So I was entering my freshman year in college, and had a conversation with my parents about my choice of major. Based on my interests, we discussed various ideas.
I was 18 years old. Up until that point, I had dedicated my entire being to the sport of soccer. The amount of time I put into training, practice, and games was so immense that I couldn’t envision just walking away from the sport. It was at that time, I declared I wanted to coach college soccer immediately following my playing career at Michigan State University. My parents were extremely supportive, but, obviously, there was not a major, “Coaching College Soccer.” So, they suggested I apply for the College of Education. Therefore, I would learn the best methods of teaching, and, then, translate those tools to the field.
I dreamt big. I always did. I set a goal, put my mind to it, and attacked it. After doing my research, and determining the necessary steps to reach the top, I began outlining my journey. I registered months ahead for my first coaching course.
At age 19, something significant occurred amidst my big plans–I had developed a significant eating disorder. The coaching course quickly creeped up, and I felt obligated to attend since I had already paid and registered. I recall sitting in the gym watching as each minute went by– praying I would somehow survive. When asked for volunteers to play and participate, I was, by far, the youngest there–but, I didn’t even have the strength or energy to offer my help.
Between my first and second courses, which were fourteen months apart, I suffered, battled, and fought to beat anorexia. Though I wasn’t fully recovered, I successfully completed my second coaching course. It was during my recovery that I decided there was no question but to continue my path to coaching college soccer. It was meant for me–to relate to and help other student-athletes. At 21 years old, I completed my third coaching course (while still in college)–leaving me with only two to go.
I believed, as a female who endured adversity and triumph as a collegiate soccer player, there was no one more suited for a position than me. So, I started applying for every single opening–from California to New York. I noticed a common theme–each head coach I spoke with during the application and interviewing process was male. I had a male head coach myself, but I guess I was naive to the fact that female coaches were few and far between.
I had an “Aha!” moment. I had overcome an eating disorder… I was going to reverse the trend, represent the female population in a positive, credible way, and contribute to the rise of women in authoritative roles. And, I did. I loved every single part of it–the traveling, recruiting, scheduling, competition, player/coach relationships, and, above all, being around the game I had devoted so much of my life.
I had been an assistant college soccer coach for 6 years, and reached the highest level of coaching in the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) by the age of 27. It was presumed that I was prepared and ready to take the next step in my career. And, on paper, I was. But, in my heart, I was not.
I did what everyone expected me to do. I applied for the head coaching position that was close in proximity– UMBC–a job that seemed like a fantasy just one year prior.
After multiple interviews, conversations, and questions, the job was offered to me–AND, I was eight months pregnant with my first child. My once dream started becoming a nightmare. How could I possibly care for this child when I needed to rebuild and manage a Division I soccer program? Who would take care of my baby when I traveled every other weekend? Would I miss him? Would he know who I was? Didn’t I get pregnant so I could be with my child, and raise him? Maternity leave? Was I really going to accept a new position and be nonexistent for the first three months? My passion and love for coaching college soccer shifted–to parenthood. And, to do both–adequately–seemed utterly impossible.
So, as I read an article tonight by Stephanie Yang, “Soccer’s ugly sexism is keeping women from coaching the beautiful game,” I couldn’t help but relive this pinnacle time of my life–a point I never imagined reaching.
“Family is a career hurdle for women more often than men because the expectation of child-rearing is largely placed on mothers in American society. In a 2008 NCAA survey, 73 percent of female coaches agreed with the statement that “careers in athletics conflict with family duties,” and 58 percent of them said family commitments were the main reason women decide to leave careers in coaching.”
Though at the time I felt like I was letting down not only my family, but women in general, it is clear by these statistics that I’m not alone. To coach at a high level of soccer, or any college sport for that matter, and raise children is extremely difficult. Either the program or the family gets slighted… it has to. The time, travel, and emotional demands placed on coaches are incredible. And, to not be able to give 100% of myself to both just didn’t seem fair, or what I desired for my new little family.
Today, I have no regrets. I made the best decision of my life. I have been blessed to have had three boys, and I couldn’t imagine not being there to see the little things–the things that could have been easily missed if I made a different decision five years ago.