About Goals For Girls

Our mission at Goals for Girls is to use soccer to teach young women life skills on how to be agents of change, in their own lives and in their communities.

Goals for Girls connects girls from different countries and backgrounds with their peers around the world to address social and health challenges through cultural exchange, service, and soccer. Since 2007, we have used this unique platform to help disadvantaged girls across the globe by providing life skills education, all taught through the game of soccer.

Goals for Girls is an international initiative of girls helping girls through soccer. The Goals for Girls experience opens the eyes of young women to the wide array of perspectives and challenges that exist outside their own small sphere, and instill within them the knowledge that they have something powerful to offer the world. By instilling in these girls the change-maker mentality, they realize the character and strength that soccer teaches them goes far and beyond the game.

In 2006, Ian Oliver was an international consultant leading a large portfolio of sport-based development programs in Africa. He was also a soccer coach. After viewing some of Ian’s photos from his HIV prevention program at a refugee camp in Zambia, his U16 elite girls team asked if they could join him on one of his trips.

Initially, Ian dismissed the idea thinking that taking a girls soccer team to Africa would be too heavy a lift logistically and that convincing parents to allow their daughters’ to participate would be impossible. He was quickly proven wrong. After a few initial meetings with his partners in Africa as well as the parents in Washington, Goals for Girls was born and would have impact far beyond what anyone could have imagined for years to come.

Ian quickly organized his team and his network to make the project happen, intending it to be a one-off program in 2007. But well before they boarded that flight, the idea of U.S. girls connecting with their counterparts in other countries through the game of soccer started gaining traction, including through The Washington Post who covered the inaugural project in a significant way before, during and post-program.

Ian recruited Tiffany Roberts, icon of the U.S. Women’s National Team at the Olympics and FIFA World Cup to join him and his team on a 2-week program to South Africa in partnership with Grassroots Soccer and Ubuntu Education Fund. There they worked with hundreds of girls teaching them soccer skills and joining them in learning about HIV prevention and reducing stigma.

Upon their return, word spread and Ian and his colleagues decided Goals for Girls could have continued impact on American girls and their peers around the world through this program. Today Goals for Girls benefits from a robust alumni network, dozens of international partners, funding support from a variety of institutions and individuals, and a growing demand for this platform that connects girls.

Goals for Girls on Facebook

9 months ago

Goals for Girls

Sending a huge thank you to Abby Smith (Utah Royals FC goalkeeper and Nike athlete) and Nike who donated all of the soccer balls used at the national Goals for Girls Leadership Summit in India, and then gifted each participant with a ball to take home. We are so incredibly grateful for your support and generosity Abby and Nike! #G4GLeadershipSummit #WeAreTheChange ... See MoreSee Less

9 months ago

Goals for Girls

“I was fortunate enough to be apart of the Utah G4G Leadership Summit and I met an amazing girl named Riya, from Jharkhand, India! We have so much in common and became instant friends. We email each other on a weekly basis and I hope to see her again soon!”

Riya came to the U.S. with ENVEST (Empowering New Voices through Education & Sports Training), an exchange program sponsored by Sports Diplomacy - U.S. Department of State and Center for Sport Leadership in partnership with Goals for Girls. Exchange Programs - U.S. Department of State
#ExchangeOurWorld #ENVEST

The Goals for Girls Leadership Summit in Utah was in partnership with Utah Royals FC #URFC #G4GLeadershipSummit #WeAreTheChange #MAKEWAY

Riya attends school at Yuwa who work specifically with girls from impoverished families in rural Jharkhand, India—a place where girls are at risk of child marriage and human trafficking. It is a program that uses team sports and education to build character, confidence, and courage. Yuwa prepares girls to end the cycle of poverty— permanently.
... See MoreSee Less

“I was fortunate enough to be apart of the Utah G4G Leadership Summit and I met an amazing girl named Riya, from Jharkhand, India! We have so much in common and became instant friends. We email each other on a weekly basis and I hope to see her again soon!” 
Riya came to the U.S. with ENVEST (Empowering New Voices through Education & Sports Training), an exchange program sponsored by Sports Diplomacy - U.S. Department of State and Center for Sport Leadership in partnership with Goals for Girls. Exchange Programs - U.S. Department of State 
#ExchangeOurWorld #ENVEST
The Goals for Girls Leadership Summit in Utah was in partnership with Utah Royals FC #URFC #G4GLeadershipSummit #WeAreTheChange #MAKEWAY
Riya attends school at Yuwa who work specifically with girls from impoverished families in rural Jharkhand, India—a place where girls are at risk of child marriage and human trafficking. It is a program that uses team sports and education to build character, confidence, and courage. Yuwa prepares girls to end the cycle of poverty— permanently.
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How it Works

Goals for Girls partners with organizations worldwide that use sport as a tool to tackle issues affecting girls in disadvantaged areas, and we support their ongoing work.

Central to Goals for Girls is connecting girls from different cultures and areas of the world together to empower each other. We link American young women to their peers on the other side of the world; in doing so they gain an understanding that they are valued and have important contributions to make to the world.

We create a platform for girls across the world to discover their similarities and differences and work together to meet the various challenges they are facing. We use the following five initiatives to make this happen:

International CAMPAIGNS

Goals for Girls CLUBS


Alumni Network


Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they can understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.

– Nelson Mandela

Why Soccer

Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, and for good reason: it is a game that can be accessible to anyone, anywhere. All that one needs is a playing surface, a ball, and some way to mark off a goal. In communities across the globe, soccer is more than just a game: it is a form of identity and a fundamental piece of culture and history.

According to FIFA, there are 265 million male and female players in addition to 5 million referees and officials making a grand total of 270 million people – and over 1 billion people worldwide watched the 2014 World Cup; no game has a wider world presence.

The benefits of playing the game are expansive: it teaches work ethic, leadership, peer communication, sportsmanship and perseverance; it nurtures a healthy and active lifestyle; it cuts through social and cultural divides; and it connects people to one another in a unique, dynamic way. Soccer specifically provides a vital outlet to victims of poverty and social inequality, creating fun, engaging, and safe environments for people to gain confidence and life skills that equip them to face the challenges of life.

Why Girls

Across the globe the role of girls and women is central, both in their communities and their families. However, gender discrimination is alive and well in the developing world. There are approximately 600 million adolescent girls living in developing countries today, many of whom are in dire circumstances. According to the United Nations:

70 %

of the world’s 130 million out-of-school youth are girls

75 %

of all HIV infections in Sub-Saharan Africa among people ages 15 to 24 are young women

Nearly half

of all sexual assaults worldwide are against girls 15 and younger

One sixth

of the world’s young people live on less than $2 a day, including 122 million girls in Sub-Saharan Africa who live on less than $1 a day.

One-quarter to one-half

of girls in developing countries become mothers before 18, and girls under 15 are five times more likely to die during childbirth than women in their 20s

82 million girls

in developing countries who are now between the ages of 10 and 17 will be married before their 18th birthday

‘Sport for Development’ programs have become powerful, worldwide tools that are turning the tide of gender disparity and its effects. In 1995, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter declared “The future of football is feminine.”  There were 4.1 million females playing soccer around the world within organized structures in 2006, and today that number has increased to 29 million. This number has so dramatically increased as women’s football has been promoted worldwide through events, campaigns, competitions and development programs.

This has massive impact on the development of young women in third-world countries. Many of these girls have no access to sports or other activities, very few friendships with other girls, and work almost exclusively in the home until they’re married off in their early teens. Through Goals for Girls and partner efforts, many now choose to become educated, socially connected, and committed to being change-makers in the world around them.

Goals for Girls works to transfer the lessons they learn from soccer into every area of their lives. Our programs ignite the internal belief that young women have tremendous ability to take their passions and ideas and spark change, both inside and outside their own sphere of influence.

Our Team

Ian Oliver

President, Chairman of the Board

Ian is founder of Goals for Girls, and his career has focused on international enterprise development, managing new market entry, international sales, and brand strategy on behalf of American businesses expanding or establishing investments in Africa and the Middle East. He is currently a founding partner at International Strategy and Implementation Consultants, founder of Africa Talent Management, and a member of the DC/VA District Export Council.

Coupled with his work in export growth and strategy for companies, Ian has an extensive background and network in international development initiatives and impact-driven social change programs. He has structured and led the growth of several large-scale and sustainable public-private-partnerships and corporate responsibility activities in emerging markets on behalf of U.S. government agencies including USAID, PEPFAR, CDC, and the Department of State, as well as large multinational companies and institutions including Johns Hopkins, Johnson & Johnson, FIFA, among others.

Ian believes strongly in aligning corporate goals with social and impact investing and counsels clients on making the business case for impact-investing and public-private-partnerships in emerging markets. He has a passion for giving back through the global appeal of soccer and is the founder of several soccer initiatives including: Ragball International, a financial education project supporting young people across Africa by providing a marketplace for the sale of handmade soccer balls; Goals for Girls, an international initiative of girls helping girls through the game of soccer in partnership with icons of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team; and DC Soccer, a non-profit organization serving the needs of the soccer community in the greater Washington, DC area.

Ian has coached youth soccer for over 20 years in the Washington, DC area.

Jackie Skinner


Jackie Skinner has been with Goals for Girls since 2009, and currently leads the day to day operations of the organization. She has developed and implemented programs in the United States, Uganda, Peru, Tajikistan, India and South Africa. She is deeply passionate about helping teenage girls around the world realize their potential to make incredible change within themselves, and within their communities.

Jackie is originally from a small town in Northern Virginia. Prior to Goals for Girls, Jackie was a social studies teacher and head soccer coach at a high school in Utah, served as a country director for HELP International in Uganda, worked for USAID’s Offices of Food for Peace and Foreign Disaster Assistance in Washington, D.C., and a field guide and research director for a wilderness therapy program in Arizona. She currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah, and in her free time, she enjoys white water kayaking, practicing her harmonica, and climbing/hiking/skiing the Utah mountains.

Cindy Parlow Cone

Outreach Director, board member

As a member of the US Women’s National Soccer Team, Cindy won two Olympic gold medals, one silver and one FIFA World Cup. Upon retiring from her playing career, Cindy served as an assistant coach at the University of North Carolina leading them to a 2012 NCAA National Championship. In 2013, as the head coach of Portland Thorns professional team, she led the team to the inaugural NWSL championship.

After winning the NWSL championship, Cindy realized that her true passion was coaching young girls and impacting their lives on a daily basis. She moved back to North Carolina and currently is the Associate Director for Triangle United and oversees all the girls programming.

Cindy has traveled with Goals for Girls to South Africa (2010, 2018), Peru (2012), and India (2013/14). With the U.S. State Department, Cindy has traveled as a sports envoy to Bahrain (2006), El Salvador (2008), and Azerbaijan (2010). Also through the US State Department, she has hosted and coached both Iraqi (2013) and Jordanian (2015) girls in her home town of Chapel Hill, NC.

Laura Dearden


Laura is an alumna of Goals for Girls, having participated in the 2009 Uganda Program as a senior in high school. She officially joined the Goals for Girls team as the Marketing Director in 2016, and has traveled to India with Goals for Girls 4 times, South Africa twice, and Uganda as a participant. Laura is a very talented videographer, photographer and graphic designer, and also manages all Goals for Girls social media accounts. Additionally, she serves as a lead trainer at Goals for Girls Leadership Summits around the world.

Outside of Goals for Girls, Laura freelances for the Sundance Catalog, and is a photographer/videographer in Salt Lake City, Utah. You can find her on the soccer pitch playing city league, or out enjoying all the beauty that Utah has to offer.

Patricia Benton


Patricia is one of the founding members of DC Soccer and has served as the Secretary/Treasurer of the organization since 2002. She is the Vice President, Chief Operating Officer for the Salzburg Global Seminar. She is responsible for managing the financial and operational affairs of the organization.  Patricia is the former Vice President and General Manager of Comsat World Systems, a $250 million dollar telecommunications company with over 200 employees. Patricia has also worked as a consultant providing senior financial management services to a number of non-profit organizations: Gender at Work, CIVICUS, The Partnership for Transparency Fund, and DC Stoddert Soccer.  Patricia has an MBA in Finance from George Washington University, a BA in Economics and French from Brown University and she is a CPA.

Lorena Curry


Lorena has a degree in accounting from the University of Buenos Aires with several years of financial and contract management expertise. Her most recent experience was five years as the Chief Financial Officer for two local, related non-profit organizations specializing in foreign development and investment. Of particular relevance to DC Soccer, her experience includes generating complex financial statements, budget development, tracking grants, payroll and generating quarterly reports for the Board of Directors.

Jessica Cates-Bristol

Board member

Jessi joined DC Soccer in 2005 as the Scholarship Coordinator. She traveled to South Africa (2007), for the inaugural Goals for Girls program and became a board member in 2008. She returned to South Africa with Goals for Girls in 2017 and 2018.

In 2005, Jessi worked for Grassroot Soccer, an international NGO where she was the Street Children Program Coordinator in Zambia. Jessi received her Master’s Degree in Social Work and her Juris Doctor in 2013 from the University of Maryland. Prior to continuing her education at the University of Maryland, Jessi worked with Maryland Choices. She also completed internships in Senator Ben Cardin’s Office, the Public Defender Service of D.C., and High Road Upper School. Currently, Jessi  works as a School Based Mental Health Therapist for Mary’s Center. Jessi was a four-year D1 college soccer player at the University of Miami & Stetson University.

Annie Hawkins


Annie grew up playing club soccer and ODP in Salt Lake City, Utah. After high school, she played Division I soccer at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. She was a 4-year starter and holds 4 individual season records and 4 career individual records there including goals scored and career points. She was also the second player in Gonzaga history to earn First Team All Conference Honors. Her junior year she led the Conference in Goals Scored and was second in points. She also earned NSCAA All Region Third team honors her junior year.

After college, Annie played professionally in Sweden’s top league, the Damallsvenskan. She also played on the USASA National Team and was part of the USWNT pool for 3 years. After playing in Sweden, she returned to Salt Lake City to play for Real Salt Lake Women, a semi-professional team. She’s been the captain of that team for 7 years.

Outside of soccer, she does marketing for a large technology company, train and mentor kids in soccer, and embrace every opportunity she receives through soccer to give back to the world.

Len Oliver

Board Member

Len has a Ph.D. in Adult/Continuing Education from the University of Chicago and served as the Special Assistant to the Chairman for the National Endowment for the Humanities. Len has published two books and some 30 articles and is a spokesperson for the study circle movement in the United States. He has also given motivational speeches linking soccer with organizational life.

Len has spent his life in sports, playing on the U.S. Pan-American and Olympic Soccer Teams (1963-1964), as a professional in the American Soccer League, and on all-star teams in six different cities. He holds the USSF ‘A’ Coaching License and FIFA-USSF Referee License, serves as Director of Coaching for DC Stoddert Soccer League, and as State Staff Coach with Virginia Youth Soccer Association. He continues to coach youth soccer and offers USSF-licensed coaching courses, training over 5,000 coaches from 83 countries.

Len’s honors include: Induction into the Temple University Athletic Hall of Fame (1981), USSF National Soccer Hall of Fame (1996), Philadelphia Oldtimers Soccer Hall of Fame (1998), the Virginia-DC Soccer Hall of Fame (2001), VYSA’s “Exemplary Service Award” (1997), and NSCAA’s “Long-Term Youth Achievement Award.” Serves on numerous soccer boards and committees, including DC Stoddert Soccer, DC Soccer, Virginia-DC Soccer Hall of Fame (Chair), NSCAA’s Editorial Board, and NSCAA’s Youth Long-Term Service Award Committee (Chair).

Our Ambassadors

Goals for Girls Ambassadors have excelled at the highest levels of sport and are inspiring role models and leaders both on and off the field. They embody the passion and characteristics we hope to develop in the girls that participate in our programming. Our Ambassadors champion our efforts to teach valuable life skills through soccer to girls around the world.

Our Partners and Stakeholders

Our Other Partners and Stakeholders

Johnson and Johnson   |   South African Airways   |   Peruvian Football Federation   |   Academy for Educational Development (AED)   |   Namibian Ministries of Education, Health, & Youth  |   Helen Zille, Premier of Western Cape   |   South African Women’s National Soccer Team   |   Uganda Football Association   |   United States Soccer Foundation  |   Calle U.S. Soccer Retailer   |   Hope for Richmond   |   The Washington Post   |   Quinnox   |   Sports Endeavors, Inc.