How can Abuse in Women’s Soccer be fixed?

Liliana Jamenez

Mana Shim, a former National Women’s Soccer League, will chair the U.S. Soccer Federation’s task force to prevent the abuse and harassment of women that was found to be systemic in the sport. There are many signs of abuse in girls’ soccer. For example, one of the N.W.S.L coaches called in one of his players to hear the review of the game but instead showed her pornography, another was notorious at the highest levels of women’s soccer for alternately berating his players and then quizzing them about their sex lives, a third coach coerced multiple players into sexual relationships that were so disturbing that he was fired from the team. After finding all those allegations they then started an investigation and found that there was sexual misconduct, verbal abuse, and emotional abuse caused by coaches in the game’s top tier in the National Women’s Soccer League, some of the girls even mentioned facing abuse in youth soccer as well. 

Some of the reasons why none of the girls spoke up about the abuse is because they were afraid  of not being heard by others and were more concerned about being sued by coaches or about the teetering finances of women’s professional soccer than player welfare


After the investigation, it was very noticeable that Abuse in the National Women’s Soccer League is rooted in a deeper culture in women’s soccer, beginning in youth leagues, that normalizes verbally abusive coaching and blurs boundaries between coaches and players


Last year, there were reports in The Athletic and The Washington Post that detailed accusations of sexual and verbal abuse against coaches in the women’s league. After the news media reports, games were postponed as furious players protested publicly, and after the protest, league executives resigned and were fired. Weeks after that, half of the 10-team league’s coaches had been linked to allegations of abuse, and some of the world’s top players had recounted their own stories of mistreatment.

Cindy Parlow Cone, a U.S. Soccer president and a former member of the national team, said she found all these reports “devastating and infuriating.” Cone also said there are “systemic failures within soccer that must be corrected,” and that the federation would immediately implement a number of the report’s recommendations. That list of the recommendations said that in some cases “women’s league, including making a public list of individuals suspended or barred by U.S. Soccer, meaningfully vetting coaches when licensing them, requiring investigations into accusations of abuse, making clear policies and rules around acceptable behavior and conduct, and hiring player safety officers, among other requirements”. 

Another article stated that the report said the sport does little to train athletes and coaches about harassment, retaliation, and fraternization. It noted that “overwhelming” numbers of players, coaches, and U.S. Soccer staff members remarked that “women players are conditioned to accept and respond to abusive coaching behaviors as youth players.” 


Others started to wonder if it would be a better idea to discipline the team owners, or just take away their teams, but all abuse in women’s soccer should be stopped, even if it’s emotional abuse or verbal abuse.