16 Jul 19
Santa Cruz Sentinel
MONTEREY — Reverberations from the national women’s soccer team’s push for equal pay and equal opportunity could be felt at Cal State-Monterey Bay last weekend.
On Friday, approximately 150 girls ages 9-18 participated in the Chevron Soccer Academy, a collaboration between the gasoline company and Washington D.C.-based Open Goal Project as an antidote for the current “pay-to-play” model of youth soccer in America.
“We see it everywhere,” said Amir Lowery, executive director of the Open Goal Project. “There’s college ID camps, but they’re often around $250. Some people can afford it, but not everyone. For a kid who’s working or trying to help support their family, it’s an extra cost that’s just not going to happen.”
Iconic former World Cup player Brandi Chastain signs a ball for campers at the Chevron Soccer Academy for boys and girls at Cal State-Monterey Bay on Friday. The traveling youth camp was established as an antidote to the current â€œpay-to-playâ€ model of youth soccer in America.Tommy Lau, Chevron/contributed
Who better to carry the message that kids can make it on the soccer pitch than Brandi Chastain, the iconic player who 20 years ago became a household name after she celebrated the United States’ victory in the FIFA Women’s World Cup by ripping off her shirt and sprinting around the field in her sports bra? Chastain served as a coach in the program alongside fellow pros Lauren Sesselman, Clarence Goodson, Víctor Bernárdez and Tristan Bowen.
Chastain noted the unique training opportunity for all the girls on hand on a cool, foggy afternoon in Monterey.
“This is another environment where you can give girls a chance to let go of the restraints in their lives,” Chastain said. “They’ve been told in their community they can’t be fast or strong or take risks. This platform might be the most vital of what Chevron is bringing to these communities. Sometimes, as young women, we’re afraid to really go for things. If we’re not perfect, we don’t want to try. It’s really important that we tell these girls that it’s OK to miss, but it’s also OK to make it.”
Iconic former World Cup player Brandi Chastain is introduced to campers at the Chevron Soccer Academy for boys and girls at Cal State-Monterey Bay on Friday. The traveling youth camp was established as an antidote to the current â€œpay-to-playâ€ model of youth soccer in America.Tommy Lau, Chevron/contributed
About 300 boys and girls attended the three-day camp. Chevron and Open Goal Project have staged these camps in areas that may not have adequate representation at the collegiate and national soccer levels. The Monterey camp was their fourth such partnership. Previous sites included Fresno, Bakersfield and Los Angeles.
Players for the Monterey camp came from cities such as Watsonville, which has high schools that have thrived in soccer yet have failed to produce a representative number of collegiate and professional players. Chevron communications adviser Leah Casey said she hopes that this event will combat that problem in areas such as Watsonville.
“This event is important to us because it gives kids who may come from under-resourced communities a great opportunity,” Casey said. “What we’re seeing more and more in soccer is that those kids who have the means and the time can play at higher levels of play, and we feel that this is an opportunity for kids at all levels, regardless of family income, to get the necessary skills to advance in soccer and learn about STEM.”
Campers at the Chevron Soccer Academy for boys and girls at Cal State-Monterey Bay scrimmage Sunday, July 14, 2019. The traveling youth camp, which featured an appearance by iconic former World Cup player Brandi Chastain, was established as an antidote to the current â€œpay-to-playâ€ model of youth soccer in America.Tommy Lau, Chevron/contributed
In addition to hands-on soccer instruction, several educational and training booths were set up on site emphasizing science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Examples of included kick-velocity, shot-accuracy and agility trackers. Though the game of soccer is often mistakenly viewed as being relatively simple, Chastain noted how the scientific side of soccer is an undervalued yet essential aspect of the beautiful game.
“We’re talking about things like how fast the ball travels, how fast you can run and even how the surface you play on alters the friction of the ball to either slow the ball down or accelerate it,” Chastain said. “There’s a lot of thinking happening out here. Soccer’s not a game for dummies, per say. It’s a completely cerebral game. You have to be constantly thinking, so we’re challenging the kids here to not only kick the ball and run, but make decisions and evaluate speed and distance.”
In addition to changing the way soccer players think about the way they approach the game, Chevron and the Open Goal Project hope that providing an entertaining platform to learn about STEM subjects will promote interest for academic fields that often are predominantly filled with men.
Former pro soccer players Clarence Goodson, center, and VÃctor BernÃ¡rdez, center back, pal around with campers at the Chevron Soccer Academy for boys and girls at Cal State-Monterey Bay on Friday. The traveling youth camp, which featured an appearance by iconic former World Cup player Brandi Chastain, was established as an antidote to the current â€œpay-to-playâ€ model of youth soccer in America.Tommy Lau, Chevron/contributed
“This camp is our way of giving back,” Casey said. “It gives us a way to introduce kids to the game of soccer, as well as STEM, in a fun and exciting way. It’s really important to give these kids the opportunity to think about the science behind the sport they love. It’s been really great, and hopefully it’ll inspire them to think a little bit deeper about their soccer careers and their professional careers.”
In the wake of the U.S.’s victory in the 2019 Women’s World Cup, talk of wage disparity between male and female athletes has become a national topic of discussion. Though this camp is primarily focused on finding ways to get boys and girls of all walks of life playing, there’s no denying the impact of the American women’s teams’ success.
“We’re excited, and it’s not just because we won the game,” Chastain said. “I think what happens when our team is successful is that we have a chance to stand on a really strong platform, and people will listen. We’ve been talking about equal pay with the national team for a long time, especially with the 1999 team. This isn’t a new concept. Even though it feels really new to a lot of people and the general public, we didn’t have social media back then to share this message, but it’s happening now. Because this year’s team won, they get to continue the journey to make sure that young girls like the ones at this camp and the generation after them have a place where people will value them for what they’re bringing, not who they are.”