The Case for Showing Up: Ida B. Wells Middle School

Washington Spirit  |   March 13, 2024
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According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, by 14 years of age, girls drop out of sports at almost double the rate of boys. We were unsurprised to hear that in 2022, DC SCORES was facing a similar issue with participation amongst their middle school girls’ teams. While this problem is structural in nature, we knew the Spirit was better positioned then most to help close this gap. And like with all big problems, we started small.


Starting in the spring of 2023 the Community Impact (CI) team including Zoe, Community Impact Manager, and Maya, Grassroots Marketing Manager, attended at least one practice a week for the Ida B. Wells Middle School girls DC SCORES soccer team. Despite barely having enough girls to form a team just a few seasons prior, the Wolves were a developing program that was creating space for many of the girls to play organized soccer for the first time. The intention behind providing the team at Ida B. Wells with more support was to measure the impact of simply showing up for the girls. Zoe and Maya helped to grow the girls’ confidence, improve their tactical skills, advance their soccer knowledge, practice life skills, and were able to assist the coaches in soccer operations.


Many poet-athletes found themselves wanting additional training time even after the conclusion of practice and sought help from the Spirit staff. One player even requested Maya walk her onto the field for her “Senior Night” game because of the bond the two had formed. Roughly 10 players signed up for the Open Goal summer camp after Zoe informed the coaches of different opportunities for the girls to keep playing. One player was then recruited to play on the Open Goal travel team based on her performance in camp. The girls continuously asked about the Spirit players and looked forward to attending our games.


Then in the fall of 2023, under the lights at Audi Field, the team became the DC SCORES’ middle school champions for the first time in program history. This spring more than 60 girls signed up to play.


Showing up for this one team didn’t fix the structural issue that exists across sports, nor did it fix middle school in DC. But it did impact the pipeline at one school, and this spring Maya will once again use this model at another school to help slowly build pipelines that sustain opportunity and access.


On the organization’s roadmap, DC SCORES hopes to leverage its success at middle schools such as Ida B. Wells to champion girls’ participation in sports and support high schools to build a soccer pipeline from the current pay-to-play model which hinders the participation of underserved communities and minority populations. By partnering with DC SCORES, the Spirit look to increase the number of girls playing soccer and build relationships with our neighbors that allow us to focus on physical and mental health.


With the guidance of DC SCORES, the Spirit are targeting sites that feed into poor performing DCPS girls high school soccer teams as part of our continuing commitment to building pipelines.

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