Coming Full Circle: Celebrating the BWPC, DC SCORES, and the DC Soccer Initiative

Washington Spirit  |   June 11, 2024
Coming Full Circle: Celebrating the BWPC, DC SCORES, and the DC Soccer Initiative Featured Image

On Wednesday, June 5, defender Waniya Hudson and representatives from the Washington Spirit joined leaders from the Black Women’s Player Collective (BWPC) and DC SCORES to celebrate the collective work of the three organizations.

The Black Women’s Player Collective, commonly referred to as “BWPC,” is a non-profit organization created by Black women in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in 2020. It aims to shift the narrative around Black women in soccer through mentorship, education, and community development.

In 2022, BWPC helped open a mini-pitch at Hendley Elementary School in Ward Eight of Washington, D.C. as part of the D.C. Soccer Initiative when the NWSL Championship was held at Audi Field. Two years later, they returned to Hendley for an afternoon of play.

Mini-pitches are smaller, hard-court soccer areas that allow athletes room to play within a limited space. The pitch built at Hendley has provided the students a safe place to practice, play games, and try their hand at technical soccer skills.

“Access to soccer is something that is important to us – access and to make sure it’s inclusive. The mini-pitch initiative was a great way for us to be able to bring soccer to communities.” BWPC Executive Director, Afia Amobeaa-Sakyi said.

Inaccessibility to soccer fields is a common problem for schools throughout underprivileged areas of Washington, including many in Ward Eight. A majority of Black or diverse schools often lack the funding to support a soccer program for their students without help from outside organizations.

Enter BWPC, DC SCORES and the Washington Spirit. A long-term community partner of the Spirit, DC SCORES is the District chapter of America Scores, a non-profit organization that combines poetry, soccer, and community service for their “poet-athletes.” The Spirit and DC SCORES worked together to find a way to follow up the work of the BWPC to get sustained programming at the school. Hendley added DC SCORES’ programming at the beginning of this past school year and have had more than 30 poet-athletes join the team.

“Part of the program is really to bring the joy of soccer to communities and kids that are left out of that play-to-play model. It’s so important to be in schools like Hendley because they are in Ward Eight, where a lot of traditional soccer organizations aren’t super invested in the community,” said DC SCORES Director of Site Management and Evaluation Klu Clougherty.

“We wanted to really highlight Hendley’s mini pitch because Hendley doesn’t have a soccer field. We wanted to make sure they had a safe place to play after school,” said Clougherty.

BWPC builds pitches near their player representatives so that young girls can talk directly with the athletes they look up to and who look like them. Additionally, DC SCORES provides transportation for every Spirit game, while the Spirit provides free tickets for every participant who attends.

The BWPC has a network of over 50 athletes in the NWSL including the Spirit’s record-breaking rookie, Croix Bethune who serves as the Spirit’s BWPC ambassador.

“Our player representatives are our voice. They are our heart. They are our heartbeat. They are really why we have this organization; without them, we wouldn’t be in existence,” said Amobeaa-Sakyi.

According to Amobeaa-Sakyi, the Spirit helped execute this initiative in a community that would be impacted the most, creating connections and building relationships.

“It’s super important to bring an event like this to a school that really loves going to the games and loves to watch the players on and off the field too. Especially with Croix (Bethune), Casey (Kreuger), and (Ouleye) Sarr too, it’s huge to see those players. Their faces light up when they come over to see them at the end of the game,” said Clougherty.

While this was the first event the trio collaborated on, their respective leadership teams say it won’t be the last.

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