Meet one of our coaches Kim Smith, who was selected for the US U-19National Team Pool, played abroad in the L League in Japan, Bundesliga in Germany and in the US in the W-League for the Raleigh Wings and Sacramento Storm.  She tells us the powerful sense of responsibility she has as a coach of teenage girls and why, in her words, “Football saved my life”.

To support the Equal Playing Field players, please visit http://equalplayingfield.com/donate/

 

Football gave me an ineffable sense of freedom, joy and connectivity.

I grew up in a military family, so we moved every one or two 2 years. I lived in Germany, Korea and six states within the US by the time I graduated high school. Sport was the only real constant in my life and enabled me to fit in and connect with a new environment and my peers.  Although I played all sports, I fell in love with soccer at the age of 6 and have been playing ever since. 

I played at the U-19 national team level in the US, then continued on to play at the University of Virginia.  When I graduated, I wanted to continue to play football. At that time, there wasn’t a professional league in the US for women, so I traveled overseas to play in the L-League in Honjo, Japan (FC Wins). Coincidentally, they trained on a dirt field just like the dirt fields I played on as a teenager in Korea. The pay was good, but the level was lower than what I expected, the town, small and isolated.

Later I played for FC Saarbrucken in the Bundesliga in Germany and the pay was just enough to live on. The level of play was great, but I had to advocate for my pay as it didn’t come regularly, which created challenges that affected my quality of play. In hindsight, it was ironic that I was playing in state-of-the-art Bundesliga stadiums, but could only afford to eat ketchup and pasta.

The teams I played on provided me with incredible experiences and a global perspective - but seeing the disparity in pay and resources between the men and women challenged my professional value and sustainability in a sport I loved.

I have been a high school coach in Los Angeles for the past 12 years and am currently at The Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles. Our mission is to empower future female leaders and I see this challenge as an opportunity to be an example to my players. This experience I can bring to our training field, where I get to guide and inspire them to discover their voices, tap into their strengths, push their limits, and work together to create change and greater opportunity for themselves and those following close behind.

I also have two nieces who are under the age of 10 and play football. I would love nothing more than to make the bridge wider for them and the path smoother. My hope is that girls have the opportunity to play sports on an equal playing field and be afforded the gift of being a part of a team, experiencing its greatest joys and opportunities.

Football saved my life. Being a shy kid and in a constant state of change, I was able to find my voice on the field.  And in times of struggle and adversity as an adult, it’s the voices I met on the field that have led me to a greater purpose. This is one of the many joys of football:  friendship, connection, and opportunity.

I see this Altitude Football challenge as an opportunity to give back to a sport that continues to enrich my life. Working together with a team of women, I will be stretching my own personal limits and creating awareness for something greater than myself – equality within sport.

To support the Equal Playing Field players, please visit http://equalplayingfield.com/donate/