Ava Morales is also working to make soccer a more inclusive place for all through an NIL partnership.
In addition to scoring goals for Maryland women’s soccer, sophomore Ava Morales is also working to make soccer a more inclusive place for all through an NIL partnership with Degree and their ‘Change the Field’ campaign.
According to Degree, the program provides soccer coaches, teachers, and community leaders with free access to resources that equip them with the skills and knowledge to help create safe and inclusive environments for all.
“We owe it to the next generation to make soccer a welcoming space for all. We want the help of student-athletes to create a world where girls everywhere feel seen, supported, and have the confidence they need to thrive on and off the field,” Degree shared in their campaign statement.
In partnership with Degree, Morales filmed and helped put together a video to post on her social media discussing her journey as a mixed-race and smaller soccer player and the importance of inclusion in the sport.
umterps.com caught up with Morales for a Q&A about the partnership with Degree.
What does NIL mean for you, and what has it provided you?
To me it’s about getting my name out there and getting more opportunities for exposure. I think it opens doors for things outside of soccer. I was given the opportunity to do the partnership with Degree and it allowed me to share my story which I think will resonate and help people who might have some similar experiences to me.
Can you expand upon your partnership with Degree and how your story factored into it?
The partnership is really about promoting girls of color on the field and trying to make the soccer field more inclusive. My story is about how when I was younger I was always one of the smaller players on the field and it was a setback for me because a lot of coaches overlooked me as a player. It forced me to work harder and outwork my opponents and then I was ultimately given the opportunity to play Division I soccer. The Degree opportunity was great because it allowed me to share that story with people who might also be on the smaller side or have some other disadvantage to know that it shouldn’t stop them from doing what they love.
How thankful are you to the coaches and to Maryland for giving you that opportunity to play soccer at this level?
I’m very thankful. They believed in me and pushed me to not let my smaller size be a setback but to use it as an advantage with my quickness. That confidence has helped me be more confident in the games and to play better and score those goals.
Did being overlooked when you were younger leave you with a chip on your shoulder that you still carry today?
Yeah, it did. Because so many coaches and people doubted me, it just made me more motivated to prove those people wrong. I think I have proved them wrong and showed them it doesn’t matter how big I am. I think when those coaches watch me play now they’re probably regretful.
How do you hope that the Degree campaigns helps inclusion in the sport for girls of color?
I hope it helps these girls be more confident in themselves and not let others' opinions stop them from pursuing their passions. A lot of people let other people’s opinions stop them from loving their sport but that should never be the case. There’s going to be people who don’t believe in you, but along the way there will be coaches who believe in you and who will give you those opportunities.