National Women’s soccer league seeks immediate changes after abuse, misconduct comes to light

Author Vanessa Baker talks how parents can have conversations with their kids about what to do if they’re experiencing sexual harassment, bullying from coaches.
Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 8:47 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - A National Women’s soccer league is demanding immediate changes after multiple allegations of systemic abuse and misconduct by coaches in women’s professional soccer were unveiled.

A report by former acting Attorney General Sally Yates was released yesterday that found male coaches who allegedly sexually harassed and abused multiple players were moved from team to team instead of being released from their job. Also, those who could have fixed the problems stayed silent, players claim. Becky Sauerbrunn has been playing for the league for more than 10 years, and she says women’s soccer should have been protecting players since allegations came to light a year ago.

“The players aren’t doing well. We are horrified and heartbroken and frustrated and exhausted,” Sauerbrunn said. “And really, really angry. We are angry that it took a third-party investigation.” A separate and joint investigation by the Women’s Soccer League and its players union is underway, and results are expected at some point in November.

A teen-parent coach and author Vanessa Baker spoke on Good Morning, Arizona about the investigation and how parents can have conversations with their kids about sexual harassment and bullying from coaches. Baker now works with Scottsdale organization Not-My-Kid, a parent-focused education organization.

“I think one of the things we have to realize that what we model in the home is what kids going to put up with [from others],” Baker said. “I have a lot of compassion for kids who’ve spent when they’re 3 or 4 years old trying to get that [sports] scholarship. But there’s something about teaching our kids that they deserve respect.” Baker said that children us less likely to talk to their parents or guardian if they feel as though they’re not being heard.

“I’ve often said about parenting and it can be applied to coaching or teaching or any other position of power, coaching should have nothing to do with exerting our power on other people,” she said. “I would beg for humility, for honesty, but in the first place, the culture of coaching is that tough-guy mentality, and I think coaches and parents need to do the inner work we’re asking our kids to do all the time.”

Baker said she encourages parents to recognize that no sport is worth your child’s mental health. “I work at Not My Kid, and we are hearing stories of kids overdosing on drugs which they’re using to cope and numb their feelings that no one is helping them deal with in many cases,” she said. “It’s never, never worth it.”