U.S. Women’s Soccer: Not Quite America’s Team

U.S. Women’s Soccer: Not Quite America’s Team

Story tools

Comments

A A AResize

Print

Share and Email

 

CHICAGO -- What a thrill. What pride. What a show of skill and prowess by the U.S. women's national soccer team in the 2011 Women’s World Cup even as they lost in penalty shots to Japan on Sunday.

Too bad that this fabulous squad does not yet look like America.

Wambach made magnificent header goals; Rapinoe, great centers; Boxx, streaking shots from outside the box. I cheered them along, as they deserved to be cheered, and relished their hard-fought battle on behalf of a nation.

But my feelings were bittersweet. In a roster of 21 players, there are only two Latinas and no Blacks or Asians. In the team picture of bright, young, exuberant and inspiring faces, the hues and shades of an increasingly multicultural America are quite limited.

There is something deeply amiss in the lack of diversity on both the women's and men's national soccer teams—not only because one-third of the nation is missing in their composition, but because when we look at the age range of those who play soccer professionally, the gap is even more striking: 40 percent of this age group are people of color.

Given soccer's popularity, particularly in the Latino community, the lack of diversity cannot be excused. While it can be said legitimately about golf, tennis, and swimming that the pipeline of diverse talent iis significantly limited given low participation numbers by minority children, the same cannot be said about this most populist of sports, futbol.

Yes, golf, tennis, and swimming must find ways to get more minorities involved, not only for the sake of these marginalized communities, but also for the sake of the vitality of these sports. By limiting the talent pool, is it any coincidence the United States has not dominated in golf or tennis in the past decade? Soccer has a huge built-in advantage over these other sports, even as the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) significantly steps up its efforts to introduce tennis to 10-year-old kids of color. But colleges, the U.S. soccer teams, and pro-soccer farm systems are bypassing the massive number of female and male players of color in soccer .

As one looks at the player roster both in women's and men’s soccer, how is it that diversity in this sport has been whitewashed?

When I played varsity soccer at Northwestern University,  I was the only Latino on the team—and a walk-on from South America, not a Hispanic American—and Floyd was the only black. Granted, Northwestern's student body was not especially diverse to begin with, but surely in the soccer subculture there should had been some sort of over-indexing of diversity.

To increase the diversity of the U.S. teams—not only be truly America’s team, but to ensure that U.S. teams remain competitive—an all-out diversity effort must be launched.

First, more minority children must be enrolled in the largest soccer youth programs. When I coached my daughter’s soccer team, the $100 fees were out of reach for many working-class Latino families. To the league's credit, it began instituting a sliding-scale fee funded by local individuals and companies. But while this increased Latino participation a bit, the lack of relations between the white and Latino communities made it hard to spread word about the program.

And even when more Latino kids did participate, coaches— many new to the sport of soccer themselves— did not know how to reconcile the differing expectations from Latino parents when practice schedules conflicted with work schedules at the family store or other business. The “no practice, no play” principle killed any nascent enthusiasm among working-class and immigrant kids and parents.

The barriers to entry in the more competitive youth travel soccer leagues are even higher, given the $1,000 fees and faraway road games that assume parents have cars and free weekends to schlep their cleat-clad kids.

But the institutions that truly have no excuse for the lack of diversity on their soccer teams are colleges. Thousands of girls and boys nationwide are playing in soccer at their public middle and high schools. Here participation is free, school buses transport the teams to their matches, and Immigrant parents have at least some working knowledge about school culture that they don't have about para-organizations such as AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) and travel soccer.

Title IX, which demanded the playing field be evened out for collegiate women in terms of budgets, facilities and scholarships, is the No. 1 reason women’s sports in the U.S. have risen to the world-class caliber we saw in Sunday’s World Cup finals match. But as in corporate America, women’s gains in soccer have unfortunately ended up being white women’s’ gains, with Black, Latina, Asian, and Native American women conspicuously absent as beneficiaries of powerfully important gender-diversity programs.

To break through, we need U.S. Soccer, college soccer scouts and parents to shift their assumptions and behaviors.

In machista societies like the Latino one, girls have to be seen as legitimately able to compete in sports for fun or career, just as boys are. Scouts need to get comfortable going into the barrio and inner-city schools and to suburbs dominated by immigrants, just as football and basketball scouts started doing a generation ago.

And U.S. Soccer can up the ante by insisting that its scouts and coaches source greater diversity for players considered to be called on to wear the U.S. uniform.

Because that uniform belongs to all of us.

Frequent NAM contributor Andrés Tapia is president of Diversity Best Practices, a diversity and inclusion think tank and consultancy.


 

Comments

 
Anonymous

Posted Jul 17 2011

The funny part about your comments in Golf and Tennis is that both have been dominated by America and by individuals of color.
Golf - Tiger Woods (African American and Asian)
Tennis- Williams Sisters Venus and Serena (African American) James Blake (African American)

Anonymous

Posted Jul 18 2011

Well, the U.S. women's soccer team is certainly more representative of the American population than the U.S. men's basketball team. Yet, Mr. Tapia would never say that a black-dominated team "does not look like America", which says all you need to know about what "diversity" is actually about.

Anonymous

Posted Jul 18 2011

Thank you for raising this awareness!

Anonymous

Posted Jul 18 2011

How racist of you.

You look at the color of people and say not enough of this or that....'not diverse', but when others look and say too many of this or that.... they're "Racist!!"

LOL You freakin Hypocrite !!!!!!!!!!!! Screw YOU! Go back to the sh*t hole you came from.

Anonymous

Posted Jul 18 2011

Your observations about the team are interesting (and obvious), but you have only diagnosed a symptom of what is wrong with youth soccer in the United States, not any disease itself.

In short, Sunil Gulati and the US Soccer Federation academies AND NCAA squads rely too heavily on private, mainly suburban "select" teams. This is true for men's/ women's/ U-21 and U-17 teams.

Thus, people of color are de facto excluded from consideration for NCAA and national teams as they do not make up a substantial portion of the suburban select teams. The lack of diversity is a symptom of USSF's focus on wealthy suburban teams.

With few programs in areas populated by people of color - rural or urban (futsal, for example) - the team will be tend to be non-diverse. USSF is at fault for not supporting such programs, and civic leaders are at fault - unintentionally, I hope - for not developing them. But, it's the job of Sunil Gulati and USSF to create such programs.

Anonymous

Posted Jul 18 2011

Too many white people, huh? Maybe the best players should play on a team as opposed to the brownest or blackest. Maybe there aren't a lot of "Latinas" because 50% of Hispanic women have a child by the age of 18. Maybe black women don't like soccer as much as white women.

Get a real job and just be honest, please. You are a bigot and a racist except you hate people it is OK to hate (Whites).

Thanks

Anonymous

Posted Jul 19 2011

But, it's the job of Sunil Gulati and USSF to create such programs.

Why? Why isn't the job of people in minority neighborhoods to create strong programs that produce good players? The U.S. team played well with a white-dominated team. Why should they change something that worked?

In many fields (not just athletics), the search for ethnic diversity leads to devaluing accomplishment and talent. (For example, fire departments scrapping standardized tests for hiring, because whites did better, or LAUSD proposing abandoning homework because it's discriminatory) I wouldn't want to see that lamentable feature of modern American society take over here.

There's nothing bad about being white. That's not a flaw that should be eliminated, for no reason at all. The white-dominated team made the world semifinals. (And lost to Team Japan.... hmm, maybe they need diversity, too? Because success isn't enough, after all...)

Anonymous

Posted Jul 19 2011

That uniform does not "belong to all of us." It belongs to the women who worked and practiced for years to get where they are (the World Cup semifinalists.)

If you want to see more minority players, how about you put up some of your money to establishing soccer facilities in minority neighborhoods, instead of begging for someone else to fix your perceived problems?

Why does the USSC have a responsibility to change a strategy that has produced proven results? In the 26 years since the U.S. Women's team debuted, they have won numerous times at the Olympics, the World Cup, and other competitions.

Why is it in the interest of them to change what they have been doing, when what they have been doing works?

Anonymous

Posted Jul 19 2011

I agree there are no blacks on the team. That's why they didn't win. I am happy for Japan.
We don't consider it America's Team.

Anonymous

Posted Jul 19 2011

And the Japanese team, did they lack diversity as well?

If we are to abandon merit in favor of demographic proportionality, let's look at incarceration rates by gender. As 93% of prison inmates are male, we need to "close the gender gap" by having the police concentrate on female perps -- an outreach program if you will.

It won't be "our" prison system until 50% of the inmates are female.

Anonymous

Posted Jul 19 2011

I agree there are no blacks on the team. That's why they didn't win. I am happy for Japan.

Nice use of irony!

Anonymous

Posted Jul 19 2011

Your credibility went out the window when you criticized the diversity of the men's team. It is the most ethnically diverse national team in the world by a mile. The days of fielding a purely suburban white team are long gone.

The 2010 world cup roster had the following:

8 blacks
5 hispanics
2 jews

Right from the opening game, the 11 starters consisted of 5 blacks and 2 hispanics. Whites were in the minority.

Since that world cup, the team has seen the emergence of plenty more blacks and hispanics such as Juan Agudelo (both black and hispanic), Alejandro Bedoya, Omar Gonzalez, Freddy Adu, Teal Bunbury, David Yeldell, Jermaine Jones, Gale Agbossoumonde, Timmy Chandler..... I could keep going but I think you get the point.

On an even deeper level, no other national team in the world has so many players that are first generation sons of immigrants from such a wide variety of nations (this includes the white players). Look into the players backgrounds and you'll see a list resembling that of a United Nations conference.

Anonymous

Posted Jul 19 2011

"But, it's the job of Sunil Gulati and USSF to create such programs."
[u]Why? Why isn't the job of people in minority neighborhoods to create strong programs that produce good players? The U.S. team played well with a white-dominated team. Why should they change something that worked?[/u]

I can't speak to the general issues you've addressed about positive discrimination (a/k/a "affirmative action") and devaluing accomplishment. I agree that rewarding mediocrity for the sake of diversity would not make sense for any business, industry, or sport. But, that would not be necessary in any case under a USSF-backed program as I described.

In short: soccer is a great, pluralist sport because it is so affordable. Children need only ball (or any generally circular object in the third world) and 20 square feet to play on. In tough urban areas of Scotland or slums/ beaches of Brazil, the principle is the same: kids play innovative, possession and passing-oriented street games to learn basic skills very young. That's not the case in the US. The US really deserves a proper futsal development program.

In urban areas of California, Texas, the Rust Belt and the Northeast where the majority of black and Hispanic people live, there is simply not enough boys or girls soccer being played. The USSF relies on plush, well-manicured suburban academy fields for their recruitment and focus, and pay little attention to the suppor of soccer in urban areas. I can't say if that's true of immigrant communities, too.

I believe Gulati and USSF should push programs into urban areas and immigrant communities precisely because soccer is so affordable for such communities and soccer is a natural to grow there.

I believe it is their duty to do so - and not the community's duty to do so - because the community could simply not have goal of developing first-rate players on their own. On this issue, leadership and vision must come from the top. The community may want fun, recreation, children's sports, competition, etc. The USSF's job is to improve the level of play and cultivate the best players nationwide. Currently, it is very selective in doing that and it does not have a 20-year plan at work.

Anonymous

Posted Jul 19 2011

Nonsense !!

Anonymous

Posted Jul 19 2011

Love this all white team!

Anonymous

Posted Jul 19 2011

Love this all white team!

Anonymous

Posted Jul 19 2011

Love this all white team!

chuckie40

Posted Jul 20 2011

Men's team: Maurice Edu, Tim Howard, OguchiI Onyewu, Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Fred Adu, Herculez Gomez, Charlie davies, Edson Buddle, Teal Bundbury (all non white) that's just senior Nat's and just off the top of my head.

Anonymous

Posted Jul 22 2011

Shannon Boxx's father is black. Does that count

sasha666

Posted Jul 25 2011

You may be right about the womens team, but the men's team is very diverse. You should check the roster before making a generalization.

From the US Gold Cup roster (23 players total):

Rimando, Bocanegra, Bornstein, Bedoya, Agudelo: Hispanic (full or partial)
Howard, Onyewu, Adu, Edu, Jones, Altidore: African/African-American (full or partial)

That's 11 out of 23, hardly a cracker-fest

Anonymous

Posted Jul 25 2011

youre right, we should have had more asians on the team if we wanted to win

i think 0 hispanics is a good number considering how early mexico lost

Anonymous

Posted Jul 25 2011

You, Sir, are clueless, allow me to expound:

1) The sole determinant in a team's selection should be skill and not "hues and shades".

2) "There is something deeply amiss in the lack of diversity on both the women's and men's national soccer teams"
The men's team? Juan Agudelo, Freddy Adu, Maurice Edu, Gooch, Bedoya, Bocanegra, Jones, Chandler are either hispanic, black or of mixed race.

Here is a bit of advise from one immigrant to another, a spot in the team should be "deserved" and not "demanded".

-Peace

Anonymous

Posted Jul 25 2011

Spain and Italy won the last two world cup with completely homogenous squads. All Spanish. All Italian. Homogenous teams do better.

Look what France tried to do. They failed miserably.

Anonymous

Posted Jul 25 2011

Who in the fud wrote this piece of shizz?

Anonymous

Posted Jul 26 2011

You lost all credibility when you said the mens team lacked diversity....

Anonymous

Posted Jul 26 2011

what is the big deal. scouts arnt supposed to be sent to look at players and chose them by their race or ethnicity, that is in fact, racist. the nations best players are supposed to be out on the pitch. the nba is 80 something percent black, you dont here people crying for more diversity there. why? because the bes tplayers are in that league, and the majority of the best happen to be black. so your whole argument is a waste of time. by posting this, you make racism and angst towards different races continue to exist.

Anonymous

Posted Jul 30 2011

Can't speak to the women's team as I don't follow it but you are WAY off base on the men's team. It's make-up is extremely diverse.

Anonymous

Posted Jul 31 2011

horrible post! To much ignorance

Anonymous

Posted Aug 1 2011

Yes, we need more gender diversity in our sports too. Why were there no women playing for the men's team? Thanks for uncovering the conspiracy.

Anonymous

Posted Aug 2 2011

Anyone ever heard of suicide fantasy football? i would like some feedback from people who have played.

Anonymous

Posted Aug 22 2011

Have you looked at a USMNT roster in your life?? OVER 50% of the players are NOT WHITE. Considering the fact that OVER 50% of America is non-Hispanic whites, "ethnic people" are NOT being underrepresented. And that is coming from a Mexican. For being so "pro-diversity" I'm offended by the fact that you completely dismissed all of the talented black, Hispanic, and Asian players who have played for our national team within recent years. Do your research next time, thanks.

Anonymous

Posted Nov 26 2011

uninteresting, women, better u just go get apron & play with kitchen stuff

Anonymous

Posted Nov 26 2011

uninteresting, women, better u just go get apron & play with kitchen stuff

Anonymous

Posted Nov 26 2011

uninteresting, women, better u just go get apron & play with kitchen stuff

Anonymous

Posted Nov 26 2011

uninteresting, women, better u just go get apron & play with kitchen stuff

Anonymous

Posted Nov 26 2011

uninteresting, women, better u just go get apron & play with kitchen stuff

Anonymous

Posted Jun 20 2012

Womens soocer from Youth until making the US National team - what is the cost? $50k and up. For club, camps, team travel, regional fees, ODP, uniforms, cleats, etc ... I would bet none of these players come from a low income home. So, you don't neccessarily get the best players just the ones where their parents have the money for this sport. Thats why there's few minorities. If Wambach dad was a trash collector she wouldn't be on this team. You have to have the money to go to these camps to get seen, and trained. Minorities know these!

Anonymous

Posted Jun 20 2012

Womens soccer from Youth until making the US National team - what is the cost? $50k and up. For club, camps, team travel, regional fees, ODP, uniforms, cleats, etc ... I would bet none of these players come from a low income home. So, you don't neccessarily get the best players just the ones where their parents have the money for this sport. Thats why there's few minorities. If Wambach dad was a trash collector she wouldn't be on this team. You have to have the money to go to these camps to get seen, and trained. Minorities know these!

Anonymous

Posted Aug 3 2012

THis representds clear racial and homophobic bias; its the lesbian thing. White lesbians love other white lesbians.. Womens basketball mat have a similar problem (with black lesbians).

The best players in college (Stranford) this past year Lindsay Taylor et al were Black and Hispanic..

Sundridge has a bias for white players..Need to call her out

Disclaimer: Comments do not necessarily reflect the views of New America Media. NAM reserves the right to edit or delete comments. Once published, comments are visible to search engines and will remain in their archives. If you do not want your identity connected to comments on this site, please refrain from commenting or use a handle or alias instead of your real name.