Westminster does not have a women’s club soccer team. Westminster does have a men’s club soccer team. These are not mere observations I have made but rather a disparity I recognized during my first year, which has affected me and every other woman engaged in soccer culture here at Westminster personally.
Thus I have fought to change it. Yet, here I am three years later: a senior and Westminster still hasn’t even attempted to address this disparity.
My second year here, I got fed up with watching all my guy friends take part in the men’s club team knowing I didn’t have the same opportunity. So, I started a petition.
One-hundred and forty signatures in support and 26 signatures of interest in joining a women’s club team later and I slapped it down on the desk of Shay Wyatt, the director of athletics — when I was encouraged to “start an ASW Club and prove interest.”
So without a coach, gear, help with scheduling games or any institutional support (all benefits the men’s club soccer team has), I did.
In March 2018, I held my first team practice. At our height, we had 15 women coming regularly to kick around and play soccer. However, without games to play or even adequate gear to use (I was providing my own and renting from HWAC), everyone got wrapped up in their studies and our team slowly petered out.
Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t because they didn’t want to play soccer. Rather, this was because there was no point in practicing if we were never going to be able to compete, which is only possible with the same institutional support that the men’s team receives.
Our efforts were futile because we were overlooked and undervalued by Westminster. At the time, I was a full-time, 19-year-old student working nearly 30 hours a week, doing Westminster’s job for them on the side.
It was nothing short of frustrating, exhausting and unfair. And all the while, my male counterparts could just waltz in to practice whenever it was convenient for them and regardless of whether or not they attended, they were almost always guaranteed playing time in their scheduled games.
I refused to give up, though. At the end of last year, I officially joined the men’s club soccer team and have attended every practice and game since then, actively participating in both.
So that’s it, right? I got my wish. I get to play soccer. The fight is over? Not at all. What about all of the other women who either currently attend or will attend Westminster that deserve a chance to play soccer in a competitive and comfortable environment?
Will it also take them three years to figure out how to wiggle their way into a spot on the men’s club soccer team? Does this mean that only one girl every four years will get to play club soccer here at Westminster?
As much as I love all the guys on the team, I shouldn’t have to resort to playing with them as a result of Westminster actively failing to provide me with an equal opportunity.
Furthermore, it’s beyond difficult to play competitive soccer as the only woman with a bunch of men, and certainly not because I am lacking in skill.
Have you ever been on a field where your coach stops to fix your diagonal run, and suddenly every single guy is simultaneously explaining to you what a diagonal run is (even though you have known what that is for 10 years)?
Have you ever been on a field where even when you do make a perfect diagonal run nobody passes to you because they silently doubt your abilities? Have you ever felt everyone’s eyes shift to you because you are the only woman on the field?
Just take a second, whatever your gender identity is, and try to understand it’s beyond intimidating. Not because I can’t play soccer, not because I am afraid to play soccer, but because on a male-dominated field nobody believes I, a female, am good enough.
I haven’t played outdoor soccer in four years because Westminster was too busy giving that opportunity to men. You’re damn right that my diagonal runs are going to need some adjusting, my cardiovascular endurance some work, and my field sense some time to catch up after four years of collecting dust.
This doesn’t mean I’m not capable, it just means I need to practice. Unfortunately, this is something that is incredibly difficult to do when my only opportunity to play is on the men’s team.
There is a solution, though. There is a way to make sure that no woman at Westminster, present or future, ever has to fight as hard as I have to play a sport that is so accessible to the men on our campus.
Westminster needs to start a women’s club soccer team.
I am sick of Westminster watching me struggle relentlessly for such a simple opportunity that they’ve made readily available to men. It’s beyond time that I have my opportunity to show up to practice without having to put in hours of work behind the scenes to secure the field, plan the practice, track down gear and advertise to women on campus.
I want to be coached, not to be the coach. I want to play soccer without concern of what 21 other men on the field are thinking of me. I want to play soccer with the other badass women at Westminster who I know also want to play soccer with each other.
I am sick of waiting. I am sick of putting in hard work for over three years without Westminster acknowledging the inequality that I am battling.
So Westminster, now is the time that I ask: after three years, will you finally hear me? More importantly, will you finally act? Will you start a women’s club soccer team to parallel the men’s?