To access this work you must either be on the Smith College campus OR have valid Smith login credentials.

On Campus users: To access this work if you are on campus please Select the Download button.

Off Campus users: To access this work from off campus, please select the Off-Campus button and enter your Smith username and password when prompted.

Non-Smith users: You may request this item through Interlibrary Loan at your own library.

Alternative Title

Leveling the playing field: exploring the role of government in facilitating equal access to soccer for girls in the United States and Ecuador

Publication Date


First Advisor

Alice Hearst

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Women's sports, Soccer, Gender equity, Ecuador, United States, Legislation, Government policy, Soccer for women-Government policy-United States, Soccer for women-Government policy-Ecuador, Soccer for women-Law and legislation-United States, Soccer for women-Law and legislation-Ecuador, Sex discrimination in sports


This study was designed to explore the role of government in facilitating access to youth soccer for girls in the United States and Ecuador. Based on research that shows that sport has the capacity to provide Positive Youth Development (PYD) to youth participants, and the recognition that girls have less access to sport than boys in both counties, I set out to explore the following questions: How have governments used sport policy to facilitate broader gender equality? How do female athletes and stakeholders in women’s soccer perceive access to soccer based on their experiences in the US and Ecuador? Is there a role that government can play moving forward to facilitate more equal access to youth soccer for girls as a way to facilitate gender equality in other social spheres? I explored these questions through a comprehensive review of literature and through qualitative interviews with female stakeholders in women’s soccer in the United States and Ecuador. My investigation revealed that many of the barriers to access could be dismantled or at least mitigated by appropriate governmental assistance. The most important factors limiting access were structural barriers, defined as widespread institutional issues, such as teams available and the cost to play; lack of role models/mentors; and the emotional or social barriers resulting from gender norms. All of my participants also spoke at length about the importance of sport in their lives, suggesting that each individual had gained important life skills. It became clear that the participants had varying degrees of awareness of how gender had affected them, and whether the state had/should have any responsibility for enhancing access. Ultimately there was evidence that further political action is needed to overcome the existing barriers to access and to allow girls equal access to youth soccer in these countries.




159 pages. Includes bibliographical references (pages 149-159)