Racing Louisville FC team captain Jaelin Howell. (Photos courtesy of Racing Louisville FC)

Jaelin Howell Is a True Team Player on and off the Soccer Field

Jaelin Howell has been playing soccer since she was 3 years old.

She loves the game, loves her fellow athletes, and loves having a platform that enables her to give back.

The Colorado native played for the Florida State University Seminoles for four years, and won the Hermann Trophy in both 2020 and 2021; it’s awarded to the top men and women college soccer players. She became one of only six women to receive the trophy in consecutive years, alongside Mia Hamm, Cindy Parlow, Christine Sinclair, Morgan Brian and Catarina Macario.

In 2022 Howell scored her first international goal against Uzbekistan with the U.S. women’s international team, and that same year she signed a three-year contract with Racing Louisville FC as team captain.

She comes from a family of athletes. Her father, John Howell, was an NFL Super Bowl-winning safety for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and she and her two brothers have played sports for as long as she can remember.

“I think sports in general teach so many different aspects of life: hard work, dedication, discipline,” she said. “I was always taught that a lot of lessons in sports translate to life. I love how competitive and physical soccer is. You have to be fast, strong, technical and smart – really, a complete athlete in soccer.”

Howell started all 22 matches in her rookie season and just completed her second season with Racing Louisville.

Sports also often bring people together for the greater good according to Howell, and though she’s enjoying her second season with the team, her mission off the field is just getting started.

In 2023 Racing Louisville, led by Howell, partnered with Down Syndrome of Louisville (DSL). The organization was formed in 1977 by Mary Carter, and what began as an intervention program to support children with Down syndrome became year-round programming, which included educational, physical and personal development, health and wellness, and social development for children and adults of all ages.

In 2023 Racing Louisville, led by Howell, partnered with Down Syndrome of Louisville (DSL).

It remains the largest Down syndrome association in the world, and offers more than 50 programs, events and services to over 1,200 families.

The organization also works to advocate and educate the public about supporting individuals with Down syndrome, partnering with employers for job opportunities, educators to inspire different ways of teaching, and individuals, or “Kindness Warriors,” to spread compassion and inclusivity.

The good they were and are doing has been inspiring to Howell, and she wanted to get involved.

“I think as a pro athlete you have a responsibility to give back to the community,” she said. “Helping others is super important to my family and to my faith. I knew I wanted to do something in Louisville, particularly as the only top pro soccer team in the area.”

She has experience working with people with Down syndrome, making the support of DSL and the relationships formed close to her heart.

Several years ago Howell became friends with Mike Waters, a man who befriended her brother through a football camp.

“Mike just showed me how amazing a person with Down syndrome is, and what a light they are to the world,” Howell said. “There’s an innocence and an ability to love others, and I just saw all of those aspects in Mike.”

With Waters in mind, she reached out to DSL and they were immediately open to the idea of a partnership.

“Support from our community is imperative to our mission,” said Julie Torzewski, executive director for DSL. “We just could not do it without the financial support of our donors. However, when someone gives of themselves above and beyond financial support, it’s that much more meaningful. From the day she reached out to us, Jaelin has been 100% committed to being a friend of our members. She is their biggest cheerleader.”

In 2023 Racing Louisville hosted a DSL dance and soccer camp. They focused on raising funds for the organization and received a $25,000 Nationwide Community Impact Award donation.

In addition, members of DSL join the team as honorary captains at each home game and are able to see their photo displayed on the big screen.

“The dance was called the Racing BFF dance and we had a photo booth, dancing and balloon art,” Howell said. “They got to eat and hang out with the Racing players. Throughout the year we set up different donation opportunities. For example, we held a drive for markers and paper, because our friends at DSL love to color and draw.”

They’re already gearing up for 2024, and are excited to expand the partnership and better the program through new ideas and events.

“My vision from the beginning was a Racing and DSL soccer camp where kids got to come out and play on the field, receive coaching and get to experience what it’s like to play with these pro athletes,” Howell said. “They receive their own T-shirts and bags with some gear. I think this year we’ll combine the two and have the soccer camp, and at the end host the dance party. That’ll be super exciting.”

Her vision is coming to fruition, and while the team checks the boxes of support and fundraising for DSL, a much stronger bond is forming.

In just the first year, the relationships between DSL members and the players have blossomed.

“We’ve gotten to know a lot of families,” Howell said. “As much as we think we’re doing for them, they do just as much for us. It’s awesome to watch my teammates interact with them and help. These are really special humans and I just love them. I think we can learn so much from them.”

In 2024 DSL is planning to expand and open a full-time preschool program. They already work with developmental intervention and additional therapies, but DSL is preparing to offer even more. The women of Racing Louisville will be by their side, raising awareness and funds to make it possible.

“We are opening a preschool in the fall of 2024, and funds raised with Jaelin’s support will help us launch this effort and meet vital needs for our families and children,” Torzewski said.

Though Howell’s contract ends in 2025, she loves her “second family” and hopes the partnership she’s developed will last far into the future.

“I hope we just keep getting bigger and better,” Howell said. “I don’t want this to be a one-time thing. I want this partnership to continue even if I’m not here.”

Follow Howell’s journey with Racing Louisville FC at

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