Equal Pay and the Culture that Facilitates Frustration - Soccer Parenting Association

Equal Pay and the Culture that Facilitates Frustration

For years, like so many other aspiring (male and female) coaches and people in the game, I have been hesitant to speak up against the Federation for fear of it affecting my soccer relationships with clubs, my access to conversation with Federation employees, or even my potential future employment. I would love to work full time for the Federation one day and am so proud to be a Grassroots instructor for them now. Putting on the National Team Crest and working a Youth National Team camp and U.S. Soccer Training Centers was a tremendous honor.  I love this game – and I love the potential it possesses to change lives and bring the world together.

And that is why I have to speak up as I witness what is playing out with the Equal Pay lawsuit. 

When I read earlier this week the line of questioning the U.S. Soccer Federation attorney used in depositions I was literally stunned to silence.  My heart dropped in my chest.  My body transformed to stone – I was literally AND figuratively stuck in the moment.  Rage mixed with sadness.

I grew up with a “federation” of women soccer administrators tirelessly advocating for me and other young female players.  Betty DeAngelo, Charlotte Moran, Sharon Gregg, Adele Dolansky – these were remarkable, badass women who wouldn’t let anyone give them any shit when it came to the importance, the essentialness, of us “Title IX babies” receiving the same soccer experience as the boys as we grew up in the 1980’s.  And so – as a tribute to the women who fought this fight for me before I even understood it was a battle – I am now tapping in for my daughter and the next generation of soccer loving girls who are falling in love with the game with no thoughts of sexual discrimination, prejudice, or being told they are “less skilled and produce less effort” because they are not as strong or fast as boys.  I am also tapping in to this fight for my son – who instinctively knows he is not a more gifted player than a girl merely because he is stronger than her -  but who is now unfortunately receiving mixed messages about his place in the world, and the game, from our U.S. Soccer leadership.

In the past day U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro has issued an apology and the Federation has hired a different law firm to fight the Equal Pay lawsuit, thereby spending more of our Federation dollars to say the same things to the women in a less offensive manner.

U.S. Soccer sponsors are stepping in to voice their frustrations with the lawsuit and the abhorrent unequal treatment of women - and hopefully, money will talk and the Federation will change course and agree to doing the right thing and paying the women what they deserve.

As youth soccer parents, while it is important you are aware of this Equal Pay lawsuit, I also want to be sure you are aware of the culture of frustration that surrounds it so you can feel a stronger connection to the game, your child’s future in it, and have more influence as we come together and hopefully reorganize around strong leadership.

1. There is a sense of disillusionment within club leadership and coaches about U.S. Soccer that has been building for years.

The lack of connection between our U.S. Soccer Federation and club leadership and coaches has been building over time. Decisions are being made at the Board level that greatly impact the business and lives of clubs and coaches.  These decisions often don’t seem like well thought-out, logical decisions.  Examples such as the shift to Birth Year Registration, the lack of collaboration between the Girls’ DA and the ECNL, Player Development Initiatives put in place without enough concern for clubs' implementation logistics are just some of the ways our club leadership and coaches don’t feel heard or understood by U.S. Soccer.

2. There is a pervasive lack of trust in our game – coaches, parents, leaders are not happy.

The foundation of the work I do with Soccer Parenting is about establishing trust in the club-coach-parent relationship. This lack of trust between parents, coaches, referees and club leadership goes both ways and has filtered down from the very top – to the very bottom of the soccer pyramid. This lack of trust is corrosive and has fostered an unhealthy environment for development.

3. There is a lack of transparency at the Board level.

The U.S. Soccer Board makes decisions that reverberate deeply into our youth game and the lives and futures of players, and we don’t know who makes these decisions or what their overall strategy is.  There is no transparency with decision making, no clear strategy we can align around that has been expressed to us that supports all players, referees, coaches and clubs and puts the players’ needs first.  Decisions such as Birth Year Registration are being passed down and we are left saying “Who Did This?”…and we are not getting any response. 

When the Birth Year Registration requirement debacle was pushed out, U.S. Soccer leaders had NO IDEA the impact it would have on teams with players transitioning between schools and grades or on the Sense of Community and enjoyment that would be negatively impacted as teams turned over each year with players moving up and young players who couldn’t play with their classmates.

4. The Board is a volunteer board which severely limits the pool of candidates for positions.

We ask a lot of our U.S. Soccer Board from a time commitment and it is a volunteer Board.  This severely limits the pool of candidates for positions to those who can basically work an almost full-time position for free. We need to change this policy and open the candidate pool to a more diverse population.

Additionally, by having a "Volunteer Board" we limit the exposure our Board members have to reporting other sources of income. This enables Board members to actively and privately receive compensation from soccer organizations that are potentially impacted by their Board position. While not every Board member participates in this shady behavior, not a single one should be able to.

Now, more than ever before, there is a sense of urgency for action, as if we have reached a tipping point.  I have spoken about tipping points before and been wrong, so I hesitate to make that assertion because the inefficiencies and lack of oversight with leadership are severe and powerful.  That being said, it may be time for Congress to step in. Often referred to as the Ted Stevens Act, The Amateur Sports Act of 1978, signed by President Jimmy Carter, established the United States Olympic Committee and provides for national governing bodies for each Olympic sport. The Act provides important legal protection for individual athletes and may provide the opportunity to hold the U.S. Soccer Federation accountable for their actions and decisions.

We have a leadership problem.  If Congress does not step in to wage some form of oversight, we need our leaders to lead and new leaders with exceptional experience to emerge.

I am energized by the sense of solidarity that is being expressed by men and women on this subject of Equal Pay for our USWNT and I am extremely hopeful that it will lead to the change we need in leadership for future generations of players, referees, coaches and administrators and parents.


RELATED LINKS:

The Secret to Fulfilling Our Potential As A Soccer Nation

The ECNL and US Soccer's Ongoing Battle Over Our Children

4 Real Issues to Consider Before Switching to Birth Year Registration

Birth Year Headbands

Dear National Council: We Are Counting On You

About the Author Skye Eddy Bruce

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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