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Stopping Emotional and Physical Abuse: The Future of Youth Soccer in America

The year 2022 has brought an Equal Pay Settlement for our US Women’s National Team, the publishing of the gut-wrenching Yates Report documenting the physical and emotional abuse of our professional female athletes, and subsequent follow up reports detailing additional wrongdoing by our soccer leadership. Making these extremely difficult moments public has put in motion a systematic and structural reset, driving those who are willing, and many who have been forced, to reflect and commit to changing themselves, hence soccer in America, and the world.   

At Soccer Parenting we are fully engaged and excited for the opportunities ahead as this systematic and structural reset will trickle down to effectuate tangible change in our youth soccer landscape. The Yates Report was clear on the connection between abuse in professional soccer beginning in youth soccer: “Coaches and Federation officials have observed that verbal and emotional abuse is common in youth soccer, and players told us that verbal and emotional abuse in youth soccer made it more difficult to determine what was out of bounds in the NWSL.” (pg. 173)

The issues professional players have experienced were largely promulgated by the culture of emotional abuse, bullying, and micro-aggressions we have allowed to permeate the youth game. This is not acceptable. Youth soccer must be built on a foundation of trust and collaboration, and be completely free of physical or emotional abuse, power struggles, and bullying. Developing collaborative relationships between coaches, parents, clubs, and players that have a foundation of trust and a focus on player inspiration and safety is at the core of what we do.

This year has also been a personally difficult year for me and many of my friends in the game. The brave voices of women in the NWSL have helped me start to recognize the sometimes unhealthy experiences I have had in the game over the years. I know I am absolutely not alone with this difficult reconning.

The reconciliation of my personal history with soccer was not on my To Do List when 2022 kicked off, and not having a say over when I chose to dig into these issues has been unbalancing. However, the process has left me steadier. I am more committed than ever before to a safe environment for all players. I am tremendously grateful the soccer culture of my teens and 20s is becoming a distant memory and that, today, individuals are speaking up and our community is holding our leaders and coaches accountable.  

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I am incredibly thankful for the dedicated coaches I had, plus the kind coaching friends and professional colleagues I have crossed paths with over the years. For the most part, my soccer community has been thoroughly empowering and supportive. There are moments, however, especially in my 20s, I wish I had stood up more, spoken louder, been clearer on how wrong the way I was being treated was. I also believe that if I had I defended myself and spoken clearly, I likely would no longer be in the game. I do find a tinge of solace that my apathetic response to the way I was being treated kept the door open for me, and hence helped prop the door open for the women behind me.

I am grateful these women have a stronger voice than me.

As a friend told me yesterday: “Individuals are responsible for their legacies – and sometimes legacies are complicated.”

There are people working in soccer today who have historically emotionally abused, manipulated, and gaslit others, including me. These are also people who have been steady proponents for women and girls and the growth of the women’s game. Their legacies are complicated. While judging the past by present standards is not fair, holding everyone to high standards today is essential. We must all commit to these high standards and kick out or refuse entry to anyone not willing to comply.

There are many reasons I founded Soccer Parenting, and one of them is to make our youth soccer culture as inspiring as possible – for everyone. Youth soccer cannot be inspiring if we allow coaches who emotionally manipulate and bully players to have a place in our game. We must develop clarity in identifying these sometimes nuanced behaviors and a commitment to no longer excusing them. It is vitally essential our leaders continue to evolve as the culture surrounding youth soccer continues to improve.

Youth soccer must be built on a foundation of trust and collaboration, and be completely free of physical or emotional abuse, bullying, and micro-aggressions. 

As we move into 2023, I believe our Soccer Parenting movement has the capacity to assist in forging an energy for change we are collectively craving. Thank you for being a part of this movement. Together we will ensure all people in our soccer community are valued and treated with the respect they deserve.  

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Skye Eddy

Founder, SoccerParenting.com
Skye is a former All-American goalkeeper, professional player and collegiate coach. She holds her USSF "B" License and USSF National Goalkeeper License and is an active youth coach, soccer parent and coach educator.

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