For families like mine, September doesn’t just mean back to school – it also means back to soccer. My oldest daughter, 15, adopted from India, has just begun her first season of high school ball. Although my younger son, 14, and daughter, 13, both adopted from Ethiopia, play soccer year-round for competitive clubs, it gets more intense in the fall as we try to juggle school, homework and family time with the grind of practice and weekly games.
Soccer has shaped the rhythm of our family’s life for almost a decade, and yet, year after year, team after team, across the two states we’ve lived in, my children end up racial minorities on the pitch. The kids never complain, but they notice, and as a mom, I worry, especially for my girls.
This summer at the Olympics, the women of Team USA emerged as the games’ brightest stars. From gymnastics to swimming to track and field and beyond, little girls discovered role model after role model. For girls of color, watching athletes such as Simone Biles, Allyson Felix and Simone Manuel triumph proved particularly inspiring. Rio showcased America’s strides toward gender equality and racial inclusion in athletics. But as a soccer mom of players of color, I couldn’t help but note that the United States’ less-than-diverse soccer squad was the women’s team that stumbled in competition.
Let me be clear: Like President Obama, I know that the hardworking players on our women’s national team are “badasses.” I’m a huge fan. But I’m also not the first to remark on the problematic nature of the team’s perpetually homogeneous roster.