Sports have been known to improve our health and happiness since, at least, the days of the ancient Greeks. They help to keep our minds and bodies in good shape. They operate as a social glue. They help young people in honing their life skills and, in some cases, can even reduce crime. In short, sports have the power to transform people's lives.
Despite the lifelong positive impact, by age 14, young girls are dropping out of sports at twice the rate of boys. There are many contributing factors that influence girls' experiences with sports and why they choose to leave. A commonly named factor is a lack of positive role models.
Images of external beauty are constantly bombarding the girls and women in our society today. Female athletes as role models provide a counter-narrative to that image. It's important for girls to see strong, confident female athletes. Peer pressure can also be difficult for girls of any age. When that pressure isn't countered with strong encouragement to participate in sports and healthy physical activity, the results can lead to girls dropping out entirely.
This void allows for the opportunity to promote gender equality through sports by instilling values such as teamwork, self-reliance, resilience, and confidence. Women in sports defy gender stereotypes and social norms, serve as inspirational role models, and demonstrate gender equality. It is also worth noting that women are underrepresented in coaching and sports leadership. Gender bias must be eliminated, and women must be given equal access to leadership positions in order to effect change.
Amanda Powers, President of FC Tucson has taken on the challenge of increasing the visibility of women in sports. Amanda was named the first President of FC Tucson in January 2020, becoming only the second woman to lead a men's professional soccer team in the United States. In already uncharted territory, the COVID pandemic changed the way she and every sports organization operated just three months into her tenure. Amanda saw this as an opportunity to make a lasting impact on the Tucson community.
"If being a woman in soccer is a unique benchmark that can inspire other women, awesome. I just want to leave a mark on a community in a positive way. "
Amanda created FC Tucson's Community Corner Initiative with the goal of reaching out to Tucson's youth and giving them an opportunity to experience the positive impact of sports. She hopes that the experience instills in them a sense of the virtues of kindness, generosity, innovation, and community, as well as a love of sports. FC Tucson is also currently collaborating with Pass it On, an Arizona non-profit organization that collects new and gently used sports equipment and clothing for children in need.
"This alliance is a unique opportunity for our community to come together and eliminate the barriers facing kids who would love to play youth sports. Tucson is one of the most generous communities I’ve ever been a part of, and we’re excited to play our part in helping to keep kids active and healthy. "
Her priority over the last year has been to define and build a team culture that will empower and inspire innovation in the Tucson community. Amanda sees herself as a community activist, evidence-based strategist, and unapologetic visionary who also happens to work in the soccer industry. In her opinion, soccer clubs in the United Soccer League (USL) can and do serve as catalysts for positive change in the communities they represent.
Thank you, Amanda, for challenging us to reflect on our organizational contributions to the Tucson community.