What we've done here is something to be proud of...
Pride Girls Soccer was founded in 2016 by John Starling and Donovan Loomis. Both former teachers and youth advocates, John and Donovan came together over a common cause of giving school-aged girls in Korea the opportunity to get the benefits of playing "The beautiful game".
Donovan spent much of his early adult life as a camp counselor and youth mentor, and then moved to Korea where he earned his Masters degree in education, taught for many years, and became fluent in Korean, all of which were key to making this dream a reality before John acquired Pride as the sole owner in 2017.
John also is the founder of another youth advocacy program "The School of the Way", an MMA (Mentoring & Martial Arts) program in his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland.
He grew up playing soccer and continued to play for base team while serving in the USAF, and played club soccer until his mid-forties when he co-founded Pride. But, at 39 his relationship to the sport changed forever as he stepped onto the pitch with his wife as co-coaches for their then 4-year old daughter in the Charles Village Recreation League's co-ed youth soccer program where Emily played, and John continued to coach for many years.
Arriving in Korea in 2014 their family was lucky enough to be able to enroll their daughter into a prestigious international school, which had a top soccer program for boys, but no corresponding program for young girls. Then a 4th grader, Emily was brave enough to step onto the pitch within the context of Korea's thousands of years old patriarchal culture, bringing on herself several constant shock, ridicule, marginalization, taunting, sexism and outright bullying from both boys and girls.
But she never gave up. She lead. And other girls followed her lead.
That Fall, "Coach John" took the girls to their first-ever all girls soccer tournament. It was a 7v7 tournament, and their team could only muster 6 girls, but they played their guts out and they finished the tournament with their heads held high, if still streaked with tears. Everyone cried at some point that day, but the worst was over. Now they were soccer players. Tournament-tested and ready for more.
Emily's school began to put its weight behind the program, getting support from the school's resident former professional soccer player (Kely Jacobson) and even purchasing "Girl Power" jerseys for the growing cohort of Village School girls who wanted to play soccer, and were determined to put up with whatever they had to socially to make it happen.
As of this writing, Chadwick International School has hundreds of female soccer players in their program which spans K-12, and is lead end to end by Coach Barry Smith, a dedicated girls soccer coach and father of two girls himself. The school remains a steadfast part of the ever-expanding girls and women's soccer community in Korea, and a "partner in progress" with Pride Girls Soccer, inviting Pride to play friendlies and participate in tournaments several times each year.
By Spring 2016 Chadwick's girls soccer program was headed in the right direction and gaining momentum, and and John and Emily wanted to give public school girls in the area the same opportunity to play that she had at her international school, so John and Donovan formed Pride Girls Soccer, where Emily played for 2 years then became a coach in the program.
In Korean public schools boys get the opportunity to play soccer. Girls don't.
But, Pride Girls Soccer is helping to change that. Our first two seasons were played on knee-skinning, ankle-twisting dirt fields to the gawking amazement of middle-aged women and the out loud laughing and finger-pointing of men in the community. But from the older generation of women and men who would happen by our practices only silent respect, and sometimes a smile and nod of encouragement. They weren't threatened by the existence of our girls on the fields - and they knew progress for Korea when they saw it.