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Episode #34

Be The Change

with Lynn Williams

19 Jan, 2021 · Soccer

Lynn Williams, Pro Soccer Player, speaks out about her experiences as a black woman athlete in the predominantly white sport of soccer and how she has dedicated herself to driving change in the soccer world.

Transcript

Stef

Welcome to the Voice in Sport podcast. I'm your host, Stef Strack, the founder of Voice In Sport. As an athlete, professional, and mom, I have spent the last 20 years advocating for women and innovating across the sports industry. Now I want to bring more visibility to female athletes and elevate their voice. At Voice in Sport we share untold stories from female athletes to inspire us all to keep playing and change more than just the game.

Today we welcome Lynn Williams to the Voice in Sport podcast. Lynn’s professional soccer career began after she was the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NWSL college draft. During her time with the Western New York Flash, she was named 2016 NWSL Most Valuable Player. And was called up to the women's national team to play against Switzerland. However, after that she did not receive another call up until 2019. And today we will dive into how she navigated that challenge, held her head high and worked until she reached her lifelong national team goal again.

During this episode, we will also speak of the important topic of advocating for more diversity within soccer. Lynn speaks out regarding her experience as a black female athlete in the predominantly white world of soccer in the U.S. She shares the trials and tribulations that she faced at every level, along the way. We also discussed the importance of diverse representation, not only within the players, but also the coaches, administrators, and other leaders in the sports industry.

As Lynn simply puts it, we need black women in roles of power. Today, our nation is riddled with racial injustice and Lynn is dedicated to driving change in the soccer world by using her voice and being part of the creation of the Black Women's Players Collective. We hope that you leave this powerful episode with compassion, hope, and motivation. We are in this together and together we can change more than just the game. Lynn, welcome to the Voice in Sport Podcast. We are honored to have you here with us today. 

Lynn

Thanks for having me! I'm excited as well.

Stef

It's an honor to have a U.S. Women's National Team Player here with us today. And I think even a bigger honor to have someone who really wants to speak openly about some of the issues that you faced growing up in the U.S. soccer system.

Lynn

It's past, due time that we've talked about race and things that people that aren't white have faced in the soccer world. So I'm just so grateful that this platform is allowing me to speak on it.

Stef

Yeah, so important. You've made it to this amazing level and I don't think it's an obligation to speak up when you have made it to a certain level and you have a platform, but it's definitely an opportunity and it's an opportunity to drive change. So I really admire you for that. And  racism it’s been a systemic issue in the United States for a really long time. And there's a long history to it. Today we're going to talk a lot about those systemic issues of race and discrimination for young black Americans that show up in predominantly white sports in the U.S. And one of those sports is soccer.

So it's really great to have you here with us today to sort of break it down for us and share your experience and just discuss openly with us, how we can drive progress as a collective force. I'd like to start with your background in sports. You played both soccer and ran track at a young age, during that time you felt a sense of belonging in one sport and felt like you weren't seen in another sport. So I want you to take us back to those early years and share with us as a young black athlete, how you felt in those two different sports.

Lynn

For one, I can only speak on my experience, but I do feel like anybody who I've talked to kind of had the same feelings. But yeah, I ran track, my parents met in college running track, so I think it was natural for them to be like, we want our kids to run. I started when I was really little, we were called bantams, then I went up to midgets— went on and on and on. I was having so much fun. You know, you look around and you see people that look like you. I was running all of the sprints and I think that, you look at sprinter sports from the 400 down, you see a lot of black athletes.

And, so I felt like, okay, this is where I belong. People look like me. I'm doing well. And I think what you're doing well as a kid, you want to continue to do it. So that was amazing. I enjoyed going on the weekends to track meets and I ran unattached and my mom was my coach and my dad was my coach. And it was just  a fun family thing to do.  And then, when I was also little, my parents were like, well, we need to make friends.  And she's crazy.  

(Lynn laughs)  

She's like this wild kid and I loved playing soccer and I had a lot of friends that were my soccer teammates, but none of them really looked like me. And not saying that when you're little and somebody who doesn't look like you, you're always like this isn't for me, but I do feel like  young young kids start looking around and saying, nobody looks like me here, do I belong here? Do I not belong here? And that's what I felt like I felt, when I started especially getting into travel soccer. So it was weird. I was like going to track and I was like, everybody looks like me here. I'm having fun. I belong here. And then when I started getting to travel soccer, I was like, whoa, what is happening? Why is there such a huge discrepancy?

Stef

How old were you, when you first started to have that awareness. Because I think you mentioned such an important point: those moments can happen so young. And so it's important to have visibility or role models that look like you. And there really is an impact in that.

Lynn

Yeah, so I started doing travel soccer or club soccer when I was around 11. But the year before that, when I was 10, I didn't make the All-Star Team that then turned into the travel team. So I would say around 10, I was like, what is going on here? There was definitely a,  looking back now, a sense of like, is this where I fit in or is track where I fit in? I don't know if, when I was 10, I recognized that I just knew I had a feeling of, what is going on?

Stef

Yeah. And I think those feelings can have a pretty big impact for girls. You might not want to go back to a place where you're not feeling belonging. It's so important that we recognize that. And in the sports industry, we need to have role models that look more diverse and in soccer it's much needed. We need to see more female coaches, number one, we also need to see more black female coaches. And unfortunately there's a lack of them right now. So you not only see it in the players, a lack of diversity, but also in leadership.

Lynn

Yes.

Stef

You ever have a female coach or a black female coach growing up in soccer?

Lynn

I had my first black coach when I was in high school. My senior year, I believe, and his sister was our assistant. So that was the closest thing I've ever had to a black female coach.

Stef

We've got a lot of work to do. And there's some new soccer clubs forming right now in NWSL. And I'm really excited to hopefully see change in leadership and the diversity at the top level of those clubs and leagues.

Lynn

Same. I am very excited to see: 1) NWSL growing first and foremost, but 2) also the diversity and hopefully they're continuing to push diversity in the sport. I think the fact that Serena Williams is a big owner and her husband is a huge investor in it will help, but we have a long way to go.

Stef

So we know there's  a really important factor for young girls to see people around them as they're growing up in these sports. There's also a lot of power in the words and the feedback that you get as a young athlete, growing up in a sport where you are not surrounded by as many people who look like you. So I kind of want to dive into that part of your experience. Especially when people are in powerful positions, like coaches, words really matter and they can make a pretty big impact on a young girl in sports. Did you feel a sense of discrimination at all with coaches? Growing up in soccer?

Lynn

Yeah, I think this is such a huge and important topic because I definitely feel like the way we talk about black athletes, versus the way we talk about non-black athletes are so different, and I faced this my whole career and I feel like I'm still trying to break out of this mold of she's just fast. And it seems like anytime we use a word for black athletes, it's about their athletic attributes. Like they're fast, they're strong, they can jump high! But we never talk about their field vision, their intelligence, their reading of the game, their skillset.

And so when I was growing up, I was a fast athlete. I am that, I'm not trying to take that away from myself, but I felt like because the coaches saw that they. We're like, oh, we don't need to develop X, Y, and Z. And so now in my career, I feel like I'm always having to go back and like work on my foot skills, working on my shot, and I feel like I missed out on all those things. And it's so frustrating sometimes where I'm like, why didn't I learn this? Why did you guys put me in this box and not allow me to develop and see what I could have done even more?

Stef

And in the moment, did you recognize it? That the only feedback coaches were giving you was like, you're fast, you're good. That's all you gotta worry about. Cause I think one of the things I would love your help on is helping these other girls recognize if they're being put in a box by coaches and then what to do about it.

Lynn

Yeah, so my parents recognize that 100%. I was actually just talking to my mom about some of the stories and some of the hardships I faced growing up playing soccer. And she said, one thing that would really make her angry was when coaches would only talk about my speed and then they made this huge rumor and would go around town where it was like, she's just fast. She has no foot skills. And so all the other coaches were like, oh, we don't want her on your team. She's just fast. She's just fast.

And then when I would go to another team, they would get me and they'd be like, oh wait, you didn't tell me she did have good field vision. She was the hardest working person on the team. She has endurance as well. And then, we would hear the same echoes from coaches that had never coached me before. And so my parents obviously saw that this was happening, but at the same time, they didn't have a soccer background either. So, they were like, what am I supposed to do? Go out and teach her skills that I don't know myself? Like I thought you were the coach.

So I think there was a lot behind the scenes that I didn't know about. But funny that you say that, my first ever nonwhite soccer coach was a Hispanic male. And then during the exact same time, I had a mixed, male as well. And that's when my career kind of turned around and they started trying to develop me and saying like, you're not just fast, Lynn. You're not just this. And that wasn't until high school. So...  

(Lynn giggles)

Stef

Wow. And that's when you started to realize: oh, okay, I got to work on these other things and I have those capabilities. Words matter, feedback matters, it's so important. So what do you say, to the girls that might be getting put in a box like that right now? What do they do about it? What do they say to their coaches?

Lynn

Well 1) I think you have to go and have that discussion with the coach and say, hey, I don't know if you recognize that you're doing this, but I feel like you're putting me in this box. I feel like I'm not X, Y, and Z.  I do think depending on the age, your parents could help in that sense, but telling them first, maybe they don't recognize they're doing it.

So giving them that opportunity to fix their wrongdoings. And then if a coach isn't willing to learn and willing to listen, I would say you kind of have to cut your losses and move on. Take your career into your own hands. And, when you're young, I think you have the ability to say, you know what, this coach isn't serving me, how do I get to that next level? And if they're not going to help me, I have to help myself. But I think you have to give them the opportunity to fix their wrongdoings first.

Stef

Yeah, that's great advice. So I know that it's not just the coaches that can have an impact on you growing up. It can also be what your teammates say. So did you have any issues with your teammates, growing up in a predominantly white sport of soccer? And how did you deal with any racist comments you may have faced?

Lynn

Yeah, you know, I don't think I knew if it was racist. It's not that it was racist. It was just uncomfortable. Any time we would play a team and they didn't have any black players and they looked at me, I was one of two black players on the team. They'd be like, oh my gosh, we out black them, we're going to win. And part of it was like, I guess it was meant to be a compliment, but as a player, you laugh it off. And you're like, that's such a weird statement. It's another acknowledgement that you're different. And at the time I did laugh it off and I was like, yeah, you're right. Haha.

I'm going to run right around em’. But if I was looking back now, I would definitely say, hey guys, that hurts my feelings. Can you please not say that? But I also feel like, and which inspires me so much that I think this next generation, it's such a more inclusive generation and so open to accepting differences. So I, that inspires me that hopefully little girls won't have to go through that. And I do think that right now in soccer, there's this momentum and push for women of color. And so I'm hoping that little girls see black players, and know like I belong here. I'm not different. And then we'll just stand up and say that was wrong. Do not say that. 

Stef

Yes. I completely agree. Now let’s transition to your time with the NWSL, tell us what it was like being named MVP and winning the NWSL Championship.

Lynn

I was shockingly named the MVP and got my first call up. And then we won the NWSL championship. So all of that happened within a week. And I was like, what on earth? I couldn't process all of it at the same time. Cause I was like, what is happening?  And then I go into camp, a nervous wreck. I went in with a lot of new players as well, which I think really helped.  And then I get jealous was like, we're going to put you in the game at halftime. And the score was 0:0, and I was like, Lynn, don't mess up. I just want to go in and make an impact. Don't mess up. And, Carly came up to me and said, like, just connect your first pass. You'll be fine. And Samuels, who is my friend and was my teammate at the time was like, just take a deep breath here, you’re gonna be fine. Just do what you do. And my first touch happened to be a goal. And so it was another one of those, like what is going on? 

(Both laugh)  

But it was amazing. I cried on the phone, I called my mom. I called my dad crying, my sister. And, and for me it was like, I just wanted to have the opportunity to see if I could do it. And that opportunity was happening for me. And so, along the years, I try to remember that every time I go into camp, I say, Lynn, back in the day, you would've killed to have this opportunity to, just to try and see if you can do this. So try to remember that every time you go. But yeah, it meant the world to me.

Stef

It's so amazing to hear. Now I want to talk about what's happened after, because that was in 2016 and then you didn't get called back until 2019, during that sort of break of 20 months, how did that affect your confidence and that feeling of being defeated? Because I think a lot of girls face this, whether it's maybe at a different level, like, they're not getting the call from the school they want to go to, but you were facing it at the highest level. So how did you work through that? 

Lynn

Yeah, that was a little tougher 

(Lynn chuckles)

than I think I let on. I tried to hide a lot of that. You know, one getting called in-- like I said, it was a dream. It was also kind of like a screw you guys for doubting me, all the people who've doubted me before. And like I said, unhealthy thought of like national team or bust. So when I got there, I was holding on to the dream so tightly and not wanting to make any mistake and not realizing like I'm a human being, I'm going to make mistakes. You've got to make a mistake to learn from it. And every camp I would go in and now, I was making all these mistakes. Cause I was like, I can't lose this. And I didn't make the World Cup Team. And that was a huge blow to me. I saw it coming for a while, but I think when you get the message that you're not on it, it makes it real. And I got dropped from allocation, with the U.S. And I got it through an email and it said, thank you for your service, you're not going to be allocated anymore, which is cutthroat. I will say. And when I got the email, my boyfriend, Marley, was shooting basketballs and I was supposed to be running some sprints on the side.

And I got the email and I started crying and he came over and he was like, why are you crying? And I was like, I'm not allocated anymore. And he goes, well, we saw this coming. You hadn't been called for a while. He was a realist and he goes, give yourself the day, feel what you're feeling, and then let's get on. Let's start working. And, you know, I don't think I've ever run faster or longer in my entire life. I was doing sprints up and down that court. I gave myself a day.

I was crying and running at the same time. And you know, I think that I changed my perspective and I was saying, okay, Lynn, you can either sit in this or you can get back to work and continue to work on the things that, you know you need to work on. And, 1) it was great to have a support system. But 2) it was just a like, what do you want? Cause you could be an NWSL player and have a good career say, you know what, I've done it. But I think I would have looked back and said, I didn't reach my full potential. I didn't try. I didn't. And it would be a lot of what ifs. And then on top of that, when I got the email, I thought I was failing in front of the world, when you are a professional soccer player a year in life is kind of out there for everybody to see.

And I was like, I am failing in front of everybody. I'm letting my family down. I'm letting the world down. And I think once I realized 1) who cares what the world thinks, they're not the people I even go to for advice. Why would I care what they think when I'm going through struggles and 2) I'm at my sister's house right now. And you know, my nieces and nephews, I come in and they say, Auntie Lynn, they don't go Auntie Lynn, the professional soccer player. So realizing that, that my worth isn't in soccer and there is a life out of soccer really helped me.

But at the same time, I was like, if I don't try, if I don't give it my all, I'm going to regret it. And, it turned it and it made it about me again and what I wanted and not about this big failure, and now every time I go into camp, I'm like, Lynn, you got nothing to lose. You know what it's like, if you're not in there, you're going to be fine. Your life is going to be fine. And if you continue to have success the more the merrier.

Stef

You changed your mindset a bit during those 20 months, but how did you build your confidence back up?

Lynn

When everybody's away at the world cup, I made it a point to 1) watch every single game, but also, work really hard back with my club and say, this is what my club needs me. They need me to be Lynn. They don't need me to be this sulking Lynn. And so I was working really hard and I felt like I was having success, even though a lot of our team was gone. I felt like every day I would see myself improving on things that I wanted to improve.

So that gave me confidence that like, what I'm doing, the mindset that I have now, the hard work that I'm putting in is making a difference. And then when I got my call back in, I was like, wow, Lynn, you've done it. You need to continue this mindset, don't lose this. You need to go in to play freely. This is an honor to be here. Chill out.

(Both laugh)

Stef

It's hard though, right? Cause when you have a goal and you want to achieve it, reach it, and then you have a setback, it's like dealing with those setbacks or rejection for a little bit, it's hard. And a lot of people quit. What advice do you have for the girls saying like, I just got defeated or I just got rejected by something. What would you tell them in that moment?

Lynn

I would say one, let yourself feel it because I think that a lot of people just say, ah, they don't know what they're talking about. And I think if you let yourself feel that hurt for a second,  then you might be able to look at what they're actually saying and taking the message without the tone of the hurt on it, and saying, okay, what are they actually trying to say to me? And then from there just working on those things and, saying, you know what, you're not gonna deny me. You're not gonna put value on me. And then just get back to work and continuing to work hard. You know, I think that when I'm struggling through something, I definitely write notes on my mirror.  And so every morning I don't necessarily look at it and read it, but I think it's like a subconsciously getting in. So I'll say be confident. And I write that on there. Or you're an amazing player and it's just like a bit of self-affirmation. And, I really liked doing that. But I would say let yourself feel that hurt for a second, but don't sulk in the hurt and then move on.   

Stef

And the power of affirmations. I'm a huge believer, we need to do that with everything, with our bodies, how we feel about our performance, it's so important to remember your worth isn't just a game, your worth is really deep there's a lot of dimensions to it. And so those affirmations can be so important. Okay, so we've talked a lot about the power of words and  the impact, those words can have on a young girl and I want to talk about areas where there's a lack of representation and how that shows up in the sport of soccer. And so let's go to the locker room. Representation and inclusion and feeling like there's bias in the system that you're operating in can show up in a lot of different places. So where else have you seen, these biases show up? And how has that affected you as a black female soccer player.

Lynn

Yeah, well, I think one is teammates assuming that the black teammates should be on the AUX and that they have all the music or that they should be the ones dancing in the locker room and sometimes they're not the best dancers. And then also Recognizing that after a soccer game, I can't just go out and say my hair is good to go. I need to take a shower. I need to wash and condition and recondition and leave-in condition and style. And a lot of the time,  especially away games, those products don't exist. They have condition for everybody else.

And then I'm like, well, I can't use that conditioner. Or I can't use that shampoo. My hair is going to be so dry after this. Which is so frustrating. Cause I'm like, I feel like my hair type needs it the most. So I would say those are the biggest ones that I see. They're not necessarily outright racist, but it's just a little frustrating sometimes when you're like, why is this happening? And so with the hair things, then I just start bringing my own things. But you accommodate. And you're like, well, why do I have to accommodate? And so

(Lynn chuckles)

I lug this bag around to fit all these haircare products. Or I have to take a shower back at the hotel and I'm like, now I'm sitting in my sweat for far too long. It's wild.

Stef

It's little things though that add up to an overall experience that you go through in life, right? And then I think those little things are important. So how do you think leagues can be more inclusive? Ensuring that they are thinking about all players and all races.  

Lynn

Well, I think there needs to be some diversity training for sure. I don't know if it exists right now. I know it doesn't exist at the, the club level, but I think it needs to exist in all the levels: the people who are up above working in management and also at the team level. So that would be the biggest change I would have-- diversity training. And then also back to my point of getting women of color in higher positions of power, because then you'll have a voice, and somebody who knows what you need or the struggle you've gone through to get to that point.

Stef

If you are in an environment and a team that might not be as inclusive as you want it to be, what can you do as a player? 

Lynn

That's a really good question and a really big struggle and I don't necessarily have the right answer. I think that it should start with, if you feel comfortable going to a coach or somebody in a higher position of power and saying, hey, this is what's happening. Can you help me? And I would encourage coaches to be receptive to that. And I think that maybe once a month, maybe a couple of times a year, you have discussions about race, within your team. I think that for some reason, race is this uncomfortable topic. And, it's probably because of the history about race and what we've done to black people in this country. And so we don't talk about it and I would encourage coaches to talk about it and if a player's not feeling included  going to the coach and saying, hey, I would really like to implement this into our program, into our team. 

Stef

Yeah, and I think it's so important, especially with everything that transpired in 2020, with Black Lives Matter, the death of George Floyd. There were so many moments for opportunities to have conversations and not every coach stood up and created an environment to have a conversation. So that is one thing that I really would encourage any coach

(Stef chuckles)

that's listening to this to create that conversation. And don't put it all on the shoulders of the one or two black girls on your team, there's already enough feeling of pressure. You don't want to put it all on them. And so I want to talk about what transpired for you as part of the NWSL, in 2020, because a lot happened this last year and it was a tough year and it's still a struggle. And Black Lives Matter is still something that needs to have a lot of focus and attention on. And during the NWSL season, there was a statement that was released by the Players Association that was made about supporting, Black Lives Matter. And I think on the back of that, there was a group of women and you were included in it that created The Black Women's Players Collective. 

Lynn

Yeah. So after George Floyd's murder, we as a league wanted to make a statement, but even one step further, us, North Carolina Courage, and the Portland Thorns knew we were going to be the first team back, not only to play, but the first team back to sports. And so we were like, we need to make a statement. We are historically known to have a rivalry. So we were like, this is amazing. We can come together and show that this is bigger than soccer. And so we all decided to put out a statement and every single person knelt for the flag. And I thought it was a very powerful moment. And, I can't speak for every team, but our team had a lot of conversations about race going into The Challenge Cup. And I'm assuming Portland did as well.

It was a struggle, but we had already dealt with that before The Challenge Cup. And, it appears that other teams did not. And so there was a lot of struggle of like, who's going to kneel? Who's not? And not even just kneeling, but why they were kneeling or why some people felt uncomfortable? Some people didn't, some players felt supported, some players didn't feel supported. I think a lot of the players were feeling distress and the NWSL PA wanted to put out a statement that, I think tried to make sure everybody felt comfortable, all races.

And I understand that's their job, but in that moment, I was like, this isn't for non- black people to feel comfortable. Black people in soccer felt uncomfortable for a very long time. This is a time for maybe 1) take a stance saying, this is wrong. What's happening in our country is wrong. And 2) feel a sense of that uncomfortability for however long the national Anthem is played.  And so they put out the statement and every person I talked to who was black, was like, that's not how I feel. I do not feel supported by a number of my teammates. That statement is wrong. And so Midge Purce, Margaret is her real name.

(Lynn laughs)

But we call her midge. She knew that the men just came out with a player's coalition. And she goes, we need one. The time has come, we need one. And that was the start of it. And it was like, we can't have people speaking for us. This isn't how we feel, and we don't want somebody to take our voice away. 

Stef

And to share what that statement included, I have it in front of me here. It says "Whether a player chooses to kneel or stand during the National Anthem is a personal decision and is not indicative of whether they support Black Lives Matter or teammates. So I think that was part of what sparked some of these concerns, because racism is something everybody should stand up for. And in this case, kneel, to support Black Lives Matter.

Lynn

Yeah. And I think that for a lot of people, it was like, if you're not kneeling, you don't support me. And there was, I think a lot of talk about, well, my family is in the military. My family has done this. And there was a lot of people and saying this isn't about your family. It is not about the military. I commend your family for being in the military and serving our country and giving me the ability to even do this. And I think that's what people don't realize. I commend people who are in the military. I think it's the ultimate sacrifice. I can't even fathom the distress that family members go through or what people experienced that are overseas.

But  we can't look and say that we don't have an issue in the United States. And I think that what is so incredible about kneeling, you know, do, I think kneeling is changing the issue. No, not  necessarily, but I think it's taking a stance and saying, this is wrong. I will not stand up for this. This is an issue in our country and I'm putting my reputation on the line to say, this is wrong.  So in The Challenge Cup, I can't speak for every team of what the conversations they had, but for the people that I've talked to, they have said she's not kneeling because X, Y, and Z, and it's not in support of me, or people that look like me. And, that breaks my heart.

Before we even got into The Challenge Cup, we had months to research and educate ourselves about the issues that were going on. So a lot of people were saying, ignorance is not an excuse anymore. Have you opened a book? Have you tried to read about it? And, I still feel that way, like, especially now that we are months and months, months, in, and, maybe you didn't realize it before, but it's definitely brought to your eye.

So if you haven't learned about it, that's not an excuse to not do something. I'm really proud of us in coming together and creating the Black Women's Player Collective. You know, we're in the early stages, but I think it's going to be a huge platform, a huge resource for people who feel uncomfortable and don't know what to say. It's not just for the NWSL it's for all black women in soccer in the United States.

And so my hope that one day, if somebody doesn't feel included on their team can reach out to us and say, can you please help me? And we can be that resource for them and say, of course we can, cause we've gone through it and we've been there.  

Stef

I am a huge supporter of what you guys are doing. So if there's any way Voice in Sport can help, we are going to be your number one, fan, cheerleader, advocate, because that collective is so important and having a group of other women to help you with issues that you're going through is so incredibly important. So I'm so glad that you guys did that and I'm excited that you came together. We've talked a lot about  representation, inclusion, racism,  through many different layers, that you've experienced in soccer. I wanna wanna understand, I guess, your whole career looking back. Where do you feel like that lack of representation or inclusion has shown up the most and what can we do, as a collective to help drive change there.

Lynn

Yeah, I would say in the coaching, is the lack of representation. That's where I think it starts the coaching and the management. I think that if you have people in places and management, that only have one way of thinking, then of course, it's never going to reach the people down here that it affects the most. And so I think if you look across the board, 1) I think we need way more women coaches in general. But then we need women of color to be those coaches as well. And even men of color, like you look at the people who are coaching soccer and it's white men. Not saying that they're not qualified, but I think we are at a time that we need to move aside and allow women to come in and coach and say I can do this, I'm qualified, and I also can also help on a personal level, not just a soccer level.

Stef

How do we do that? How do we get more of these women in the position? I think we got to bring more visibility to these women, they're out there.

Lynn

Oh, there are a hundred percent out there. Like I said, one thing I'm so inspired about is that, I think the people playing now and the next generation are the ones that are going to make the change. I think we see a lack of women coaches because. Before they were like,  soccer is a man's sport. And now I'm really hoping the women who are thinking about retiring are going to go into coaching. And, the girls that are coming up are going to say, oh yeah, I want to coach after my career's done. Or even if they don't want to start a career, they just want to coach. But they're definitely out there. I think accessibility to licenses would help. And,  you know, I don't know the costs of all those, but, I am assuming it's expensive. So just the accessibility to that. And also I think putting  the course during a time when people can go to it would help.

Stef

What is one piece of advice that you would tell your younger self? If you can kind of go back and say, okay, Lynn, you're fifteen, you're in high school...  What's one piece of advice you would like to give her?

Lynn

I would say, forget what everybody else says you believe in yourself and don't doubt yourself. You are an amazing player, but even more important– you're a good person. And if this is something you want to do, believe in yourself and don't let anybody else deter you from that.

Stef

Yeah, that's great advice. There's a lot of things that we want to change within the women's sports industry. That's why we created VIS. But what is one thing you would like to see changed for the future of women’s sports?

Lynn

I would like the visibility of women's sports.... now. And accessibility and not putting streams on ESPN2, like put it on ESPN and CBS and Fox Sports and all the outlets, make it accessible. Time and time again, we have shown that viewers like women's sports. So put it on the air and not, at a stupid time either.

Stef

Love it. Well, it's been such a pleasure to have you on these are all really important topics we're talking about, and I know you've helped a lot of girls with sharing your story. So we're excited to see what you're going to be doing in the next few years in the soccer world. And we are right there with you to support you.

Lynn

Thank you so much and thank you for giving me a platform to speak about these issues that I know you find important and I find very important as well. 

Stef

Absolutely. It's going to take a team to make some change, but we are going for it. Lynn, thank you so much for opening up and speaking out about the challenges you and other black female athletes have faced in predominantly white sports, such as soccer. The time for change is now. We need more representation for women and people of diverse backgrounds as athletes, players, coaches, and administrators in the sports world.

We need to provide young girls with inspiring role models that look like them so that they know that their dreams are possible. And we must bring more visibility to the issues we face in moving the sports industry to a more diverse and inclusive culture so that we can drive change in this together. We are proud of the work that Lynn and her fellow female athletes have started with The Black Women's Player Collective. 

And we encourage you to follow her journey on Instagram @Lynnwilliams9 and @blackwplayercollective, as she continues to use her voice to drive change. And if you identify as a female athlete and want to share a story of overcoming or using your voice to drive change, we invite you to join our community at voiceinsport.com. When you sign up, make sure to check out the VIS story creation tool and use your voice. When you join, you'll also gain access to exclusive content that we deliver weekly, mentorship from amazing female athletes, like Lynn, and advocacy tools to help drive change.  

As always, we appreciate your support. So please leave us a review, subscribe, share the podcast with your friends, and we will see you next week on the Voice in Sport Podcast. 

Host: Stef Strack

Producer: VIS Creator™ Libby Davidson

Lynn Williams, Pro Soccer Player, speaks out about her experiences as a black woman athlete in the predominantly white sport of soccer and how she has dedicated herself to driving change in the soccer world.