Kim Crabbe

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Kim Crabbe joins the Beautiful Game to discuss her groundbreaking career as a player and coach. From becoming the first African-American to play for the US Women’s National team to providing equitable opportunities for young players today, Kim’s role as a pioneering leader is inspirational. Kim is happy to see more black players on the US Women’s National Team today, but knows first-hand that there are still structural barriers to progress. Kim sees the challenges black and hispanic players face on a daily basis coaching free programs in North Carolina. She faces those challenges head-on, with patience, perseverance and a loving smile.

Kim Crabbe is the Director of Outreach at the Wilmington Hammerheads in Wilmington, North Carolina, where she runs in-school, after-school programs, and a league for poor youth, primarily Black and Hispanic players. As a player, she won the national championship at George Mason University. She was the first African American to play for the US Women’s National Team. She’s in the athletic hall of fame in Virginia where she grew up and also recently won the Centennial NAACP Youth Services Award.

The murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 is a stark reminder that systemic racism remains an enormous problem. The symptoms are seen in sport too. While Kim is the ‘Jackie Robinson’ of women’s soccer and she continues to lead from the front, we all must recognize that society remains inequitable. Please donate to her work, share her story and get involved in helping to make the world more just through the beautiful game.

Recorded on May 19, 2020


Tony Nicalo: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Beautiful Game, a show dedicated to helping us face change with confidence and improve a little each day. Beautiful Game is produced by Weasels FC, a community of smart, tenacious, and sometimes underestimated people exploring resiliency in an uncertain world. I’m your host, Tony Nicalo. Join me as we learn to live, work and play better.

I’m here today with Kimberly Crabbe, who’s the Director of Outreach at the Wilmington Hammerheads in Wilmington, North Carolina, where she runs in-school, after-school programs, and a league for poor youth, primarily Black and Hispanic. As a player, she won a national championship at George Mason University and also was the first African American to play for the US Women’s National Team. She’s in the hall of fame in Virginia where she grew up and also recently won the Centennial NAACP Youth Services Award. It’s very exciting to be here with you today, Kim.

Kim Crabbe: [00:01:12] Thank you very much. Appreciate the opportunity.

Tony Nicalo: [00:01:15] Beautiful Game is produced by a community known as Weasels FC. And so we always start off by asking what you think of the animal, a weasel.

Kim Crabbe: [00:01:25] Wow. A weasel falls in the category of some of the animals that I do that like, I don’t know if it’s in the rodent category or not, but that’s where I place it with the rats and the mice. Some of the things that I don’t really like.

Tony Nicalo: [00:01:43] So you’ll like weasels because they like to eat those animals. They’re in a different family. The same family as Wolverine.

Kim Crabbe: [00:01:50] Okay. Yeah. I don’t know much history on it now because I was not that interested in the animal, rodent in whatever category it fell into.

Tony Nicalo: [00:02:00] Fair enough. We’re living through very unusual times right now with a global pandemic and much like many of the things that we’ll talk about today from incarceration rates and poverty, we’re seeing a disproportionate impact of  on African-American and poor communities. As someone who has gone door to door, who shows up every day, I imagine the experience that you’re having and your players is probably slightly different than some others that we’ve heard. All your players would probably not have Techne subscriptions on their iPhones training on their own these days. How are you supporting your players right now?

Kim Crabbe: [00:02:42] Well, let me first begin by saying I don’t really use the word poor anymore. But I do target at risk and underserved kids in our community. And I think that we face a lot of the struggles that a lot of community programs that target these areas do. Each family household was allotted one computer. The average of my families have three to five kids. Some more. So you’ve got one computer in the household. Yeah, there’s probably parents that own an iPhone, but you can best believe their kids aren’t going to be sitting on ’em doing schoolwork and being able to try to take part in all of the available opportunities that there’ve been out there as far as training.

So we do have a Facebook outreach city league page that we’ve been just posting some opportunities for the kids to do things. I personally have been trying to focus on myself. I’ve had some health issues, so I’ve not been able to jump on and do a whole bunch of live and moving around mobility stuff for the kids. We’ve been trying to post as much as we can, in the case that they are able to take part in some of these things. And right now with the different phases of opening up things, we’re kind of last on the totem pole. The club that I am a part of, and the under the umbrella of the Wilmington Hammerheads pretty much concentrate on the more elite level of place.

So right now they’re trying to get everything together to offer at least something for the summer, maybe a seven’s league. Well, I’m looking at that as an opportunity for perhaps some of my kids. What are going to be some of the pros and cons of this? Transportation, which has always been an issue when now with us having the new norm, what is that going to look like? So I’ve been using my time to try to figure out how I can plan and better design something that’s going to fit for the demographics  end of what I’m exposed to on a daily basis with my outreach families in my program.

Tony Nicalo: [00:04:49] We’ll dig into some of the details of how your program works and some of the challenges and the unique opportunities as well. I want to make sure that we’re celebrating the work that you do today, and the best description I’ve heard of your work is from a parent, I think, who volunteers with you, Jameela Galvez. She herself, I think is a basketball coach at the YMCA, and I want to share her words. Which is ‘Kim’s kindness is contagious. I’ve witnessed impoverished children show up to play soccer with no shoes, torn flip flops, duct tape, souls. Yet week after week they come. It didn’t take long to understand why the children so desperately wanted Coach Kim’s attention and approval. I was elated to see those smiling faces come, those smiling faces go, knowing I had witnessed magical moments.’

And so much of the work that you do is part of the reason why the game itself is beautiful and you’re having a huge impact on the lives of hundreds of children every week. And I just want to say thank you.

Kim Crabbe: [00:06:03] Thank you. I mean, it goes a long way when somebody says, thank you, it doesn’t come with a dollar sign. It doesn’t come with a expected results or a kickback and I guess in a fortunate way it happens anyway. There are fortunate kickbacks and good outcomes that come from it. Every time I hear, thank you, it lets me know I’m doing something right. So I try even harder to impact another souls life. You know what I mean?

Through this beautiful game, which has done just that for me. It has a alloted me opportunities and experiences that I would never be able to endure if it wasn’t for the game. So I in return, want to do that for these kids in the community. So thank you for, for caring. That’s what I say to people all the time. Thank you for caring because it doesn’t take much for somebody to come and just say thank you. But you know, I go into, I go places. Like right now, I have a vehicle that was donated through one of the car dealerships here because my car experienced a horrible accident. I mean, that doesn’t happen every day. And not only did they donate it, they aren’t helping me maintain it. And when I go in, I get more thank you’s from the employees there, and I’m feeling like I should be thanking. And I do. I thank everybody there. I’m going out like something. This is, it should be the other way around. I should be coming. And I do. I come in as grateful as I can, whether it’s an oil change or a tire change, and just to hear so many people say, thank you, coach, thank you for what you do. And it’s not because I was just in the paper or on the news. It’s just because I think a lot of people get it and a lot of people care and give a darn about the kids in this community that otherwise may not have these experiences and opportunities.

So I take it serious. And again, thank you.

Tony Nicalo: [00:08:04] Well, I think it’s like most things in life. Knowing what to do is the easy part, but actually doing it. And so we all know that having gratitude is something that makes us happier and helps society overall. But you have to actually practice it.

Kim Crabbe: [00:08:20] Absolutely

Tony Nicalo: [00:08:21] So happy to be with you today.

 You grimaced a little bit, when I use the word poor. Jameela,  in her words, used the word impoverished. I used the word poor in the introduction. Oprah was telling a story, and I use Oprah very specifically here because I know you are a fan and I am as well. She tells a story of when she was talking to Maya Angelou, when she had first started her school for girls in Johannesburg, South Africa.

And she relays it as, this is going to be my greatest legacy. And Maya says to her, your legacy is every life you’ve touched. And I think about the impact that you have. And so I wanted to use Oprah for that reason, but also because she has said that there’s no shame about the word poor. She herself when an interviewer said, Oh, you came from very modest background, she said, modest is not the right word. I was poor. And one of the students that’s in her school, Oprah used the word poor. One of her students said, Oh, I don’t like that word. And Oprah says to her, well, honestly, if you’re not poor, then it’s a problem because that’s why I’m paying for you to go to this school. And I say this very specifically wanted to talk about it because I grew up poor.

My mom was a single mother who worked multiple jobs and there were times where we are waiting for the next paycheck and she had to make a decision about whether we were going to. Pay for the heating oil bill or the electricity bill. So, you know, I remember winters in Pennsylvania, sometimes standing in front of the, the electric oven cracked open a little bit, just to warm up a bit.

I don’t know whether you were poor. I know you grew up in a planned community in Reston, Virginia. But you were raised by a single mother. Your father was incarcerated most of your life. And I think that there is a resilience that you learn through circumstance. And what I want you to talk about and what I hope for listeners is the goal for everyone, I think, is to learn from other people’s hardships that we don’t have to always grow through our own adversity. In fact, it’s better if we can avoid adversity ourselves and learn from the experiences of others. And so how has your upbringing and perspective on the world made you resilient, and what are some of the lessons that you can share with others about the mental skill of resilience?

Kim Crabbe: [00:10:49] Back to the word poor. It’s not even that I don’t use that word because I do, and it’s not that I don’t like that word because it’s evident. It is what it is. But I used to use it all the time and I said, were we really poor or was I really a product of being rich in so many ways because of what I’m giving back to the world right now? You know what I mean? I’m not going to just say this community because I go beyond the community sometimes in my giving. And so I think that growing up the way I did enriched me in a way. So I try to be cautious of some of my vocabulary when I’m being interviewed because of course, no, you don’t want to offend anybody, but back to it is what it is.

Some of these families are poor in finances, but they are just like me, enriched by the opportunities that they are fortunate enough to endure and I can give an example by just having my soccer program, these kids wouldn’t be able to play with the three to four different clubs that we have around here, including the one that I am employed under. If they didn’t have a thousand dollars I’m just low balling per kid. And like I told you, most of my households consists of three to five kids in a household, and everybody wants to play soccer with the demographics of neighborhoods that I’m concentrating on, the Hispanic communities, lower income African American communities. So they’re enriched in a way because here’s this free program. That offers them an opportunity. And then I identify which kids that are excelling quickly or just have that natural gift. And then the club reaps the benefit because of course I’m going to try to get them better training and get them into the system, so to speak.

So I use my experiences to implement as major components in how I run my program, how I introduce things to my kids in my program, and I just strive every day to try to impact somebody. With hopes that they’ll do the same and just kind of keep it going. I’m hoping one day that I have a kid in my program that I can pass the torch on that understands what some of my goals were for not just this program before the community alone, because let’s face it, I’m 54 I don’t see myself moving. I’m down at the beach. That’s where I’ve been trying to get to for many a years. But it goes back to the times when dad was incarcerated. Mom was working three jobs and we, we never took family trips.

In fact, I think till this day we still have not taken an all family trip and I live here at the beach. My mom came down for my NAACP award. She came down when my daughter graduated when we lived in Chapel Hill. But I’m on the move a lot. Not a lot of family comes down. I think this pandemic and the new norm, it’s kind of changed mindsets a little bit. And I think, in fact, I know people are eager to get out, so lots want to come down now, but I’m not ready. I’m not ready for company now, so. So I am just trying to now just use all of my experiences and try to implement those into making my program better so that I can make some of these kids in the community better and offer them opportunities. That’s my main goal is not to make a million dollars. Cause as we know, that’s not going to happen for me in this sport, but I want to give back to what this sport has given to me, so I take that pretty serious as well.

Tony Nicalo: [00:14:39] You’ve described a coach that supported your growth in the game. I don’t know his first name, Mr. Bryant.  As you talked about, transportation is a big issue. It goes beyond just pay to play. Even if you create a free program, how do you provide opportunities where you need someone to give you rides to practice? Arguably even more important than that, you need someone to advocate for you. And so what does implementing your experience look like from that perspective?

Kim Crabbe: [00:15:06] Because I can relate to a lot of the challenges that come with it. It just makes it more crystal, more comprehensive for the average kid that’s within my program as opposed to somebody who’s not in my program that has transportation, that knows that that fee is going to be paid for them to play both spring and fall, which is a whole year of soccer. And in between if there spring break camps or there summer camps. That looks different for kids in my program. That looked different for me back in the day until I had those Mr. Bryants and Coach Whites. Mr Bryant was my gym teacher that saw my natural talent back then and knew of my situation at home and wanted to make a difference and try to help. So when he let my mom know that he had signed me up and paid for that and got me going and was able to give both myself and another friend at the time a ride. He saw the talent that both of us had. He kind of connected us and  gave us that first boost, and that’s what I’m trying to do for a lot of kids here within the community. Just give them that, that little nudge and give them that opportunity to just have fun and learn. But if I see that they have a niche like Mr. Bryant did with me, that I want to place them and put them in the right place for them to excel.

Tony Nicalo: [00:16:34] And you’ve talked about that excellence and excelling is happening, You’ve got players who go through your programs that are getting onto the actual Wilmington Hammerheads, their travel teams.

When you joined George Mason, it was a new program. So I want you to talk about what you learned there and. In your own programs, how do you make them sustainable? How do you ensure that they’re, they’re not just a boost, but that they’re there for the longterm so that you are able to come back day after day, week after week and see kids progress?

Kim Crabbe: [00:17:11] Well, with the George Mason piece, that was something that I can honestly say, I didn’t know was going to happen. It wasn’t like my goal to try to go to college. It was my goal to try to, to go somewhere, you know what I mean?  Did I think soccer was going to take me as far as it did. Nope. Cause at the time women’s sports period were struggling.

We were trying to make a mark. So I just enjoyed playing sports and was with hopes that one of the many sports that I starred in would offer an opportunity to go and I can, like I said, it’s kind of open ended. It just so happened that George Mason, a local, new program that was looking to build, was interested in my talent. I had other little colleges, some D1 Schools, some D2 schools. I played field hockey. I was an elite athlete, so I could have ran track, I could’ve played basketball, any of those. I didn’t have as many soccer scholarships or offerings as I did within the other sports. So again, it was not like if I sat down and wrote out my goals to go to college and play soccer was not one of my goals.

But it was for me to go, to get out of the apartment complex that we played football in the streets  or to be the first in the family to go somewhere, you know, just to travel, to be able to go overseas just to go. So George Mason kind of fulfilled maybe some of those goals that were there that I didn’t even know, you know, like not invisible goals, but  I had attainable goals that I wanted to do. And one that was attainable was to get out. And everybody says, well, to get out of where?  unless you  were in my shoes, you wouldn’t know what get out is. And that’s how incomplete it is. But it was to get out. So George Mason fulfilled that for me and being able to get out and still kind of be close to home because of course my mom, who had been in my life solely for so long, I didn’t want to go far, but I wanted to get out. So George Mason allowed that for me and allowed me opportunities beyond.

 And then to get to the sustainable part of my program now. I think being that face within the community that these kids and these families learn to trust and respect kind of begins your foundation. You can’t just jump into the top of the pyramid without having a good foundation at the bottom and strength. And I’ve been here for 10 years and it’s taken me some years to gain that. And that’s why I think that my program is a positive entity within the community is because I’m not that hit or miss face that’ll come in and do a great field day or a great event and then just be gone. Come to a community center and wow them to death with this awesome, great couple of days of soccer and then just be gone.

And I think that that’s so important. Somebody hit me up after seeing a Zoom and they were asking me about certain things. They said, we have a big refugee community and we have this and we have that Hispanic community and we, how do you it? Then I said, trust is so important. These families are not going to just buy into a fast talker or a face like I said, that’s just a hit or miss. They want to see somebody who cares, who cares enough to continue to come that cares enough to give of their time. That cares enough to understand all of the challenges that come with not just some of my family’s lives, but what it’s going to look like if they put their kids into the next level. I try to talk to these families when I identify these kids.

Tony Nicalo: [00:21:14] Is there going to be someone there to support them and advocate for them?

Kim Crabbe: [00:21:17] Absolutely. Correct. So that that all comes with a big trust and respect level and, and I’m the type that if you give it, you get it back. And as long as my hands are open to give, then I’m going to be receiving. And at the same time. And my receiving comes in abundance because these kids, they love me and I love them and these families. So that falls in that priceless category where there’s really not a dollar sign that you can put on something like that.

Tony Nicalo: [00:21:48] To make that concrete, to me, what it sounds like you’re saying is that you can’t come in with just grandiose plans, like we’re going to transform the face of us soccer through this community. It’s really starting with a product, with a program which is sustainable from the very beginning, so that it’s small enough that it will continue to go on so that you can build from there. Is that right?

Kim Crabbe: [00:22:14] Absolutely. It’s like an attainable goal. It’s like a proposal that you bring in and you sit down, you know, you got 20 people at the table and you have to break that proposal down so that they understand. I just say there are some people that really don’t understand what it takes. And how important it is to have programs such as these within every community.

Tony Nicalo: [00:22:39] One of the things that I find really interesting about your experience and the way that you choose words where you talk about getting out and it’s sort of hard to describe because you’re not describing your circumstance that you came from. You don’t feel like it was terrible and you escaped as a political refugee where your life was in danger. Like you don’t really feel like that. And if you think about Jack Kerouac on the road or some rich kid who wants to go travel, they described that as just wanderlust, which I think as a species, is a natural human inclination that we want to travel, we want to move, we want to see the world, and I think that your experience, and we’ll talk about this a little bit later as well, when we talk about language and the impact that it has in the world, and honestly, you know, it’s the reason why I didn’t want to use the word disadvantaged or minority or inner city, because in so many ways, those words are euphemisms to try and veil other things. So we try and be specific.

You played multiple sports, you played field hockey as well. I was just talking to Dr. Colleen Hacker who ended up coaching with the coach that followed your coach on the national team Tony DiCicco. She coached with him.  She played for a coach at Lockhaven University named Sharon Taylor, who always insisted to her players that it was their responsibility to figure out who paddled the canoe before you got in. And in 1985 at George Mason, your team beat Anson’s North Carolina team to win the national championship. And then in 1986 when Anson became the second US National team coach, he called you into camp and you got to play for the US National team. And so a lot of the talk that we have today about diversity on the US Women’s national team and soccer in the US in general, you were there paddling the canoe before anyone else. So I want you to talk a little bit about what that experience was like for you. Not only to be the first African American woman on the team, but you were the only, and I imagine that growing up you were the only on lots of teams, not just the first, and you’re still kind of living that challenge and opportunity in some ways today where you’re both proud of your experience. But, there are probably some things about it that could have been better. And so I just want you to talk about your experience to give us an idea of what it was like to walk in your shoes.

Kim Crabbe: [00:25:21] I like that term, paddling the boat, paddling the canoe before anybody else. I like that. My experience growing up in a planned community here in Reston was amazing.

Tony Nicalo: [00:25:34] What is a planned community? What does that mean? Is that like a suburbia, Pleasantville type planned community, or what does it look like?

Kim Crabbe: [00:25:42] It was an area that someone had a vision and implemented to the fullest, right to now where they don’t want it. It was planned to not have any more building after a certain year. So this vision was wherever you lived in this community, there was a shopping center, a swimming pool in a school, in walking distance, wherever you live, there was a park in distance, so it was a great place to grow up. And I grew up with more African Americans, females playing. I was just one that kinda got out and got exposed and was able to excel within the game.

I’m going to go back to the days of playing in the rest. Then where a field looked like a combination of boys and girls. It looked like a combination in diversity. It looked like kids wanting to play soccer.  so there wasn’t any color code, there wasn’t any ethnic or or gender code.

It was what you want it to look like when you go out in a park and somebody has a ball and, and all the kids want to play, nobody’s going to be excluded. So I didn’t really face any challenges with my ethnicity when I lived in Reston. And it wasn’t until I started playing it more elite levels when I could not identify with anybody who looked like me because of there weren’t any that I may have started to experience some challenges. When I was called in for the US National team in 1986 where the Anson Dorrance, I think there was one African American girl that played on the Canadian National team. I don’t even know if we had any in our pool at the time. There may have been a couple, but there was some playing at the collegiate level that were pretty good players, but I didn’t know what Anson was looking for within a national team.

Speed was my asset. My game had definitely elevated to a point where I felt like I was deserving of being on the women’s national team. So as far as my skin tone, again, I didn’t face any challenges until I got to that next level. Going over to Italy and playing, you’re playing overseas, you don’t face as many challenges as I would probably face when I was here in the United States because you have so many different ethnicities and cultures and different cultures there that included some African-Americans. So I was actually kind of praised a little bit when I was on the women’s national team when I was in Italy. I remember giving out autographs and. But then there were times when I’ve traveled to different countries, Ireland, when I was called the N word. Luckily I had thick skin and I had a supportive group of girls as my team, and they were considered my family when we traveled, you know?

And I looked at them as such in support. And I think I was just very lucky that I was blessed with a great personality and thick skin to brush a lot of stuff off when that surfaced. But for the most part, my game spoke for itself, and I think that that is where I earned a lot of my respect from fans in different countries.

And I think  up to this point now with my history starting to surface a little bit more on people understanding and knowing more of who I am. I think that they don’t know all of my history, but it’s starting to surface a lot more. And the black coaches advocacy  is helping me out a lot as advocates for me, and I’m a great advocate for myself, and my main goal right now is just to give back. I think that it’s really important that once we’ve played collegiate, maybe we’ve played on national teams or played professionally, that we really appreciate it what the sport is done for us and how we can give back. So that’s really my main focus these days. I don’t really harp on the past. I know that I have done a lot for the sport as it’s done for me, and I just really think that it’s so important for all of us to give back. I mean, even now, going through the pandemic with people like yourself hosting these platforms, giving us an opportunity to tell our story a little bit and of what we’re doing now to kind of help the game is also important.

Tony Nicalo: [00:30:25] I’ve heard some stories that you’ve told about your experience in Ireland and race and representation is interesting. I mean, as you said earlier, you’ve got to be careful. I’ve seen you on a local news interview where you’ve basically said there was no racism while you were playing, or you didn’t experience at the very least, and then you were on the For the Culture podcast and said, well, maybe there was a little.

And you’ve also said in your career, you’ve sometimes felt a little iffy about whether people really had your back or not, and whether you really had that sort of job security. So I want you to talk about the importance of representation and whether that’s through your own experience. And I don’t think you’re someone who’s going to talk about what you were missing out on by not having representation.

You’ve used the word Jackie Robinson of women’s soccer, so that’s maybe one example of representation. Or if it’s from your, your own players, if you’ve seen the world through their eyes as more African American women are on the us women’s national team. However you want to address it, but talk a little bit about the importance of representation and what it means.

Kim Crabbe: [00:31:36] I think it’ll kind of be through my eyes and it’ll be a little bit from the past and a little bit from the present. Through my eyes, I think representation is important. Growing up in a single parent household, mom working three jobs, independency was, I don’t want to say forced on me, but that’s probably for better words, I learned to be independent at a very early age. So becoming a member on a team, I learned to have. Representation and support from my, my team family, my family team, or however you want to put it, and that’s important. That was very important to me. Growing up, I still call all my friends, my family. I got Julie Willingham, who’s coaching over at William and Mary, coached at Princeton. We grew up playing together. Jill Ellis, we grew up playing together, all my George Mason family, the Reston Rowdys, my very first selection team. We all still keep in touch with one another and that’s representation. The many years I had lack of representation, being that I could keep going back and giving excuses that it was a woman’s sport.

Just starting out, whether I say I was the only African American, I didn’t know that we had a black coaches group that could have been supporting me through all these years. I’m kinda new to the convention, so I’m embracing those opportunities that come from, from those great annual events as well. And now being part of the black coaches association. So those kinds of representations are what kind of make me whole. So it is important to have that.

Now moving forward to  the identity of the girls now that are playing, and there’s many African Americans that we have playing on the women’s national team is just a missing piece that’s now being filled for me personally. I didn’t have identity-wise. Somebody to look up to playing on the national team that looked like me. So now to see the Crystal Dunns and to see, you know, the Jessica McDonalds and all the girls that are playing now and representing, and I could probably say the same for like Briana Scurry and Saskia, we were happy, Stacy Wilson, all of us to see more of us playing at the next level. Because now the new generation that’s coming up, they do have an identity, they do see, see more African American females playing at that level. So I’ll keep going back to all of these components that are important. But they are, they’re important for the next generation.

They’re important for me, that was of the first generation. We all want this sport to grow and we all want everyone to have equal opportunities to play. Definitely not using a skin tone or anything else as a factor that could be of neglect of you moving forward. So, I mean , just seeing that there are more of us is priceless to me. It’s kind of like bittersweet, because I knew, I knew that there were more African American great players out there, but were they getting the opportunities to be invited to these national camps or getting these opportunities? I didn’t know because that’s a part of the game that I was not familiar with. I didn’t know what the process was years later. I just knew that from the new generation coming up, those were questions that were asked of me. You know, why aren’t there more African American females playing, and at the time I couldn’t answer that question. I did a panel with ESPN, and that was the first question that they asked me, and I was kind of stuck.

I stuttered because I didn’t have the answer to that.  But I knew that there were probably some factors that played key. At the time when I did that panel, I immediately said that some of the challenges were financial. This is not a cheap sport. Once you get to a certain level as is, I think with, with any sport, once you start playing at an elite level, I knew that there were probably some of the same issues that I dealt with back then. Transportation. My mom worked three jobs. How was I going to get to practice or games? Factors are still key now. Some parents convert their whole lives to their children’s sports that they play, but then there’s others that just cannot. So when it comes down to it, there’s probably still a lot of African American females out there that are waiting to be exposed.

Tony Nicalo: [00:36:21] There are those structural issues for sure. And we shouldn’t be unhappy with the progress that’s been made so far, but  we can still be unsatisfied with the amount of progress that’s been made. But if you look at at leadership roles, not to mention head coaches, general managers, but even just team captains. If you look at Crystal Dunn, she was left out of the world cup in 2015, yeah, she was in the squad in 2019 she’s said she’s felt she has to go above and beyond if she’s going to be recognized as an intelligent player, as a playmaker, as a leader, as a player who’s not just fast. And part of the reason why I’ve  tried to be careful about the words that I choose is because of the work of a Stanford professor on racio-linguistics. That language has enormous power in terms of how we discuss race. And we see it a lot in the game that there are players who are described as having pace and power or that they’re very athletic.

Or players get left off of teams because of team chemistry or that pundits are talking about if all of the best athletes in the US played soccer, the team would be much better. And all of those words are ways that we continue to structurally keep people out of roles within the game.  Where your center midfield captain is often not a black player on the team. And that’s because of the long history of putting people into particular roles. And so I’m particularly impressed with the work that you’ve done because while other people are talking about it. You just continue to get out there and, and lead and do the work. But there are still remnants of the need for the sort of famous spiritual hymnals like we shall overcome where the challenges are still there. But that you and many other coaches in the black soccer community and the advocacy work that you talk about continue to be resilient, continue to have hope. And so in terms of getting players into leadership roles, in terms of changing the perspective of how the general public thinks about players beyond just being athletes and starting to think of them as intelligent players to contribute a lot more to the team than just pace. What can we do to impact leadership roles and captains and in general, those of us who want to be allies, how can we help?

Kim Crabbe: [00:39:11] Again, you know, I’m speaking of the black coaches association and the conventions and all of these things that were out there that I knew nothing about. There’s so much that we all can bring to the table that can possibly help another coach or help one of us. So I encourage people and challenge them to get involved in these groups. Go to these conventions, go to these symposiums. Some people feel like there’s nothing to gain, oh, they just keep talking in circles about this and that. But there are the Lincoln Phillips and the Mike Curries and the Kendall Reyes that are out there that want to fill us with the knowledge that they know. How can that be a downfall to us? When we can take that and digest it the best way that we can and perhaps implement that into what we’re giving back with our programs and our communities or our coaching of teams. That’s nothing more than a win win for me. So I personally have been elated that I’ve been connected or reconnected with some of the people that I just named. And if we’re going to help this game,excel to the next level and help these kids get there, then sometimes you gotta you gotta learn to kind of lean on somebody else or take that support, put your pride aside and take notes and eat all that up, or be a sponge and soak all of that up because it’s not every day that I get to come in contact with Lincoln Phillips and hear his story, and then be able to then in return, tell my story, and then what I can take from that opportunity. And the Kendall Reyes, who you know was the president. And now we’ve got Nicole who’s leading us and, and we all going to get better by support from one another. You’re going to be more of a force when you work together in unity. So I just challenge people to, to use the resources that are out there, and of course put your little twist to it and implement it the way you need to. But I’ve been yearning for some of the opportunities that that have come since I’ve started going to the conventions and started getting more involved with different groups and here locally, sitting on boards and all of that helps me. So I just encourage people to be willing to listen to what people have to say, process it the way you need to. And I just think that that again, is going to be something that, that is going to help this game itself evolve, evolve into what we want it to be.

Tony Nicalo: [00:42:04] Well, I think that there are some of us that hope that the game can help society evolve into to what it needs to be and that I think that language goes beyond race. There’s a sort of burden of sounding right. Barack Obama struggled with the societal notion of he had the challenge of being articulate and black as if those things were incompatible. It’s hard to believe.

You’ve talked about the idea of having a voice, and speaking of finding exemplars and putting in the work, you’re starting to do some work to learn Spanish.

Kim Crabbe: [00:42:40] I am

Tony Nicalo: [00:42:41] Because a lot of the players that that you work with are Hispanic and probably their first language at home is Spanish. And Phil Neville has talked about it. When he went to Valencia, he was trying to learn Spanish and just studying and studying and studying. And it wasn’t until he realized he had to culturally be Spanish that it made it easier to learn it. I played semi-professional in Chicago and I used to be a chef in another life and worked in kitchens in Chicago, and that’s where I started to learn Spanish. But I also learned how to make tacos and a lot of slang, and you had to understand the culture. And so even now when I speak Spanish, people are amazed at my sort of Mexican slang and dialect because of the people that I was surrounded with.

I think that we still have a challenge though, where in the same way that players are pigeonholed into particular roles, that you’re a pacey winger or a powerful defender, or you know, if you think about American Gridiron football, that if a black player is a quarterback, they’re an athletic quarterback as opposed to an intelligent play caller. And it seems like there’s also a challenge in the coaching world where the outreach programs, they can only be run by African-American coaches. That’s your, your role. And I think we need to be careful about pigeonholing in the coaching world as well. And so what I want to say is, you know, I’m thinking about the debate between Malcolm X and Gordon Hall. And Gordon Hall was telling Malcolm that his approach was no good and he was inciting violence and he needed to be more like Martin Luther King. And what Malcolm said to Hall was that, no, what needs to happen is you can’t just tell me that. You need to do more work to celebrate and protect those of us who are leading with love and patience.

So I want to, again, celebrate your work that you’re doing, leading with love and patience and overcoming the challenges that you brush off as no big deal, which I think is sort of how most pioneers view the world. Because if you were more focused on all the challenges, you wouldn’t be a pioneer. So what I want to finish with is, is that celebration and again, gratitude of your work, and I want to give you an opportunity to talk about how people can specifically support the work that you’re doing with the Wilmington Hammerheads or broader programs that you’re working on. How can listeners contribute to your success and the programs that you’re working on?

Kim Crabbe: [00:45:45] Locally. If folks are local, which I’m hoping that they, we have some, some listeners or or followers on that our local, programs like this have leaders like me, but we are always in need of volunteers volunteering hands. Now what does that look like? Well, the average person says, well, look, you know, I would love to come out and help, but I just don’t have the time. Well, then there’s those that don’t have the time that maybe, could contribute on the financial side of it because programs such as these cannot and do not just run totally for free.

I’m running a free program. I run a free city soccer league. You have 200 kids. We have to get all 200 kids registered under North Carolina youth soccer. There’s a fee per kid to make sure that they’re insured while we’re out there. I am great about cutting corners by using recycled uniforms and shoes. That’s all great. I use my resources. I have days within the club that we have donation days and I’ve got friends that come and volunteer to clean the shoes. And bag the shoes. So  there’s different ways that you can give back to these programs in your community. It doesn’t always have to mean you have to be out there devoting your time that you may not have. It is sometimes easier for people to donate monetarily. And my program is always open to such. You can contact the Wilmington hammerheads via web. I am, as I said, the face of the community here in Wilmington, everyone knows me in town. I don’t mind giving my telephone number out. People say, why do you do that?

I give it to my kids. I said, because, let me tell you, there’s been times where I’ve wished that I had a telephone number, that I had somebody who would pick up on the other end sometimes. So I do give kids my telephone number and they call me, and I love that. I love that they call me. I want to be there when they may need someone to listen or someone to talk to. So you can always reach me, coach Kim Crabbe at (910) 231-0449 here in Wilmington, North Carolina. And again, there are so many ways to give back while people are trying to figure out how they can do it. When you think of something, then that’s probably a way of giving back.

So if you can’t do it monetarily, that’s okay. If you can’t come out, that’s okay. Maybe you can call me and say, is there family that you can identify? We have a lot of families in crisis right now with the pandemic. I identify families and I connect them with friends and they shop for them. That makes them feel better. That’s helping. So there’s, there’s different ways to give back.  I’ve offered our email site. You can catch me via web. I’m on Twitter, which is new to me. Social media, I should be doing a little better at, but that is my downfall. I’m one of those shakers and movers.

I put the boots to the concrete and I’m out there doing what I can to help these families and these kids. So for the most part, I’m out there hands on as opposed to being on social media as much as I am, but I can be reached and I’m always willing to listen to great ideas that people have that may be something I can implement within my program. And just know that I’m one of those faces in the community that is not going anywhere. I care. I give a darn, I want to give back not only to the sport, but to all  these kids that are deserving within our community, and I want to make this game better.

Tony Nicalo: [00:49:41] Thanks Kim. It’s been a pleasure to speak with you today.

Kim Crabbe: [00:49:45] You as well. Thank you.

Thank you for joining us today on the beautiful game. We hope you are ready to live, work, and play better to be a weasel yourself, smart and tenacious. If still sometimes underestimated, join our community online at weaselsfc dot com and if you enjoyed the show, please share it with a friend.


Kimberely Crabbe remains a trailblazer

Black history month

Before Brianna, there was Kim

Wilmington Hammerheads

Wilmington Hammerheads Outreach Program

Cape Fear Outreach Programs

Youth Program

Outreach Program at MLK

Local news interview

Virginia Hall of Fame Induction

Star News Interview

Leading youth camps

US Women’s National Team and diversity

US Soccer Pioneer–crabbe-and-gordons-legacy-continues

Speaking to Philadelphia High School


For the Culture Podcast

In the Game Interview

African Americans in US Soccer

Crystal Dunn

Missing player


Race and language

The language of race

Oprah on Jeffrey Rubenstein

Oprah with Maya Angelou

Lou Brock on representation and Jackie Robinson

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