When I first saw this message from Christina Lorella of South Tacoma United, I thought it was just a story pitch about a local soccer team and, to be honest, I wasn’t terribly interested. We don’t do a lot of sports coverage. After reading through it, though, I realized it was about more than just a soccer team. It was about pushing back against a stark injustice that has persisted in spite of this season of reckoning that we’ve all been living through for the last year and a half.
The following is Christina’s message, edited slightly for clarity:
I am a board member for South Tacoma United Soccer Club and a parent on the team coached by a volunteer named Vicente Lemus. Recently, our girls 2008 team won both the state championship and then the US Club National Cup Regionals for the northwest region. With that win, we were invited to compete in the national championship in Colorado.
These girls have defied all odds. Youth soccer has become a pay-to-play world, where those with money are invited to the top clubs and it is there that they receive the recognition they need to advance their careers and earn scholarships. Unfortunately, the athletes who cannot afford those programs either don’t bother trying or are overlooked for someone who can pay.
As Doug Andreassen, the chairman of US Soccer’s diversity task force, explained, he sees “well-to-do families spending thousands of dollars a year on soccer clubs that propel their children to the sport’s highest levels, while thousands of gifted athletes in mostly African American and Latino neighborhoods get left behind.” Andreassen “worries about this inequity. Soccer is the world’s great democratic game, whose best stars have come from the world’s slums, ghettos and favelas. And yet in the US the path to the top is often determined by how many zeroes a parent can write in their checkbook.” (It’s only working for the white kids’: American soccer’s diversity problem. The Guardian, 2016.) For this reason, youth from underserved communities are almost always left out of the equation.
Our club is different. At South Tacoma United, our highly talented coaches volunteer their time and energy to keep our rates affordable. We are a 501 (c)(3) who works hard to fundraise throughout the year, believing that every child should have the opportunity to play the game of soccer, regardless of ability to pay.
However, the more people we help, the tougher it can be to cover our expenses. Evolution has talent that is unmatched by other local teams. An invitation to a national championship is no easy feat, even for the pay-to-play club, and it is something most kids could only dream of achieving. These girls have all the talent in the world but require the support of their community to make this dream a reality. Evolution is comprised almost entirely of girls of color, many of whom are Latinx, and who come from working-class homes.
These girls deserve recognition for the barriers they have overcome. An invitation to a national championship is no easy feat, even for the pay-to-play clubs and these girls have fought obstacle after obstacle to get here.
For example, many of the girls speak Spanish in their homes. On multiple occasions, they (or other teams in our club) have been told they should not or could not speak in Spanish by the referees. Other times, we have been denied placement in the highest leagues, even after winning our seasons by a landslide, simply because our club is small and does not have the funds or the resources to hire coaches or board members with certain licenses.
The other reason is that our club is too small and doesn’t bring in enough money. Bureaucracy in youth sports is rampant, and almost everything about youth soccer favors white athletes from affluent homes while leaving athletes of color behind. This team has fought through it all and won every single one of their games against teams both their own age and years higher, just in a battle to prove their worth. And now is their chance to show the world who they are as representatives of the State of Washington.
Donate to the GoFundme campaign here and follow them on Facebook here.
All funds raised will be used for:
Travel-related expenses for Evolution players and coach (airfare, hotels, transportation, food)
Player equipment and gear
Any additional costs accrued as a result of the national tournament
South Tacoma United is a 501 (c) (3) organization. Donors to our Club are able to deduct contributions under Internal Revenue Code Section 170. EIN: 47-4267310 | Tacoma, WA, United States