PCA is Proud to Announce Girls Leading Goals as our Partner of the Month for June!

PCA recently spoke with innovative Founder & CEO of Girls Leading Goals, Brianna Russell, who shared the unique way in which they leverage the beautiful game to develop leadership skills for all participants. What makes Girls Leading Goals so unique? The entire organization is women-led from staff and coaches to board and volunteers. Here, we dig into GLG’s vision, impact and recent rebrand:

Could you describe what Girls Leading Goals is and does?

Girls Leading Goals (formerly Girls Leading Girls) is an organization started in 2014 in the Bay Area that trains girls ages 5-17 in leadership and advocacy through soccer with all female coaches. We served 900 girls and female identifying youth in 2022 across all our programs in San Francisco and in Oakland. We offer summer camps, club soccer, free after school programs, clinics, junior coaching, and leadership events.

We recently underwent an organizational rebrand from Girls Leading Girls to Girls Leading GOALS so that we could be more inclusive in the youth that we serve and tie our name more closely to soccer and leadership.

We use the term girls, which refers to gender expansive youth: cis girls, trans girls, nonbinary youth, gender nonconforming youth, genderqueer youth, and any girl-identified youth.

As the founder, could you share how you developed the vision to create Girls Leading Goals? How did it come to be?

I started this organization for three reasons: 

First, I wanted to create a soccer program (soccer is one of my life long passions) that could help 12 year old girls like me. Soccer saved me and gave me a safe place to thrive when there wasn’t one elsewhere. Statistically, girls drop out of sports drastically around age 12/13. That was almost me, and it definitely was my two sisters. I wanted to create a program that put girls at the center of the design to reach the whole girl, keep her in the game, and give her a chance to fall in love with soccer like I did. 

Second, I started coaching in San Francisco while I was in graduate school and even here there were barely any female coaches. I never had a female coach until I played in college. Representation matters, so it was important to me to create a mentorship and role model program that challenged a male dominated field. Give girls a chance to See it, Own it, and Lead it, which is our motto. 

And third, when I was in the Peace Corps in the South Pacific, I started a women’s team and took them to another island to play in a tournament. Everyone in the village was against us going and didn’t understand why we were traveling to play soccer. There, only the men played soccer. We ended up winning first place, and when we came back, the entire community was waiting for us with flowers to congratulate us! It was at that moment that I saw the value of sports and its ability to transcend gender, race, beliefs, language, roles, etc. and empower people. That moment was the seed and start of the idea for Girls Leading Goals.

All women coaches- why?

Like I said above- representation is important. If girls can see women in leadership roles they’ll see themselves in those roles and beyond. Coaching is just the tip of the iceberg, we need women referees (which we have started developing within our organization the past two years), we need women managers, CEOs, team owners, Presidents and equal pay.

Has recruiting and retaining women coaches been a challenge?

Yes! It is a catch all. We’re trying to solve the problem while simultaneously living the problem. The main reason we have to hold back on programming is due to not having enough women coaches. We’re always recruiting, and I mean always. I’ll ask any woman I meet if she wants to coach! We train and mentor women so that they too have a good experience and want to keep coaching, which is also part of the challenge. The sports environment is hostile, there’s a lot of patriarchal systems that make it hard for women to succeed and advance. We do lots of in-house training for our coaches that varies from soccer specific to leadership, as well as personal and professional training like a self defense class to help boost their confidence.

Any tips that you can share to help us all design programs that are inclusive of and honor women coaches and staff?


  1. Ask women what the barriers and challenges are for them. Then work with them to co-create solutions. 
  2. Pay them the same you would pay male coaches. Yes, pay them– don’t ask them to volunteer. 
  3. Cover all their costs to coach like transportation and licenses- we do this and it’s been an on-going evolution in terms of transportation options that we provide them based on their situation. 
  4. Help mothers with childcare: the biggest reason women stop coaching is childcare becomes hard when they start a family, especially the first five years of the child’s life. I’m currently a new mom of a 19 month old, so I now understand this barrier a lot more. 
  5. Create a safe environment for them to speak up, share, learn, and also teach what they know to other coaches. We always draw from the expertise of our coaches before going outside our collective group.


And, any tips for designing sports and leadership programming that centers a girls’ experience? 

Similar to the women coaches question: ask them and co-create with them. We have a Junior Board and we solicit their opinions, feedback, and suggestions quarterly. We also ask them to be our eyes and ears within their peer groups and teams to get everyone’s input and to help share changes we make.

Over the years, we’ve heard you mention that men and boys have wanted to support Girls Leading Goals and participate. How have you found ways for boys and men to be allies?

We have included boys recently as part of our free after school program as a separate group we serve. We don’t offer co-ed programming but we do offer a girls group and a boys group now for our after school program. This is great because the boys are really getting an opportunity to see and learn from a female coach. We include men as allies by inviting them to volunteer at events, to be on our board or advisory council, and help out in various ways on and off the field as well as share their experiences, suggestions, and ideas on how to get more girls and women in the game and to stay in the game.

The organization recently rebranded- formerly known as Girls Leading Girls. Why the name change?

We did a rebrand in April for a few reasons: 

  1. To be more inclusive to nonbinary youth and boys we serve. 
  2. To connect our name more with soccer and leadership. 
  3. We changed our logo to better tell the story of our mission and reflect who we are and what direction we are going. See the full logo story here.

How is Girls Leading Goals partnering with PCA?

We have been part of the Sports Equity and Access Coalition in Oakland and we are joining the Sports Equity and Access Coalition starting in San Francisco this year! Additionally, we have had our coaches participate in the many PCA coach workshops including the recent Coaching with Empathy workshop. We look forward to collaborating with PCA even more!

What are you looking forward to in the second half of 2023 and beyond?  

Well, we’re definitely looking forward to the Women’s World Cup this summer! We’ll be hosting a final watch party for our community in August. We have summer camps all summer in San Francisco and Oakland with spots open for any girls looking for a camp. We’re also always looking for women coaches, no experience required. We train them and support their development.

To join Girls Leading Goals at a World Cup watch party, get involved as a coach, or learn more, visit girlsleadinggoals.org