According to The Los Angeles Times, nearly three-fourths of coaches in youth athletics are male even though females make up nearly half of the athletes participating in youth sports.
These statistics are something Davis Legacy Soccer Club is trying to change, especially in its grassroots program, which kicks off its third season later this month, serving roughly 300 players across the U8 development program and the U10-U14 recreational program.
Last spring, the majority of coaches working in this program were women as 16 different female role models worked with the youngest age groups at the club, with seven more set to lead for the fall season.
“The reason why strong female leadership matters at such a young age for both boys and girls for youth sports is because I feel like women are pigeonholed into certain roles,” said Davis Legacy coach Sidra Bugsch. “If you have more centralized female leadership outside of the norm, it will start to normalize women in power in other positions.”
Bugsch, a former Legacy, Cal Poly, and Philippine National Team player, is one of those seven working in the program this fall and one of two female Davis Legacy coaches to earn a job coaching a competitive team after previously working at camps or in the recreational program.
“The first time I had a female coach was in high school and it was (former Legacy coach) Sara Stone,” Bugsch said. “That was the first time I thought I could be a coach. I was always told growing up that I had really good vision, I had a good soccer mind, and that I could be a coach, but I never really saw that because I never saw other women coaching. Sara really helped me actualize that and helped physically instill in me that that’s something I could achieve if that’s something I wanted to do.”
Bugsch is one of a mix of parent volunteers, current or former Legacy players such as Gaby Herrera, and current or former UC Davis college players who have helped grow the recreational program alongside Director Kevin Comer since it debuted in the fall of 2021.
Right from the start, Comer had a wealth of options to choose from when looking for coaches as Legacy Girls College Advisor and UC Davis assistant Jody Lingafeldt was more than willing to help her student athletes get involved in coaching.
One of the requirements for suiting up with the Aggies is that each player earn their USSF Grassroots Licenses in order for them to learn more about the game and get a step ahead if they choose to pursue coaching after graduation.
Once Comer started the recreation program, he reached out to Lingafeldt, who recommended a handful of the UC Davis WSOC student athletes to begin their coaching careers at Legacy.
“It’s an opportunity to get more females involved in the game at the entry level…for our student athletes working with the Legacy Rec program has allowed the girls the opportunity to get their foot in the door of the coaching world, while maintaining their rigorous schedule as Division 1 student athletes,” Lingafeldt said. “It is an ideal opportunity.”
One of those players happened to be star midfielder Lindsey Porter, who earned a leadership role in her second year, followed by a competitive team of her own this year.
“With Lindsey being a familiar name to the area, having played at St. Francis highschool and now on the coaching staff for St. Francis girls soccer, it was a no brainer to have Lindsey get involved with the rec program at Legacy,” Lingafelt said. “Lindsey and her teammates that have been working with the Legacy Rec program are local soccer heroes to the girls and boys that they work with every week and now have a huge fan base of young Legacy players at UC Davis WSOC games…if they can see it, they can be it.”
“It’s just a great opportunity that Davis Legacy is providing, not only community wise, but also providing an opportunity for females and letting them be role models for these young kids,” she added.
For Lingafeldt and Bugsch, at the end of the day, female representation and diversity matter at all levels of the game.
“The reasons why those things matter is because different perspectives expose you to different ways of thinking and seeing the game,” Bugsch said. “If you only have the perspective of a male as your form of leadership, it’s not that you can’t find success, but it will just be limited, it won’t be as well-rounded.”
“You don’t know how much of your potential can be realized until you’re exposed to people of all different creeds, colors, sizes, ethnicities, sexual orientations, genders…that’s the reason and the root of why diversity and inclusivity matter, it just opens your perspective and broadens your horizons to learning new things and becoming a better person and player and a successful human being,” Bugsch added. “You get more out of life when you learn from others and connect with others.”