Arlington Soccer Club (ASC) believes that soccer is for everyone. Our goal is to create a welcoming sports environment that reflects the rich diversity of our community. To better achieve this goal, we are learning how to become a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization.
DEI Goals at ASC
In early 2021, ASC conducted an internal analysis of 2019 participant registration data to examine the state of DEI-related issues within our club. In the summer of 2021, ASC convened a DEI Committee to begin identifying priority areas for future DEI efforts. Over the subsequent year, the committee sought input from town DEI officials, local DEI stakeholders, and regional and state soccer officials. This informed the development and refinement of the following initial DEI goals and associated action steps:
1) To improve gender diversity among ASC coaches.
Over 40% of ASC players are female, but only 20% of ASC coaches are female.
- Women’s pick-up soccer: ASC Director of Coaching, Paige Forster, has started a weekly pick-up soccer event for Arlington women that has been regularly attended by more than 50 players. This serves as an entry point for greater involvement and empowerment of women in the Arlington soccer community.
- Coaching certifications: ASC regularly hosts a range of subsidized grassroots coaching license courses in partnership with Mass Youth Soccer Association and encourages women to participate in these courses. Future coach education courses will be dedicated specifically to women coaches.
- Messaging: ASC has developed coach recruitment messaging that explicitly calls for women volunteers.
2) To increase the racial and socioeconomic diversity of ASC participants.
Internal data suggest that ASC participation rates are lower at Arlington schools that are more racially and socioeconomically diverse.
- Fee waivers: ASC has a longstanding policy of offering fee waivers to families in need. The club will continue its efforts to raise awareness and reduce stigma around this policy in partnership with local school officials and other community stakeholders.
- Lowering registration barriers: In addition to the above financial barriers, ASC will examine the impact of non-financial barriers to registration and participation (e.g., digital access, English language proficiency, lack of transportation) and explore strategies for mitigating these barriers.
- Free afterschool clinics: ASC is exploring opportunities to organize free afterschool soccer sessions at local elementary schools to help foster community awareness of the club and to lower the barriers to participation.
- Collaboration with DIGs: ASC aims to collaborate with school-based Diversity and Inclusion Groups in Arlington to better reach excluded or marginalized groups.
3) To develop and deliver adaptive soccer programming for participants with intellectual, emotional, and/or physical differences.
About 16% of Arlington Public School students have a disability. Some of these youth may not be well served by current ASC programming.
- TOPSoccer: In Spring 2022, ASC piloted a free TOPSoccer program for 5- to 18-year old players with intellectual, emotional, and/or physical disabilities. The success of this pilot program prompted the ASC Board of Directors to vote unanimously in favor of making TOPSoccer a routine part of ASC’s Fall and Spring programming.
- Statewide collaboration: ASC is now a MYSA TOPSoccer community and will continue to collaborate with state soccer officials and member communities to enhance access to soccer for people of all ability levels in Arlington and across Massachusetts.
4) To foster community engagement in support of the greater good.
ASC believes that sport can be a vehicle for building and enriching our broader community and that ASC participants can make positive community contributions both on and off the field of play.
- Arlington EATS: ASC is embarking on a relationship with Arlington EATS to raise awareness about hunger in our community and to encourage food donations among ASC participants who are able to do so.
- Volunteerism: ASC continues to expand its volunteer opportunities for middle and high school-age players, including participation as a volunteer ‘buddy’ in the TOPSoccer program or volunteering as an assistant coach for an ASC team.
- Gear swap and donations: ASC plans to explore avenues for enhancing access to soccer gear by hosting periodic gear swap events, creating an online forum for posting and/or learning about free gear, and organizing gear donations to redistribution programs.
5) To establish a culture of DEI at ASC.
ASC recognizes that fostering DEI should not be a one-time reactive effort but rather an intentional, proactive, and ongoing process that is interwoven into organizational operations.
- Education and awareness: ASC has engaged with a variety of community partners to plan the work described above. We will work to foster open lines of communication with these and other stakeholders, advisors, and consultants to educate ourselves on DEI best practices.
- Implicit bias training: ASC has mandated implicit bias training for all Board members and has recommended this training for Arlington referees and coaches. In addition, ASC is currently working with BAYS to improve pregame player check-in practices to reduce stigma around name pronunciation and/or name preference.
- Communication and reporting: ASC is working to create clearer avenues for reporting DEI-related concerns raised by players and families while building the capacity to respond to these concerns in a timely and appropriate manner.
- Listening sessions: ASC plans to host listening sessions to engage and learn from community members about how to do a better job of conducting its DEI work and cultivating a true sense of belonging for everyone.
- Inclusive imagery: ASC will examine ways to better incorporate images of diversity, acceptance, allyship, and inclusion throughout its digital platforms as well as in its club merchandise offerings.
- MYSA collaboration: ASC has engaged with Mass Youth Soccer Association around its DEI efforts and plans to partner with MYSA on future DEI initiatives at the state and local level.
- Board membership: ASC is committed to improving the diversity of its Board of Directors to better achieve the goals and action items described above.
ASC is a volunteer-based non-profit youth sports organization dedicated to the advancement of soccer in Arlington, Massachusetts. Each year, ASC provides more than 2,000 youth ages 4-19 an opportunity to play organized soccer through fall, winter, spring, and summer programming. Implementing the club’s DEI workplan will require time and the continued support of our soccer community. Our hope and expectation is that all of us – players, families, coaches, managers, directors, and staff – will work collectively to uphold these values and achieve these goals. There is much work to be done, and this is just the beginning. ASC will periodically revisit and update its DEI workplan to ensure that it reflects the most pressing needs of our soccer community. We welcome you to join us on this journey of learning and improvement.
DEI in US Soccer
In July 2020, US Soccer formed a DEI Council as part of an effort to foster a culture of acceptance, inclusion, and respect within the sport of soccer. ASC embraces US Soccer’s operating definitions of diversity, equity, and inclusion:
The variety of personal experiences that forms one’s values and world views that arise from differences of culture and circumstance. Such differences include race, color, religion, national origin, disability, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or veteran status.
Fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of marginalized groups.
The act of creating environments in which any individual or group can feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued. An inclusive climate embraces differences and offers respect in words and actions so that all people can fully participate and actively contribute.