As US Soccer is in the process of choosing a new president, things need to keep operating as they attempt to pick a new leader of the organization. One such thing is coaching education and some coaches within the top men’s and women’s leagues and national teams got to undergo a 12-month long program that is the top level of US Soccer’s coaching program.
This is the second pro course and 17 coaches from MLS, NWSL, USL, NASL and both senior US national teams took part in, and passed the course. That’s great and all but lead coaching instructor Wim van Zwam gave a rather inadvertent tone-deaf statement about the program and its diversity.
“What made this group immediately special was the diversity of coaches,” van Zwam said. “With MLS head coaches and assistant coaches, a USL head coach, a NASL head coach, a NWSL head coach, a U.S. Men’s National assistant coach and our Women’s National Team head coach in Jill Ellis, it made for a very interesting group to work with. From the beginning, this group learned to be very open in sharing information. They bought in to the club visits, an environment where they are not used to someone looking over their shoulder. This group made sacrifices in order to make themselves better and those around them.”
As you can see in the above pic, USWNT head coach Jill Ellis is the lone female in this group of 17. The other 16 coaches are white men and it’s been a lack of diversity in certain areas of US Soccer, namely in coaching and youth development, that the organization has been trying to figure out how to improve on.
Maybe I’m being too hard on van Zwam because within full context, the quote somewhat makes sense. Van Zwam meant that these coaches coach in different leagues and with different teams that they were able to share a variety of experiences. But saying the word “diversity” when US Soccer has been slowly solving diversity issues and the vast majority of people are going to picture “diversity” as race and gender differences (like any other situation) rather than coaching differences, that quote isn’t going to be taken the way US Soccer may think it would be taken. And that’s if the quote is within context. Take it out of context and read it as, “What made this group immediately special was the diversity of coaches,” and it sounds even worse.
In a time where current presidential candidates have pointed out how US Soccer has a transparency problem, and that US Soccer is changing the roles of the job of the president after current President Sunil Gulati decided not to run just compound to some of the issues facing US Soccer and it’s because of this that many fans don’t really trust them to do what’s right for soccer in America, even if some of the things they do have the best of intentions.
The elephant in the room cannot be ignored, the top coaching jobs in American soccer are held by white men. Even in NWSL, just three of ten teams have female head coaches. And this class was for top coaches in the top leagues of US Soccer. So when the vast majority of the coaching positions on top teams are held by white men, I can’t be surprised that a class consisting of coaches in the top leagues is going to be filled with white men.
But nowhere in this discussion of this class should the word “diversity” be said even if that was meant to have a different meaning. It easily causes a sense of tone-deafness that isn’t going to look good even in the best context. No doubt the day will come that the top head coaching soccer jobs will be more diverse and let’s hope that day is sooner rather than later. But at the moment, if you want to describe the different forms of experience these coaches have, say it like that instead.
[US Soccer Federation/Photo: US Soccer Federation]