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The Diversity Fellowship

Providing leadership development opportunities for people of color & women in the professional soccer industry
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there is a severe lack of diversity in pro soccer leadership roles

“Diversity, Equity & Inclusion” is not just a talking point. Equity and Social Justice require action and a recognition of the systemic ways that underrepresentation and power imbalances affect women, people of color, and non-binary people around the globe. New Mexico United and its Somos Unidos Foundation are committed to changing the game by taking this specific, often-underestimated action: inviting others in.

In 2022, people of color and women are staggeringly underrepresented in the highest-level soccer positions.

4 of 27

head coaches in the USL Championship are people of color. zero are women.

2 of 27

presidents in the USL Championship are men of color. 1 is a woman.

6 of 12

head coaches in the NWSL are women.

3 of 12

Club Presidents in the NWSL are women. None of them are people of color. 

How did we get here? 

The Sports Industry suffers the same systemic issues found in other industries that maintain the status quo of underrepresentation of women, people of color, and non-binary people. The Diversity Fellowship Program is one step in breaking down the following barriers to opportunity and leadership roles in Front Offices and Coaching Staffs. Here is what we know:

Access

Too few clubs are providing access to the inner-workings of a professional sports organization. This could be in the name of competitive edge or protecting secrets, but the walls are real, and especially difficult for people of color and women.

Getting a job is often about who you know. Job opportunities often come from a network of other sports professionals, keeping the cycle of underrepresentation moving in perpetuity. 

It is said that the best way to get a job in sports is to have a job in sports. In both hiring and advancement, candidates are accelerated upon mastering the language, speaking with confidence about past experiences, or showing a track record of coaching winning teams. For Front Offices, even just having game-day experience can be the difference between landing an interview or not.

Financial Barriers

Education is valuable, and expensive. We all know that New Mexico is not an abundantly wealthy state, and the price tag on crucial learning opportunities discourages too many from pursuing their dreams. For example, the total cost for achieving the highest level of coaching licensure in U.S. Soccer costs upwards of $19,500 across 5 levels of license.

Old Habits

Whether a result of underrepresentation, inherent bias, absence of mentors, class & privilege markers, lack of inclusivity in relationship building in largely-white male Front Offices and Coaching Staffs - or a debilitating mix of these systemic ills - women and people of color are more likely to report increased levels of scrutiny, pressure to perform higher, that they represent their entire race or gender’s potential in the workplace, and overall understanding that they need to prove their competence and growth potential more than their white male counterparts.

Outdated Systems

Building the player-to-coach pipeline helps bridge the racial disparity in Coaching Staffs, but has still largely left gaps in the representation of women as high level coaches in American soccer. Prior to the very recent launch of the USL Super League, the NWSL’s 12 team rosters have been the only source of high-level professional women soccer players for this pipeline.

Additionally, waivers and eligibility for higher level licenses are available for previous professional playing experience. This means that the vast number of male players in the numerous professional leagues in the U.S. can skip expensive and time-intensive licensure steps, while the ability for women to obtain and leverage professional playing experience is far more limited. 

The Action we're taking

About the Program

The Diversity Fellowship Program was developed to address two driving factors of the lack of representation in soccer: access and financial barriers. Through the program, candidates work directly with the coaching staff or front office staff, learning the ins and outs of a professional sports team. At the conclusion of their fellowship, each candidate will then receive funds to assist them in a next step of their career: Coaching Licensure, Continuing Education, Certifications, etc. The Fellowship is open to candidates who are people of color, female, and those who identify as non-binary.

History in the Making

In early Summer 2020 - following the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent social and political dialogue on White Privilege, systemic racism and sexism, and socioeconomic inequity - New Mexico United’s Head Coach and Technical Director, Troy Lesesne, reflected on his own journey in pursuit of his Pro License. The strength of the message, and the plea to acknowledge privilege with empathy and action reached Coach Troy deeply and personally. In partnership with Somos Unidos Foundation leadership, the Diversity Fellowship Program was created.

application & Criteria

Applications are now open to candidates who are people of color, female, and those who identify as non-binary. To explore the full application please click the button below. For any questions about the program, or technical assistance with submitting an application, please contact Chanel Wiese at chanel@newmexicoutd.com.

Deadline: Applications will remain open until February 26th, 2022 at midnight.

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support the program

For those who may find themselves caring deeply about the mission of this program, but are not able to actively participate by applying, please consider contributing in the form of a donation that ensures the longevity of this program in its second year and beyond.

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goals of the fellowship

Increase Diversity In Leadership Roles In Our Sport

We will continue to strive to create more avenues for people of color and women in New Mexico to progress to leadership roles in our game (front office and coaching). This falls directly in line with our mission: To create positive outcomes for every New Mexican.

Educational Advancement

Provide internal specialized training and external educational opportunities with scholarships to subsidize US Soccer coaching licenses or advanced education programs through the Somos Unidos Foundation.

Upward Mobility and Future Job Opportunities

Through the 3 to 6 month pedagogy within our club and completing a US Soccer coaching license or advanced education program, we will help New Mexicans enhance their profile which will create development opportunities within their current job or generate new job opportunities.

going into year 2 of the program, the impact is real. Meet the class of '21:

Front Office Fellow: Jules Myers

Jules has a life-long love of all things that go “VROOM”! She completed a certificate program in Motorsports Studies at IUPUI (Indiana University, Purdue University of Indianapolis) and co-hosted an Indy Car podcast (Fast Cars, Fast Girls) with fellow female fans of the sport. With the podcast, she has hosted live events at Indianapolis Motorspeedway and Pocono Speedway to thousands of fans during race weekends. Indy Car is one of the most male-dominated sports in the United States, but Jules aims to change that. In addition, she brings experiences working with local LGBTQ rights organizations, including GetEQUAL NM, advocating for the passage of marriage equality and anti-bullying measures in New Mexico. Juliana has also taken a full time position with New Mexico United as a Game Day Producer & Community Engagement Coordinator!

Front Office Fellow: Leroy Silva

Leroy is a community leader promoting health, wellness and prosperity in the Native American community of New Mexico. He is a Community Coordinator for the Notah Begay III (NB3) Foundation out of Santa Ana Pueblo where he manages the Native Youth on the Move Project - a partnership between Nike/N7 Fund and NB3 and builds partnerships with other organizations and pueblo communities. He has been a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation “Culture of Health Leader” and a W.K. Kellogg Foundation “Community Leadership Network Fellow”

Coaching Fellow: Paris McKenzie

Paris is a collegiate player at New Mexico’s flagship institution, UNM. From Derby, England, Paris brings an international lens to football. She played 16 games for England Women’s Youth U16s-U19s, and also captained Derbyshire Girls U16’s, winning the National Championship in 2916. She maintains a 4.0 GPA, is on the dean’s list and is an all Mountain West Scholar Athlete. Though her coaching career has not officially started, the Fellowship has given her an opportunity to be an architect of her own post-college career, while even making steps toward licensure while playing.

Coaching Fellow: Terryn Dyche

Terryn has received her B License and has a goal of pursuing her A license. She is a mother and business owner - co-owning LEAD Soccer Academy and Director of Coaching at Albuquerque United FC, which also has boy’s and girl’s Academy. She is a proud wife and mother, and brings a family-forward lens to coaching.

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