Thursday, December 11, 2014

Good day, all!

I apologize for the delay, the holidays and cookie-eating always get in the way (I'm eating a cookie right now as I type this). I thought I would make a short and sweet post today to keep you all focused during the out-of-season winter.

Have a great holiday!


Monday, October 27, 2014

Role Models

There is something so refreshing about standing in an elevator with several 12 year-old girls, screaming and bragging about who their favorite USA Women's National Team player is.




Fifteen years ago, that probably would have been me. I would have been talking way too loud about my role models and how I thought Mia Hamm and Michelle Akers were the best women's soccer players that ever walked this earth and that all of us were indebted to them (anyone who says differently will have to deal with me and my 11 year-old self... your choice). Regardless, standing in that elevator reminded me that the future of women's soccer in this country is still bright, and that was extremely apparent while watching the USA Women's National Team destroy Haiti's national team. The USA team was stronger, quicker on the ball, more skilled, and more intelligent. To be frank, Haiti did not even stand a chance.

Before I walked into the after-game press room (thanks to Goals for Girls for setting that up), I thought about how the USA women's team became to be the number one team, and what teams like Haiti and Costa Rica have to do to catch up. Shek Burkowski, the Haitian soccer coach, noted several reasons that many girls outside of the Haitian national team struggle with everyday. For example, punctuality, lack of quality training fields, and external pressures that prohibit them from dedicating more time to the sport.

On a weekly basis, I train girls from ages 10-15 on their skills, speed, and game awareness, and every week I am blown away by the girl's ability to show up every session ready to play. That's not to say that girls in other countries are not as skilled or as thirsty to play, they might even be more motivated. However, I do believe that many girls in this country have the luxury of a solid infrastructure, involved parents, no external jobs, etc., that allow them to show up on time and train as diligently as they do. This leads to more quality players that can feed into the district, state, regional and national pools. Can you imagine what teams like Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and Costa Rica would look like if they had the same resources as the United States? They may not be as strong as the USA, but the quality of play could increase immensely, motivating younger generations of girls to play.

Which brings me to my point: no matter where you are from, how well your country's team does, or how many resources are available to you, it is extremely important to have strong role models to keep you motivated when you're down. If I didn't have players like Cindy Parlow, Kristine Lilly, or Julie Foudy to look up to, I probably wouldn't have been able to push myself everyday to play like them. They were my inspiration to show up on time at every practice and work my butt off.

The Haitian national team should be proud of their performance on Monday night, regardless of the score. For all they know, there could be a group of girls screaming in an elevator about how much they love their national team.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Skillz that Killz

Greetings, readers!

Last week I was procrastinating pretty badly while scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed when I came across a video that one of my friends had posted of these incredibly skilled girls strutting their juggling skills. Not only did this video show what the human body is capable of, but it also shows that you can get your soccer on anywhere you want! Take a look at let me know what you think! 

Later this week, I plan on posting a Spotlight Interview I had with one of my most favorite coaches that taught me a lot about passion, dedication, hard work, accountability, and honesty. I hope that my dictation of our conversation does it justice and I can't wait to share it with you all - STAY TUNED!


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Short but sweet

Hola, all!

In the past couple of weeks my posts have been quite long, so I thought I would leave something sweet and to the point this week! My sister sent me this comic over the weekend and I wanted to share it with you all. Take a look and let me know how these words have inspired you!

Here's the link to zenpencils.com


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Essay on Goals for Girls by Shelby: A Universal Language

Shelby Hicks is a Goals for Girls alumni from the 2010 South Africa program. She is going into her Sophomore year at UNC Charlotte where she is studying Kinesiology and also playing soccer. She is on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee where she helps to plan and organize all athlete events including charity work/community service. She is also on the National Society for Collegiate Scholars and made the Chancellors list both semesters. Shelby is originally from Chapel Hill and has been lifeguarding at the UNC Faculty pool for the past five years and also works as a counselor for the Charlotte Women's soccer camps in the summer. She loves to travel and play pickup soccer where ever possible!
A Universal Language
By Shelby Hicks
I’ve never been good with languages, not even English. I would stutter, use incorrect grammar and my spelling was just atrocious. Foreign languages were no better. The complex verb conjugations and accent placements didn’t quite seem to click in my mind the same way most other things did. It wasn’t until my trip to Cape Town, South Africa that I realized my true language skills. No, I’m not talking about my skills in Xhosa or Afrikkans, but an unspoken language that may just be the most important of all. It is a language that gave me the ability to connect with people in a new and more personal way. It is a universal language that brings us together and unites us with a common goal. It is a language that has the ability to rally more people than any pop concert or presidential election. It goes by many different names and styles, but here in the States, it is called Soccer.
Cindy Parlow, a former Olympic gold medalist, and also my coach of four years was offered a chance of a lifetime to help lead a soccer program for girls in Cape Town, South Africa (where the FIFA world cup was soon to be held). Fortunately for me, she was to bring some of her team members along to participate. As we boarded one of the largest planes I had ever seen, my soccer team chatted excitedly, taking our seats for what would be a sixteen-hour ride overseas. For many of us this was our first time leaving the country and for a select few it was their first experience flying. We made one stop to refuel in Chad where armed men boarded the plane and sprayed down the aisles for any invasive bugs that may have decided to tag along before finally arriving in Johannesburg South Africa. We were to spend our spring break in Cape Town participating in a Grassroots Soccer HIV awareness program with thirty other girls from surrounding countries called “Girls got Skillz” The program focused on HIV/AIDS prevention, building international relationships, and imparting confidence and self-esteem through soccer.
We spent several days touring the ocean city before beginning the program. In those few days we were living the highlife: taking gondolas through the rugged peaks that surrounded the city life and safari rovers though the backlands. No matter how many times we would say, “We’re in Africa!” nothing had really sunk in; it was as though we were in someone else’s life. However, as we drove through the expansive Paarlberg Mountains to meet our African counterparts, we got our first glimpse at the crushing poverty that faces so many people in Africa. The beautiful city of Cape Town had ended abruptly and without warning. It was as though there was an invisible fence with signs stating, “Beware, poverty beyond this point” and the brutal reality set in.
When we arrived in the small township of Khayelitsha outside Cape Town, a crowd of children had accumulated around our bus, wide-eyed and yelling as they ran to keep up. “Spook! Spook!” they would call after us, which we later learned meant ghost in Afrikaans. They obviously weren’t accustomed to seeing such a large group of light skinned people. We stuck out like sore thumbs in the dusty landscape, I felt exposed as I realized we had the eyes of the whole town on us.  
A small turf field had recently been erected in the heart of the township, courtesy of Johnson & Johnson, and was dubbed the “Football For Hope Center.” We were greeted warmly by the town, along with the girls from Namibia and surrounding areas whom we would be playing with for the next week. The people of Khayelitsha supplied us with our first meal, which we ate graciously around the field despite the questionable sanitation. There was limited clean water in the township and the houses that many of the girls we met called home, were mere shacks with no electricity or running water. The disheveled huts with cloth windows and tin doors stretched on as far as we could see, they were packed closely together and animals ran freely through the dirt streets. Despite all the hardships that the people of Khayelitsha face on a daily basis, whenever they would surround the field to watch us play there was no trace of such sufferings. Smiles lit up the onlooker’s faces as they cheered and clapped with each goal that was scored. It was inspiring to see how much soccer meant to this community. In between games I talked with a girl from Namibia named Elise. When I asked her about her home country I realized that communication off the field would be more difficult than I had anticipated. “Khayelitsha is different from Namibia because there we don't have such buildings, and we have bushes there” she said to me, and as I looked around at the disheveled town I realized what privilege I came from. When one type of literacy failed us, we found new innovative ways to communicate; we shared pictures of our homes and families to those girls that struggled with English. One girl even asked if she could have some of my clothes and I found myself handing them over to her because I knew they could never bring me as much joy as they could to her.  
As our differences were heightened by these encounters, it became even clearer to me how soccer could change that. Soccer was a constant like no other; in the United States we may play on manicured glass with cleats and padded balls, while the people here played with balls of trash barefooted in the dirt, but it is the same game. It is a game that has many styles, like different accents of the same language. Communication was rocky at the beginning of the program but the moment a ball was brought out, it was as if our slates had been wiped clean. On the field we were no longer strangers from across the world we were teammates. No longer different races, but the red or blue team. The communication became simpler, more refined. While we had just met, we could anticipate each other’s next moves, signal each other on the field and celebrate together when we scored. It was as if we were viewing each other in a different light, as if the lens we once looked through had been removed; anything that had mattered before didn’t now.
Where before we might have judged each other based on appearance, what clothes we had on, how we wore our hair, or how we spoke, now we judged each other based on how we played, how we communicated, how hard we worked, and how we would react to scoring or getting scored on. It’s amazing how much you can tell about a person and their attitude just by playing a simple game. Seeing this first hand made me realize the significance of the game as a universal language and what it can teach you. The game can give you an insight beyond just the superficial details of someone’s personality; it reveals a persons true character. I realized that what soccer reveals are those things most important in life; it can expose a person’s positivity, drive, persistence and their communication skills. This is how I began to know the girls on a more personal level and gain a strong sense of respect for them as people and as players. Soccer also had a unique way of uniting people of different backgrounds for a common cause, like HIV/AIDS awareness, and it showed us that we were all on the same team in the end.
Learning the game, or the universal language has taught me not only a way to connect with people on a deeper level no matter where I am, but also it has taught me over the years what good character is. It’s not about where you come from, how much money your dad earns, what kind of cleats you have on or whether you even have cleats at all. It’s about what you bring to the field and leave with your teammates. Soccer literacy has not only opened doors and created opportunities for me like getting to play at a collegiate level and traveling to new places, but it has allowed me to see the bigger picture. Soccer is the one language that every country knows; it not only brings us together and unifies us, but also brings us joy, which for many is hard to come by. I will use my knowledge and my experiences with soccer to deal with problems I face throughout my life, soccer has made me a stronger person and I will be forever grateful for what soccer literacy has brought into my life.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Blog Update by Leslie: Post World Cup Blues

The World Cup 2014 has sadly come to an end. All of the drama from this year's tournament emotionally drained me to the point where I felt sluggish and empty for a solid week as I realized one of the best moments of the decade has passed. The days following the World Cup, I monitored the news every hour to see if anything soccer related would pop up, and then I'd realize that the tournament was over and I still had 9 hours of work to do. This was the worst emotional hangover since I read the last Harry Potter book.
What was I going to do with my time? What will I talk about with strangers? Will I ever wear my USA, Germany, and Argentina jerseys again (I will not tell you which jersey I wore during the final... let's just say, it did not bring the team any luck...). 
LUCKILY the FIFA Women's World Cup will be in full force this time next year, so I will have an excellent excuse to wear my USA jersey and watch soccer for a solid month straight without any shame (thank you, all mighty soccer Gods). As I'm sitting here in my room writing at 10:55 on a Sunday night, I am posed with the question: who will win it this time around? Germany won in 2003 and 2007, while Japan won the last World Cup. Will Germany play like their male counterparts and destroy every team in their wake? Or, will the USA carry this year's fan's momentum into the World Cup and win their first championship since 1999? These are very serious questions people. I highly encourage that you ponder this question whole heartedly and watch as many qualifying games as humanly possible. 
Many of the next qualifying rounds will take place in October and November, so it will be interesting to see what players make it on the roster, what players start, who the stand-outs are, etc. If you just so happen to see me during this time, don't be surprised if I'm taking detailed notes about each player and each team, as I'm sure I will be competing in another World Cup bracket (I got second place in this year's World Cup Bracket Challenge, I have a reputation to uphold). 
Cheer for your country's team, partake in your country's rivalries (always makes the games more competitive, and therefore more enjoyable), and spread the soccer cheer for all around! The best of luck to the USA team this year. My ego is riding on you winning, so don't let me down! 
Posted by Leslie

Monday, July 7, 2014

A new week, a new game.

At the age of ten, we were told that watching one professional soccer game a week would make our
game better. Unfortunately, I did not adopt this advice until I was 22 years old and my college days
had come to an end. But once I began watching teams like Barcelona, Arsenal, and Manchester City, I
realized that my skill level, field awareness, creativity, and overall confidence in my decisions increased.

As the 2014 World Cup has finally reached the semi-finals, this advice has never been easier to adopt. Watching the greats play for the pride of their home country can come in handy when you want to learn a new move, practice your first touch, perfect your final shot; you name it, and watching the likes of Christine Sinclair, Homare Sawa, and Abby Wambach, will do wonders for your performance.

Do you want to emulate Messi’s goal in the 91st like to try in your next game? Learning these new skills can be accomplished by following some very easy steps:

  1. Go to to pull up whatever highlight you’d like to learn. 
  2. Watch the video repeatedly until you have memorized every minor technique and movement.  After watching the video, you should be able to dream about it. 
  3. Grab your soccer ball and one of your girlfriends and go outside! It’s the summer time; time to take advantage of the beautiful weather and practice to become the next Marta or Alex Morgan. 
Becoming good at soccer is hard and it takes a lot of time and determination. If you have the will power and the ambition to accomplish your goals, the entire world can open up to you, and not just in the soccer community.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Introducing our new Goals for Girls Blogger: Leslie Cabe

Goals for Girls is really excited to announce the newest member of our team! Leslie Cabe will be the lead Goals for Girls Blogger!!!

About Leslie:
Leslie Cabe is from Nothern Virginia and has been a lifelong lover of soccer, playing for her high school and college, as well as her national finalist club team. Leslie has been able to travel to Germany with her Olympic Development Program team and to Brazil with her college team to promote the opportunities that soccer can give to a player. She is an avid Barcelona FC fan, enjoys playing with her co-ed indoor and outdoor teams, and traveling the world.  Currently, Leslie works for a consulting company supporting the public sector.

Goals for Girls Clinic at Santa Clara University

On May 24, Goals for Girls traveled to California for a soccer clinic at Santa Clara University with US women's soccer icons Cindy Parlow, Brandi Chastain, Leslie Osborne, and Ally Wagner.

Brandi, Cindy, Leslie, Ally

The clinic was an incredible success thanks to these (and others) wonderful people that volunteered their time!!

Poster showing Goals for Girls trips in the past.

1 v 1 with Brandi Chastain
Soccer in Slow Motion joined us, and lead technical sessions with the girls!

At the end of the clinic, we had the girls "ditch their shoes and balls" to play like girls play in the developing world...shoeless, and with makeshift balls.

Barefoot soccer

**Pictures taken by Solheim Photography:


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Goals for Girls coming to Santa Clara, California!!

Goals for Girls is coming to California!! We will be holding a soccer clinic at Santa Clara University on May 24 from 9am-noon with Olympian and US Women's National Team Players including Aly Wagner, Brandi Chastain, Cindy Parlow, and Leslie Osborne! This clinic is open to girls ages 5-15 years of age. If you, or someone you know plays soccer, we would love for you to join us!!! And please....spread the word! It will be a great opportunity to learn about the work we do all over the world with disadvantaged girls your same age, as well as meet some US women's soccer icons and meet new friends. All proceeds that we bring in through this clinic will go towards Goals for Girls projects that will focus on empowering young girls through soccer. 

Find the registration form here: It will answer most of your questions. If you are able to make it, don't forget to bring your soccer ball and a water bottle. If you have any additional questions, I would love to answer them for you. Feel free to reach me at

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sarah's Reflection on her experience in India with Goals for Girls

This reflection was written by Sarah Furth:

There hasn't been a day since I got back that multiple memories from India have crossed my thoughts. The trip was so incredibly amazing and beautiful and exceeded all my expectations. It has been about three weeks since we returned to Portland and I am still overwhelmed with everything I was fortunate enough to experience with the Goals for Girls program. Not until I got home was I able to completely digest what had just happened. The emotions that I felt during those two weeks are still so raw in my mind. India was a humbling and rewarding experience beyond any words.  I have laughed, cried, and smiled as I have reflected on the trip. The first week in India was spent at the Rising Star campus in Kanchipuram. Rising Star is  like a boarding school, mainly one that reaches out to kids whose families are affected by leprosy.

The girls from Rising Star broke the walls we (the American girls) had up. As the week progressed, were all laughing, holding hands, telling jokes, playing soccer, exchanging stories, and learning from each other. We were able to go out into a leprosy colony and help a mobile clinic treat the patients. We helped build a road, named Goals for Girls Avenue, on the campus for the new medical building and planted banana plants, eggplants, and peppers in the fields. We participated in countless life skills activities with the girls. We tie­dyed t­shirts, made color team flags, competed in a mini­ Olympics, and learned traditional Indian dances. Conversations about goal setting, the future, and self­confidence were frequent. Each of the girls had big dreams of becoming a doctor, PE teacher, or a part of the police force. And I hope each of then beats the stigma associated with leprosy and fulfills her dreams. They all have the skills to do it.            

We scrimmaged a boys’ soccer team called Pathways from another nearby non­profit organization. Girls versus boys. Not something that is necessarily expected in India. Every afternoon consisted of soccer. We taught the girls basic dribbling, passing, and shooting through our own organized clinics. We later did the same for the other kids at the school. The younger kids would grab me and ask my name, where I was from, what my family was like, what we were doing at Rising Star...ask to take a picture.  I can still see their smiling, curious, innocent faces. So much The girls we worked with were teaching the other kids how to play soccer. They were telling me how they were going to start playing with the boys. They all had changed so much within the week, growing more confident in their soccer skills and their desire to be heard. I shared
 my experiences in front of the entire Rising Star School on the day we left. This was by far one of the most overwhelming, beautiful, emotional, and empowering weeks of my life.

Next stop was Bangalore. The main event was a soccer clinic in the middle of the city. We partnered with several programs, the main one Dream A Dream that does similar life skills trainings with many schools throughout Bangalore. There was no grass on the field, just dusty dirt. But it was decorated with circus­like banners around the field and was prepared to host about 500 people. Ian and Cindy ran a coaches clinic in the morning and we demonstrated as the team being Girls from all the schools began arriving in their team uniforms. We did large group life skills activities. The Oregon and North Carolina girls were divided into groups and paired to play with an Indian team. The cement bleachers were packed with other students, boys and girls. The round robin tournament began. My team, the Sparkling Rainbows, made it to the final game. My team had played a little soccer before, but I we played in more games with them and won, it was obvious they wanted to win. They all absorbed what I suggested they do on the field. We didn't win, but it was amazing to be a part of this city tournament for the long, hot day. It was a really big deal for Dream A Dream, and my adrenaline didn't stop until dinner time.

We also visited a microfinance business in Bangalore, Janalakshmi, that gives loans specifically to women so they can start their own businesses. In groups, we were taken out into the field. My group went to a women's home in a Muslim community. We were able to go inside the house (6 by 7ft single room) and ask the smiling women and her daughter all about her business, which was selling the traditional Indian night dress to local women. All the neighbors came to see us, let us hold their babies, and told us more about the women's business. That is one thing I love about the Indian culture; the sense of family in a community. Everyone is so kind and welcoming and they will share what little they have with you.

Delhi was the final destination and we geared up for more soccer.  The main partners in Delhi were Anglian Football, CEQUIN, and YUWA. The first day we hosted a soccer clinic at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi. This beautiful facility recently upgraded for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. With the Shakira Africa song playing in the background, it felt like an Olympic Stadium. The fog gave way to rays of sunshine as we set up the field and girls began to hop off the busses and pour into the stadium, lace up their cleats, and run onto the field ready to play. We ran different stations, working with girls of all ages to teach them a fun little game or a new move. We later divided into teams and scrimmaged each other. I met a girl who plays for the Indian youth national team. She has been to Sri Lanka twice and Europe to play. Overall, it was a very successful day.            

YUWA is a program that was started by a man, Franz Gansler, from Minnesota. He has been living in India for the last 5 years. YUWA is using soccer to combat human trafficking, female illiteracy, and child marriage in Jarkhand, India's most corrupt area. Franz and Rose had brought twenty two girls on a 48 hour train ride across India to come play soccer with the American girls. And were they quite the soccer players. They practice every day on the small field they have. They had never played on a regular soccer field before but you never would have guessed by the way they played together. Franz is hoping to bring the team to the United States next summer to play. We spent some more time with the YUWA girls later away from the soccer We attended an ICRW conference with other non­profit organizations that are working to empower women in India. The conference was mainly for Goals for Girls to share what we were doing. I was on a panel with several other girls that spoke about what we had experienced, what we had gained from playing soccer for so long, and how the game compared for girls in India. This was a really professional experience and it was neat to talk with these other business people about the work they were doing.

The final day was a tournament day back at the stadium before bittersweet goodbyes to everyone, especially the YUWA girls, who we had grown so close to in a matter of three days. As Ian writes, “When you peel back the superficial layers that make these American and Indian girls different, you find countless similarities between them; one in particular was the joy the game of soccer brings.”

 We were all changed in drastic ways. We toppled our walls and allowed ourselves to be completely open to all the beautiful chaos India has to offer. I had no idea how or if I was even going to be able to make a difference in a girl's life in such a short period of time, but now I know I did. I had to step out of my comfort zone at first, but within the first week it felt natural to be speaking in front of everyone, demonstrating a drill, or sharing my memories from the day. I was simply myself and I tried my best to lead by example. The movement I was able to be a part of with Goals for Girls that changed the lives of many Indian girls, and in return, changed my own.

I cannot begin to express my gratitude for Goals for Girls and everyone who made this trip possible. The way the west coast and east coast girls came together during this trip was pretty cool. We didn't know each other at all but that initial awkward, shy feeling quickly changed to a sister feeling. We faced these uncomfortable situations together and were so focused on making the Indian girls feel individual and loved. And by doing so, we were able to gain new perspectives on life. I can watch a documentary about the struggles girls face in developing countries, but to physically become immersed in a country and its people and to talk with girls my age who have a much rougher life than I do, was almost unreal. I was inspired by each girl's strength, grace, and determination to take control of her own life and set high goals for her future. You'll never know how far you can go unless you try. I am not saying it lightly when I say that this was truly the greatest life changing experiences of my life. And I will never forget it.