Guymon Daily Herald
Scandals highlight lack of women coaches at top of Team USA soccer
Twila Kilgore knew her career path when she was just 12 years old, thanks to a youth soccer coach who used to drive her to practice.
During those rides, she got to hear “all the behind-the-scene things that were happening” and was “exposed to what a coach actually does,” she said. “I pretty much knew then that when I was done playing, I would coach.”
Now she’s an assistant for the U.S. women’s national team and one of just four women in the United States who hold the U.S. Soccer Federation’s elite pro license.
Kilgore’s path makes her a rarity. American soccer offers limited coaching opportunities for women at the top of the sport, and the cost to obtain the requisite licenses can be a barrier.
The issue has drawn FIFA’s attention. A 2019 study by soccer’s international governing body found that more than 13 million girls and women played organized soccer, but only 7% of coaches worldwide were women.
The shortage of qualified women was highlighted by a glut of vacancies created by men who were pushed out of the nation’s top professional league.
When scandal rocked the National Women’s Soccer League in 2021, five male coaches were dismissed or forced to resign because of misconduct, harassment or abuse. Earlier this month, four of those men were banned from ever coaching in the NWSL again following an investigation by the league and the players’ union.
Today, just three women hold head coaching jobs in the 12-team league, all on the West Coast: OL Reign’s Laura Harvey, San Diego’s Casey Stoney and Angel City’s Freya Coombe. Five coaches, all men, are embarking on their first season with their teams this year.
For women trying to break into such elite circles, money is a glaring obstacle.
Top coaching licenses are expensive to obtain — the USSF pro license costs $10,000 — and the process is both lengthy and labor intensive. Male coaches often have teams and leagues behind them willing to foot the bill and provide the time to complete the courses.
Kilgore, who worked for the Houston Dash before joining Vlatko Andonovski’s staff on the national team, got her pro license with financial help from the Dash, a scholarship fund set up by former national team coach Jill Ellis and from FIFA.