NEWS | August 13, 2020

UC Davis Health supports soccer program to engage girls in low-income communities

Ladies First Initiative builds on partnership with Street Soccer USA and the California Storm


For many girls in Sacramento’s low-income neighborhoods or communities of color, opportunities to play sports like soccer are limited. UC Davis Health is working to change that through a partnership with Street Soccer USA (SSUSA) and the California Storm Women’s Premier Soccer League Club. 

UC Davis Medical Center Interim CEO Brad Simmons (far right) at the Ladies First event UC Davis Medical Center Interim CEO Brad Simmons (far right) at the Ladies First event

 The three organizations are teaming up for the Ladies First Initiative, which builds opportunities for girls and young women. It includes an after-school soccer program in Sacramento’s Oak Park community and a mentorship program run by California Storm and SSUSA. The efforts will include girls between the ages of 6 and 24.

“In soccer, we talk about ‘building your triangle’ and that is what we are doing by partnering with Street Soccer USA and the California Storm for this important Ladies First Initiative,” said UC Davis Medical Center interim chief executive officer Brad Simmons.

Supporting girls and young women

According to SSUSA, girls in the U.S. have 1.3 million fewer opportunities to play high school sports than boys do. They’re also 1.5 times more likely to drop out of sports by age 14. The group focuses on low-income and minority children, holding tournaments around the country, often using pop-up parks and fields.

With the Ladies First Initiative, the SSUSA hopes to engage more than 10,000 girls across the country by 2022.

“We have witnessed the engagement with the community that Street Soccer USA parks provide and the opportunity for young women that California Storm creates – which is why UC Davis Health believes in the Ladies First Initiative and its importance for the girls and young women in our community,” Simmons said.

Sponsoring Street Soccer USA is one of the ways that UC Davis Health is working to build healthier, more connected communities. Playing soccer improves muscle strength, coordination and cardiovascular health, along with social, teamwork and communication skills.

“The California Storm is so proud to have a partner in UC Davis Health and to represent them on our jerseys and across our hearts,” California Storm executive director Jamie Levoy said.

Sacramento mayor Darrell Steinberg and two-time Olympic gold medalist and world champion soccer player Brandi Chastain were among those who attended an event celebrating the Ladies First Initiative today.  

The event was held at the UC Davis Health Neighborhood Street Soccer Park, which opened last year on the grounds of the Oak Park Community Center; another example of UC Davis Health’s investment in the Sacramento community’s youth.

More information about UC Davis Health’s community engagement efforts is available here.

Street Soccer USA is a national nonprofit that aims to fight poverty and strengthen communities through soccer. Founded in 2009, it connects soccer skills to life skills, providing best-in-class, fun and free soccer programming while helping participants cultivate positive relationships and find the resources needed to succeed.

 The California Storm is a member of the Women’s Premier Soccer League. Its mission is to inspire and empower girls by building self-confidence and leadership skills through the game of soccer. The roster has included FIFA third best in the world all-time ranked player and Brazilian star Sissi to World Cup and U.S. National Team World Champions Brandi Chastain, Alex Morgan, Leslie Osborne and Julie Foudy.