U.S. Consulate General Rio de Janeiro hosted sports specialist Erica Woda for a program focused on girls’ empowerment through soccer as part of Mission Brazil’s “Sports for All” program. The events under “Sports for All” use sports to reach underserved communities, promote social inclusion, and inspire youth to engage in today’s world by providing them with team-building, leadership, and conflict-resolution skills. Woda’s program, which included stops in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, also included “train the trainer” events for girls’ soccer coaches and physical education teachers.
Woda, was a former Division One soccer player for Columbia University, is currently the Athletic Director of KIPP NYC College Prep in the South Bronx, New York City. In 2008, she founded NGO Level the Field, which is focused on athletic and educational mentorship between underserved students from New York and student athletes from top U.S. universities. Erica Woda’s organization has become a reference for sports as a tool for personal and community development, social inclusion, and the importance of education and gender equity among young people.
While in Rio de Janeiro from April 7-9, Erica led presentations for coaches at “Centro de Futebol Zico,” Bola Pra Frente Institute, and at the Olympic Villages of Rocinha and Sampaio in partnership with the State Secretariat of Sports and Leisure, through the “Esporte RJ” program. The presentations to teachers, coaches, and physical education students in these locations focused on the important role educators have in empowering young citizens to aspire to higher education and to assist these youths in participating within their communities through lessons they learn in the field. In Rio, Erica Woda also led clinics at Vasco da Gama’s under-13 and under-15 girls teams, and Bola Pra Frente’s ARTilheiro project, with a group of 35 boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 14.
In Salvador April 9-11, Woda gave a presentation to coaches and educators from the “Instituto Fazer Acontecer” in partnership with the Municipality of Lauro de Freitas, and held a soccer clinic for over 50 girls from Salvador at the “Centro de Formação do Futebol da Bahia.” After the activities on the field, Erica delivered a motivational speech to the young girls, emphasizing the importance of education. Some of the girls travelled from as far as the island of Itaparica for the training session, and the group’s ongoing discipline and hard work have previously been recognized by FIFA and SECOPA, which selected some of their members to be ball-girls in Salvador’s World Cup games.
Also in Salvador, on April 11, Erica spoke to a group of students at UFBA’s Physical Education course and visited an Access English class at Salvador’s BNC ACBEU. From Salvador, Woda travelled to Recife, and she will continue from there to Natal.