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Soccer Club Sees Incredible Results with High Levels of Female Leadership

Soccer Club Winning a Championship Game

North Whidbey Soccer Club (NWSC) provides services on Whidbey Island, about two hours northwest of Seattle when the traffic is good, or the ferry runs on time. It’s a place where outdoor adventures are everywhere.

NWSC is headquartered in Oak Harbor. About 25,000 people live in the area, but the neighbors constantly rotate. NAS Whidbey Island is home to all the Navy’s tactical electronic attack squadrons that fly the EA-18G Growler. [[1]] [[2]]

“You can see the jets flying overhead with almost every practice,” notes Beth Sandlin. “It teaches you to show kids how to play soccer, more than talking about it.”

Sandlin coaches the U6 and U8 age groups in NWSC’s soccer academy. She’s also an assistant coach on the U14 traveling competitive team where her two boys play.

Slate Magazine featured Oak Harbor in a 2013 profile piece as “A Town Without Dads.” In a small community, almost everyone who coaches soccer is a volunteer. That means you see many moms stepping up to be coaches, teachers, and board members. [[3]]

Sandlin says she sees the impact of fathers on duty and mothers at home every day. “We have little ones come to our program and all they want are hugs because they’re missing someone. What we do goes beyond soccer. We’re creating a support system that helps a family handle all the difficulties that come when one parent is away for an extended time.”

Monica Grant is the soccer club’s Director of Public Relations. She just recently started coaching the three- and four-year-olds in the academy program. “What I love about soccer is the family component that comes with this sport. People know that when you step onto the pitch, someone has your back because they’re your teammate.”

Grant smiles. “I get to teach that at the earliest ages our club supports, and you can see that it makes a real difference for the kids and the parents alike.”

Over 50% of the Coaches and Leaders Are Women

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Data released by FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) shows that about 7% to 10% of active coaches in soccer/football globally are women. At North Whidbey Soccer Club, that figure hovers around 50% most years. [[1]]

Even in male-dominated competition programs, NWSC maintains that ratio. During the 2021-22 season, they have three men and three women as head coaches.

Sandlin’s husband is the club’s academy director and the head coach of her family’s competitive team. “What I love about this opportunity is that we get to spend time together while creating a soccer family that is all-inclusive,” she says. “If you want to play this game, you join our family and we make it happen.”

NWSC even maintains the male-to-female ratio in leadership.

Sandlin says that many fathers want to get involved, but their orders or responsibilities often make it difficult or impossible to volunteer. “We had a dad who was going to help this year, but then his orders came two months early. He just got back last week, which means he missed almost the entire competitive season for his son.” [[2]]

“When so many families are making sacrifices to keep everyone safe,” Sandlin says, “the least we can do is volunteer to teach soccer – which means teaching essential life skills.”

The Results for NWSC Speak for Themselves

Even though NWSC is a relatively small soccer club compared to Seattle, Tacoma, or even nearby Mount Vernon, the kids still compete at high levels.

This year, the club’s U12 girls team finished in second place in a statewide tournament. The U10 boys team competed in the highest division possible in a similar competition. Women coach both teams.

If you skip the COVID year when competitions weren’t held, NWSC has placed at least one team in a state cup final in two consecutive years.

For the regional tournaments entered during the year, the club experienced multiple finals across multiple teams. The girl's U10 and U14 teams both brought home trophies.

The wins are memorable, but it’s the work that takes place before games where everything starts.

“The joy we see each time kids come out to play soccer is what brings me back,” says Sandlin. “They can be having a terrible day, missing their mom or dad on deployment or a friend that moved away. When they get a soccer ball and start playing, they can be themselves – even if it’s only for an hour or two. Being a part of something like that is something we all treasure.

Don’t call them soccer moms. They’re soccer coaches, and they’re pretty darn good at what they do.

[[1]] https://www.oakharbor.org ; [[2]] https://www.cnic.navy.mil/regions/cnrnw/installations/nas_whidbey_island.html; [[3]] https://slate.com/human-interest/2013/06/a-town-without-fathers-our-dads-were-american-heroes-but-they-were-never-around.html; [[4]] https://www.thelily.com/the-ranks-of-female-soccer-coaches-are-growing-but-not-without-pushback/ ; [[5]] https://www.whidbeynewstimes.com/news/fatherhero-dads-final-act-was-to-save-his-family/

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