Mike Curry // Member since 1995
Dan Woog // Member since 1983
The murders this spring of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery galvanized the nation. Millions of Americans took to the streets, took action, took stock of themselves. Issues of race, economics, and history came under intense scrutiny. No part of society—politics, sports, entertainment—escaped the spotlight, or was immune from self-scrutiny.
As longtime members of United Soccer Coaches, we looked back at our organization. We have accomplished a great deal, and created a framework to build upon moving forward.
More than 20 years ago, our group—then called the National Soccer Coaches Association of America—began a formal diversity and inclusion initiative. In the years that followed, at-large diversity board members were appointed; diversity was included in the five-year strategic plan; women’s, Black, Latin American and Native American soccer coaches committees were formed; staff members took diversity training. Convention topics reinforced those themes: “Soccer as Diverse as Its People”; “The Family of Soccer”; “One World, One Game, One Goal.”
Over the past decade, United Soccer Coaches broadened its initiatives even further. The Advocacy Council encompassed professional, college, high school and youth coaches (“who you coach”), as well as Black, faith-based, disabilities allies, Latin American, LGBT and Allies, Native American and women coaches (“who you are”). The Advocacy Council chair position was elevated to the board of directors, as a voting member. The “30 Under 30” program recognized up-and-coming young coaches. The United Soccer Coaches Foundation raised $1 million, and began providing grants and scholarships to underserved clubs, programs and coaches. This initiative earned the attention of a major sponsor, Target, who committed their full support. We hope this is the beginning of many similar efforts.
Conventions—the largest, most visible event each year—showcased a wide array of clinicians. United Soccer Coaches sponsored receptions for advocacy groups, provided space for meetings, and encouraged new members. Women received some of the top honors. Urban teams—showcasing the diversity of players and coaches—wowed crowds on the demonstration floor.
Every group, it seemed, was welcomed by an organization that, for its first few decades, had been run primarily by, and almost exclusively for, white men.
Long before many sports organizations, United Soccer Coaches promoted a “diversity statement.” It said:
United Soccer Coaches is committed to fostering diversity by offering a welcoming and supportive environment for all our members, leadership, and other constituents. We nurture a learning and working environment that respects differences in culture, age, gender, race, ethnicity, physical ability, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, and socio-economic status.
We recognize that diversity enriches the membership experience, improves the practice and profession of coaching, expands learning opportunities, and enhances creativity and professional growth in the coaching community. United Soccer Coaches emphasizes both demographic and intellectual diversity. We are committed to attracting and developing qualified persons of diverse backgrounds to participate and lead in our organization. This includes our advocacy work, our recognition programs, the development of our services and education, as well as our coaching and outreach programs. Embracing diversity and inclusion requires a coaching curriculum and other learning experiences that provide exposure to diverse cultures, human characteristics, and ways of thinking. Our organization must create a climate that stimulates innovation, values contributions from those unlike ourselves, and encourages the success and advancement of all our members.
United Soccer Coaches particularly acknowledges the acute need to remove barriers to the recruitment, retention and advancement of talented members, leadership and other constituents from historically underrepresented populations. As such, United Soccer Coaches fosters diversity in our staff and advocates for all of our members by welcoming their participation in our programs, by embracing diversity and inclusion training, and by remaining mindful of diversity and inclusion in the formulation of policy and in decision-making.
United Soccer Coaches—the organization, and its members—knows that diversity and inclusion is not only vital to coaching success; it is the lifeblood of our sport. Soccer is a global game. Anyone, anywhere, of any background, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status can play. We welcome everyone on our teams. Our players are enriched by competing with and against athletes from a variety of backgrounds. There is a reason that soccer’s biggest prize is called the “World Cup.”
But as we look back on United Soccer Coaches’ past, assess its current state, and look toward the future, we wonder: Is it enough?
The answer is: No.
United Soccer Coaches has constructed a strong framework. It is up to us all now to build on that platform. Every group must create clear, consistent policies, and take deliberate, decisive action to add meaning and purpose to the work we’ve begun.
There is so much more to do. We can all take time to study these issues and educate ourselves. As coaches, we always seek opportunities to grow. We know how to look at problems and create solutions. Racial injustice is a problem that demands attention from us all. And each of us must be part of the solution.
We can speak up, and speak out. We can ask questions about the experiences of our Black colleagues, players and support staff. We can question whether our clubs, leagues and athletic departments are doing enough to address inequities that may exist. We must question and challenge offensive, hurtful statements whenever we hear them. Silent disapproval is not enough. A soccer coach’s voice is powerful; now is the time to use it.
We can get involved. Whether it’s time, talent or treasure, we can contribute something. Wherever you live, there are Black, minority or underserved communities nearby. Your volunteer efforts, expertise and financial assistance can make a world of difference.
We can support all diverse coaches and programs by offering advocacy and access to the resources needed to be successful. This could be as simple but powerful as providing a reference or referral for a talented minority coach.
We can think about where we spend our money. It is important to vote with our dollars. And it is just as crucial to support Black businesses, vendors and service providers—and those that stand up for equal opportunity and against racism—as it is not to patronize those that do not.
We can model behavior. We encourage our players to challenge themselves and take risks. Now as coaches, we all must get comfortable with being uncomfortable. We must engage in difficult conversations. We must explore our differences. Only then will we realize there is much more that unites us than divides us.
All of this is just a start. Much work remains ahead. It won’t be easy; some of it could be uncomfortable. But all of it is crucial. As United Soccer Coaches builds on our strong diversity and inclusion base, we look forward to working together to create an even stronger soccer community and American society.
We need your help—and everyone’s. We have no other choice.
Mike Curry was the recipient of United Soccer Coaches’ 2019 Honor Award, the highest honor bestowed to members of the association. He has been a member of the association for 25-plus years. He is a former member of the United Soccer Coaches Board of Directors, founding chair of the association’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, an active member of the Black Coaches Advocacy Group and of the United Soccer Coaches Foundation Committee. He is a noted goalkeeper coach who served on the United Soccer Coaches Academy Staff and with the U.S. National Team under Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
Dan Woog is a past winner of the National Youth Coach of the Year award and has served on the coaching staff at Staples High School in Westport, Conn. for over 37 years, the last 13 as head coach. He joined as a member of United Soccer Coaches in 1983, his first year of coaching. He is a journalist, author, blogger, and speaker and is the chair of the United Soccer Coaches LGBTQ and Allies Advocacy Group.