One Female Soccer Leader Advocates for More
Bethesda Soccer Club executive director Lisa Frates epitomizes the power of strong leadership across every aspect of her life. At LeagueApps, we’re grateful to work with women like Lisa who work hard every day to make sports more accessible, safer, and more competitive for girls and young women.
Lisa is on our Soccer Advisory Council, providing leadership and creating a community within the LeagueApps network. We’re proud to work with her, learn from her, and support her programs at Bethesda.
Before taking on the top dog role at Bethesda, Lisa had her share of executive director roles in youth sports at Save Our Canyons and the Utah Lacrosse Association and built a 140-acre Salt Lake Regional Complex in her home state. Lisa took the reigns at Bethesda in 2018 to lead a respected club in soccer for the last 40 years, which has grown to 1,200 players, 85 teams, and 55 coaches—though only six of whom are women.
If that number seems low, you’re not the only one who thinks so.
Lisa completed her Masters in Sports Industry Management in the fall of 2019—oh, and at the same time had her second gorgeous baby—and her thesis was on the dearth of female coaches in sports. In fact, according to her thesis, “Title IX has increased opportunity for female athletes…[while] it provided higher salaries and resources for women’s sports, the number of women coaching has actually declined as more men have been attracted to coaching women and displaced female candidates.”
Lisa is working hard at Bethesda to make sure to retain those six female coaches while driving that number up through a commitment to recruiting a diverse and inclusive culture.
Read below to learn more about Lisa, her perspective on the importance of having strong female leaders for girls and young women, and get some tips on how to put some practices in place at your organization:
LeagueApps: We know you care a lot about women in leadership positions and in coaching roles—and that you care deeply about developing and supporting your coaches. Why is having more women coaches important to you at Bethesda? What processes are in place to make this happen?
LF: It is important that our girls understand that all of soccer is open to them, not just as players on the field. Female coaches allow young girls to see that they can lead in every aspect of their life. As a community, we want to create a great place to work that is inclusive and inspiring so that women feel supported, respected, and continuously encouraged to excel. We are creating mentorship opportunities for our young female coaches and encourage them to network not just inside our club, but within the entire soccer community.
LeagueApps: You are an incredible leader and you’ve created a culture where people of all levels feel part of the work, the processes, the culture. How do you ensure this vibe is carried out of the office and onto the soccer field? How do you do things differently (if at all) to support girls in your programs at Bethesda?
LF: It is important to recognize that there are differences between how boys and girls interpret the world around them. It isn’t one size fits all for genders, age groups, or even areas of the country. Tailoring how you communicate is important to build inclusion and to connect on a personal level with players. We have a wonderful relationship with our local NWSL team, the Washington Spirit, that puts incredible role models right in our backyard.
LeagueApps: As a mother of a daughter (#girlmom), what do you hope for your daughter in her sports experiences? How did you turn out the way you are that you hope to mimic for her?
LF: I absolutely became who I am because of the strong women who raised me. My mother never took no for an answer. When there weren’t equal opportunities for girls, my mom taught me how to write letters to my school board. My grandmother would anonymously pay other people’s electric bills who fell too far behind. She was generous and strong, having been widowed at 53. I named my daughter, Alta, after my grandmother. I hope for her what every mother hopes, that she is inspired, never doubts what she is capable of, and lives a life centered in joy and kindness. Sports have an incredible way of teaching us so many things—commitment, loyalty, the power of working as a team, but they also teach us to lose, to fall down, and to keep getting up. These are the things that build true character.
When I got to college my freshman year, I decided I didn’t want to play tennis anymore. I had just learned how to play the guitar and I wanted to spend time being involved in student government. I became student body president of my University as a sophomore. After college, I toured and released an album. My mom is, and has always been, my biggest fan.