Growing up in South America, Lakelands resident Giovanna Wood was surrounded by soccer. Her brother Fernando played it, she said, and Saturday afternoons were often spent watching games on television with her father.
“I think soccer is a great sport, in the sense that it brings kids together and (teaches) sportsmanship,” Wood said. “It’s a game that you can play pretty much anywhere. All you need is a field and a ball. Soccer is a sport for everyone. It’s known around the world.”
So when Wood, who passed her passion for the sport down to her son Andrew, a freshman on The Heights’ varsity squad in the fall, was approached about joining the Maryland Soccer Foundation Board of Directors earlier this year, she jumped at the chance to get more involved in promoting soccer and serving the community.
On March 14, Maryland Soccer Foundation Board of Directors President Brent Hanson introduced Wood, who in the past has also been involved as a volunteer with the Bethesda Soccer Club, as the board’s newest member.
Per its website, the Maryland Soccer Foundation, Inc. is a 501©3 non-profit corporation that was originally organized to raise the money needed to build and manage the Maryland SoccerPlex at South Germantown Recreational Park. The foundation, which manages the SoccerPlex, Discovery Sports Center, Soccer Association of Montgomery (SAM) as well as several local tournaments, has since grown its mission to identifying potential sites and renovating additional fields to ensure soccer players in Montgomery County are afforded high quality and safe facilities for training and competition.
The SoccerPlex has been home base for SAM since 2005 and provides programming for children ages 2 to 18. One of the top programs in the Washington, D.C., area, it provides soccer programs for all levels of athletes. The SoccerPlex also offers camps, classes and clinics all throughout the year, and Wood said she is looking forward to helping and promoting such programs and continuing the growth of the sport.
“(When I was asked to join the board), I really thought about what the role of the SoccerPlex has been in my personal life,” Wood said. “We find ourselves very often going there, not just for the games my son plays. He likes to go there just as a family to practice soccer. When I heard about the foundation, it piqued my interest. I thought it would be a nice way to serve the community.”
The soccer community is diverse, Wood added. And as a native Spanish speaker, she said she hopes to be able to provide a voice for the Hispanic community. In addition to her enthusiasm and knowledge for soccer, Wood brings valuable experience in finance and business development to her role. For 11 years she has worked at Export-Import Bank, most recently as a senior portfolio manager for the Asset and Risk Management Division. She also spent nearly a decade in a similar role at Euler Hermes-ACI and was a credit advisor for Bank of America before that.
“When you are looking to add someone to your board, there are a lot of very important factors to consider,” Hanson said. “Giovanna’s professional success certainly spoke for itself but we also quickly became even more impressed with her as a person. We knew she would be a great asset in furthering the mission of the foundation.”
The foundation’s revenue comes mainly from renting facilities and fields for soccer practices and tournaments, as well as lacrosse tournaments. Wood said she plans to begin raising additional donations through various fundraising efforts and programs.
“I was delighted when I was offered a position (on the board). I was very excited they took me to be such a part of a big team. I’ll see what I can contribute. Hopefully I’ll look forward to making an impact in the area. Hopefully it will help soccer grow even more.”