U.S. Soccer on Thursday announced the members and immediate priorities for the federation’s new Participant Safety Taskforce.
According to a news release, the taskforce will be led by chair Mana Shim and was created following the release of Sally Q. Yates’ independent investigation into allegations of past abusive behavior and sexual misconduct in women's professional soccer.
The Taskforce is charged with coordinating and collaborating on conduct-related policies and procedures from the youth level all the way up to professional leagues and senior national teams. While the new Yates Implementation Committee of the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors, led by Danielle Slaton, focuses on quickly and effectively implementing the recommendations in the Yates report, the taskforce will push beyond those recommendations to drive change across the entire soccer ecosystem.
Former U.S. Women’s National Team midfielder Shannon Boxx and Maryland State Youth Soccer Association Executive Director Greg Smith will join Shim in the leadership of the taskforce. The group’s membership includes current and former players from the U.S. Women’s and Men’s National Teams and the U.S. Extended National Teams, as well as players from the NWSL, including the President of the NWSLPA and the NWSL’s current director of Strategy. They will be joined by experts in the fields of human resources, law, auditing and compliance, and player safety processes from various levels of the sport and other governing bodies such as UEFA and FIFA.
“I am excited to work alongside these athletes, experts, medical professionals and advocates, who I know share my passion for action and change,” said Shim. “There is much to do, but I am confident we have a team with a wide range of experiences and viewpoints to change the culture in soccer from the ground up. Together, we will be defining new standards, policies, reporting systems and educational programs with the goal of eradicating abuse altogether from our sport.”
The taskforce will take an athlete-focused approach, supported by subject matter experts, to thoroughly evaluate critical issues and potential solutions to the systemic problems described in the Yates report, as well as any additional issues raised via the impending NWSL/NWSLPA investigation and any concerns or proposals raised by Taskforce members directly.
The group expects to begin by focusing on topics such as governance, standards and policy, education and reporting and response. From this starting point, the taskforce will work to ideate and identify additional actions, beyond the Yates recommendations, that leaders at all levels of soccer can take to promote a safe and respectful environment throughout the entire soccer ecosystem.
The taskforce will immediately work to address the following priorities in the first quarter of 2023:
• Developing an action plan to support the efforts of the Yates Implementation Committee of the Board of Directors to implement the Yates recommendations at all U.S. Soccer member organizations, including youth clubs, other professional leagues and grassroots organizations, among others;
• Gathering best practices and expertise across sports regarding safeguarding policies, officer positions, education and training;
• Identifying the biggest concerns regarding the risks around relationships with significant power imbalances (such as player-coach); and
• Developing educational resources focused on identifying inappropriate behavior and reporting concerns that can be distributed across the soccer ecosystem.
Launching the taskforce is one of several steps U.S. Soccer is taking in response to the Yates investigation’s findings. U.S. Soccer also immediately established the Yates Implementation Committee, began working to establish a new national Office of Participant Safety, published soccer records from SafeSport’s Centralized Disciplinary Database on the Participant Safety Hub on the U.S. Soccer website, and mandated the adoption of a uniform minimum standard for background checks for all U.S. Soccer members. The taskforce will work closely with the Yates Implementation Committee and the Office of Participant Safety to ensure clear communications and a constant feedback loop between the three entities.
“U.S. Soccer is deeply appreciative of the time and dedication of all members of the taskforce – especially Mana, Shannon and Greg for their commitment to leading the important work ahead,” said U.S. Soccer CEO and Secretary General JT Batson. “Our sport must rebuild a culture across all levels of the game so that everyone involved feels safe, welcomed and supported. I am confident that the entire soccer community will benefit from the unique perspectives and expertise of each member of the Taskforce as we strive to create long-lasting change.”
U.S. Soccer states that it is committed to ongoing transparency and will continue to keep players, U.S. Soccer membership and the public regularly updated on the progress of the Taskforce and the Yates Implementation Committee. Additional information can be found in the Participant Safety Hub on U.S. Soccer’s website.
Participant Safety Taskforce Membership Roster:
Mana Shim, Former NWSL player
Taskforce Vice Chairs
Shannon Boxx, Former USWNT / NWSL player
Greg Smith, Executive Director, Maryland State Youth Soccer Association
Margueritte Aozasa, Head Coach, UCLA women’s soccer
Nicole Arsenault, Technical Lead, Idaho Youth Soccer
Jessica Bartley, USOPC Director of Mental Health Services and former NCAA athlete Paul Burke, Shareholder & General Counsel, Ray Quinney & Nebeker and Former President, Utah Youth Soccer
Erin Chastain, Head Coach, University of Minnesota women’s soccer
Margie Close, AYSO Secretary
Anastasia Danias, Executive Vice President & General Counsel, Major League Soccer Tierna Davidson, USWNT / NWSL player
Gloria Faber, Executive Director, USYS and New Mexico Youth Soccer
AD Franch, USWNT / NWSL player
Lesle Gallimore, Girls Academy Commissioner and former USSF YNT coach
Naomi Girma, USWNT / NWSL player
Lauren Holiday, Former USWNT / NWSL player
Carlin Hudson, Former NWSL player and current NWSL Director of Strategy
Tori Huster, NWSL player and President, NWSLPA
Greg Hutton, COO, US Club Soccer
Dr. Cynthia Labella, Lurie Children’s Medical Director, Institute of Sports Medicine Ben Lindau, U.S. Men’s Para National Team player
Alex Morgan, USWNT / NWSL player
Kim Oberle, Former FIFA referee and current national referee coach
Scott Oliaro, UNC Associate Director of Sports Medicine
Jason Sacks, President, Positive Coaching Alliance
Dr. Amy Saltzman, Childhood abuse educator and Founder, “Spot a Spider”
Tony Sanneh, Former USMNT / MLS player
Kwame Ofori Attah Sarkodie, DO, Former YNT captain, current Internal Medicine Hospitalist and Co founder of soccer clinic
Shonna Schroedl, USASA Adult Council
Renee Towles, Sr. Director of Safeguarding, USL
Kate Ward, U.S. Deaf Soccer WNT player
Yael Averbuch West, Former USWNT player and current General Manager, NJ/NY Gotham FC Corey Woolfolk, Former MLS player, Youth coach and HR executive