementing their ideas to expand and strengthen their local organizations and promote the growth of girls’ soccer in Nicaragua.
The true legacy of the two-way exchange lies in the hearts and minds of the American and Nicaraguan participants, and the communities they touched. To support these participants to continue working toward greater equity in sport for girls and women in Nicaragua, each Nicaraguan participant created an action plan in one of four areas the group identified as crucial to development:
-Tournaments and leagues
-Leadership and role models
1. Tournament: La Copa de Paz, a girls-only tournament celebrating the International Day of Peace hosted a record 17 girls teams
2. Schools: A series of girls-only skills clinics and gym teacher trainings were held in Managua districts III, IV, and V with each gym teacher provided One World Futbols.
3. Safe spaces: A soccer-specific field space was renovated to serve as a home field for SWB Nicaragua complete with benches, a mower, and access to water.
4. Role models: The Nicaraguan Women's National Team launched a visibility and leadership campaign. Their page on Facebook now has more than 1,750 likes.
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