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Beyond the Game: Coach Highlights

In 2020, the Kentucky Youth Soccer Coaches Corner will highlight local coaches doing great things in the game in our Beyond the Game feature!

Coach Highlight: Lindsay Basalyga


We were honored to have the opportunity to feature Lindsay Basalyga and learn a little bit more about her during this process.  We are so excited to share who she is as a coach and where she started on her path.  Lindsay has had an incredible impact on the game over her years of involvement.  She is an inspiration and an outstanding role model for the younger generation interested in coaching one day, especially girls and younger women.

Here is what Lindsay had to say about her path to where she is today!

When did you begin playing soccer?  I started playing organized soccer in 3rd grade at the recreational level.  I didn’t tryout for a club team until I was heading into 5th grade.  

Can you talk a little bit about your youth and collegiate playing careers? I was a soccer junkie growing up.  I spent my summers going to camps my dad ran for local communities, I trained with my dad’s high school team when I was in 7th and 8th grade and spent hours a week training on my own in my backyard.  Soccer was literally my escape from the insecurities and self-doubts I felt as a young person.  I was born with a cleft palate, which means I have a hole in the hard palate in the roof of my mouth, so my speech was very nasally.  I was picked on a lot in elementary school and was terrified to speak in class.  I think my need and desire to be “accepted” drove my work rate in the game paired with the mindset that there was always someone out there working harder than me.  The better I was as a “soccer player” the less I’d be judged by how I sounded.  I tried out for ODP in 7th grade and made the regional team. That was the first time I thought I might be a decent player.  I still can’t believe I was good enough to play in the ACC at Maryland for 4 years, an environment where I completely felt outside of my comfort zone for the first 2 years.  I went through 3 different coaching changes which was really tough as I never felt like “someone’s recruit”, but it also drove my work ethic as I felt like every session was the deciding factor between finding minutes in a game or not playing at all.  My college experience helped me become the person I am today.  I’m so grateful that I was exposed to so many different people, athletes, cultures, and values from around the world as College Park is a few miles outside of DC.  

In what ways did you further your knowledge of the game while playing as well as once you began your path to coaching?  I had no idea what I wanted to do with myself beyond playing soccer.  I had a difficult time picking a major and eventually landed in Art Studio, which kept me eligible and on a path to graduate.  I saw teammates ahead of me who went on to be graduate assistants at college programs and thought the route could buy me some time to figure out what I wanted to do while also getting a master’s degree.  Week one of preseason at the University of Toledo, I knew I wanted to be a coach.  I’m really jealous of all the resources and mentorship younger coaches have today.  I learned in the environment I was in, but I really didn’t get on a path of licensing and education until I was a head coach at EKU.  

Who were your biggest role models growing up? My biggest role models growing up were probably the USWNT members I saw in front of me at regional and national ODP events.  Seeing these players, who were on posters in my room, in front of us… coaching us, inspired me.  

Did you have a specific coach or groups of coaches who inspired you as a player and as a future coach? My dad was a high school coach in three different sports, so I always knew being a “coach” was a thing you could grow up to be, but he was also a teacher until he took over at NKU for the men’s program.

Was there one singular time or event that made you fall in love with the game or did it just flourish over time? I played different sports growing up, basketball and softball for a few seasons in high school.  I’ve honestly been someone who sees and lives life on MY terms.  Although it pained me in high school, trying to fit into the “cool crowd”, I’ve been someone who wants to push the envelope, ask questions, and go against the grain.  I think the game of soccer provided me creative freedom, even though I didn’t know it at the time.  I played what “I saw” and felt, not what other people were telling me to see which is why I excelled in the game. 

When did you decide you wanted to become a coach and how long have you been coaching? I became a coach straight out of college because a degree in art really wasn’t going to get me far when I was a subpar artist :-). I’ve been coaching since 2001.  I’ve coached youth teams, college teams, and now the business I run specifically works with high school programs.  Every single level and environment is different which has definitely evolved my ability to adapt and grow as a coach.

What impact do you hope to have on the game? I’ve learned so much in the last 3 years, being out of the college game, about the coach and person I want to be, which doesn’t look the same as it did in 2005 when I became a head collegiate coach.  The real impact I want to have on the game is to teach and coach with an awareness and empathy for everyone in the game (coaches, parents, players, officials) and meet people where they’re at, not where I think they should be.  

What message do you have for young people, especially women, who want to start coaching?  Find a mentor or a group of coaches with experiences you can learn from, lean on, and feel comfortable being vulnerable.  Coaching can be a lonely profession at times and a strong support system is invaluable.  Utilize all the resources available!  Podcasts, YouTube, social media, coaching education, everything!  An eagerness to learn and self-awareness that you don’t know everything YET is great value to possess as a young coach.  Females specifically:  Continue to be brave and realize YOUR value regardless of how coaches may perceive your value.  Also, never compromise your moral code/values to “fit in”.  Finally, the value we bring to this game has nothing to do with the level we are coaching at and everything to do with LOVING exactly WHERE you’re at…. 

If you could go back in time and share some advice with your younger self, what would you say? Advice to my younger self:  The way to navigate this career is by building real, authentic relationships.  There’s a lot of ego in this sport and not everyone truly has your best interest at heart.  The relationships you build with the people you’d want in your life, regardless of title, experience, or background… those are the people to keep the closest.  

What has your coaching path looked like from the beginning to now? If I would have been told I’d be working with high school teams in and around my hometown back in 2002, I would have laughed.  I thought in 2020 I’d be coaching in a Power5 conference.  My coaching path has been a journey of highs and lows, tons of education and learning, saying YES to every opportunity that’s been put in front of me, and realizing how to truly use the game to serve others.  Which is why I LOVE where I’m at with Competitive Edge.  

I’m also glad that I spent 2 years working in the youth game after I moved on from the college game.  Having to adapt and simplify my coaching style and verbiage to get U-11 players to see and understand the game, HANDS DOWN took my personally coaching to the next level.  I also had an opportunity to better understand parents and their role in the developmental process.  Even though I don’t have children, I can empathize with parents and the pressure’s they might feel to provide their child with the best opportunities.  EDUCATION, COMMUNICATION, and CONSISTENCY is so important when connecting buy-in with parents and also adding VALUE to their hard-earned money.  

What is the Competitive Edge Mission (From the Competitive Edge Website):
We believe that a strong and healthy culture leads to positive results during the course of a season. Individual and collective team behaviors, values, standards, and expectations are the foundation of any healthy culture.  

Our mission is to use our collective experiences and skill sets to assist coaches in the establishment and reinforcement of their unique culture while providing athletes tools to succeed in the various challenges facing today's student-athletes.

Every program and each individual are different. We work with coaches and programs to help grow and influence their culture while meeting each group in their unique environment.

How did Competitive Edge come about? I wanted to serve high school programs and coaches with the knowledge and resources to influence their team culture and create competitive, healthy environments.  I knew I had skill sets and experiences that could serve a population that is often overlooked in our soccer culture, the high school game.  We started in 2017 with 9 programs and we’ll be heading into 2020 with over 30 different programs that we’re working with.  I’m a firm believer that there are young people who NEED the game, more than the game may NEED them and just because their skill sets may not be taking them to a career after high school, they hold VALUE.  High School soccer programs have a wide variety of individual skill sets, passion, and abilities and we work to blend these factors together so each program can have a healthy and successful season.

Learn more about Competitive Edge at

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Coach Highlight: Daniel Tarnagda

We are grateful to have the opportunity to feature Daniel Tarnagda and learn a little bit more about his positive impact on the soccer community and the lives of individuals in Bowling Green.  We are so excited to share how is an ambassador of the game and the path to how he became involved with soccer in the way he is today.  Daniel's impact on his community and the game is incredible and we are honored to share his story.  

Here is what Daniel had to say:

Tell us about your experience coming to the United States and getting involved in the game here? My wife and I started our organization, which is a faith-based non-profit called Refuge Bowling Green, because we saw so many refugees and immigrants struggling like I did when I first arrived in the US. We knew that we had to do something to help them.  

Back in my country, Burkina Faso in West Africa, I started playing soccer at very young age in the streets of Bobo Dioulasso. When I went to school, I started to play through my school and then for different clubs.  When I got to America, I wanted to play in a club here in Bowling Green but couldn't find any adult competitive club and leagues. So, I decided to start my own and invite other people like me to play. 

When did you come to the US and why did you make that decision? I came to the US in March 2013. All of my childhood, I grew up helping my dad to serve the missionaries who came to my country from the US and other countries, going on mission to share the good news of Jesus Christ. I met my wife while she was serving as a missionary in my country. We got married and I came with her to the US.

What were some of the challenges you faced early on in your time here and are there any that you continue to face?  Coming to the United States I faced so many difficulties one of them being language. I only knew 4 words in English when I arrived here: "My Name Is Daniel", and I thought I spoke English very well. I went to a community college for ESL classes and my wife, Alice, taught me a lot at home. In 4 months, I was able to speak English and begin the process of working on my GED.

Finding a job was also very difficult. I did so many applications, but no one called me for an interview.  For a long time, I went to businesses asking them to give me a job, but they all told me to go online and do the application. Unfortunately, I didn't know how to use the computer. So, my wife would go to work during the day, then come home and help me complete online applications at night.

Another difficulty that I had was learning how to drive a car. Also, I had to learn how to adapt to the fast pace of American life. All of these challenges were very difficult, but by the grace of God I had my wife, who is from the US, who helped me with everything.  Without Alice Tarnagda and God's help I wouldn't have been able to survive here. 

I still struggle with the language and the fast-paced culture. 

What advice do you have for others who face similar challenges? I know that it is very difficult to adapt here. I know that the life you used to have is what you have known. You did not choose to live in the refugee camp for 20 years and you didn't get to choose your country of resettlement. Adjusting takes time; don't give up hope. 

Do not forget where you come from or all of the experiences that you have had up to this point. Everything used to be difficult for you back home and you thought it would be better when you arrived in the US and now you find yourself suffering more. Do not give up, in the beginning it will be difficult to adapt but I promise you that you are not alone. You are in a new country that will love you and people will help you if you open your heart. God has brought you here for a reason. He has saved your life from the war to give you new brothers and sisters here in the USA.

Tell us a little bit about Refuge Bowling Green Soccer Program. We strategically use soccer as a bridge to minister relief to the refugee and immigrant families in the Bowling Green area. Many of these families spent more than 20 years in a refugee camp; while others lost sons, daughters, and other family members because of ethnic wars. We use soccer as an outlet for healing for youth and young men and a way to connect with families.

Type of Programming Refuge Bowling Green offers:

  • 2 5v5 youth boys’ teams during the summer. (1st grade - 8th grade) With a tournament of about four teams at the end of July.
  • Adult Men’s team through the year. They travel around Kentucky playing against other international men’s teams. Also, they participate in the Refuge BG International Men’s tournament in September.
  • We are planning to start High school and youth teams during the year. We plan to play against some club teams and school teams who have reached out to us and are interested in playing.
  • As of right now, youth teams play during the summer. We plan to have these teams play during the year as well. 
  • Men’s team plays throughout the year in friendlies and the Refuge BG tournament.
  • We had a total of about 16 players on our 2 5v5 teams for the summer. We plan to add about 50 players to that, and make them full size teams, based on their age groups.
  • The Men’s team has about 20 players on it currently. 
  • We held a registration day in February and had the kids tell us their information as we entered into our registration online.
  • We do not charge any fees for the players to participate in our programs.


Click here for more information on Refuge Bowling Green.

Coach Highlight: Taylor Roden

Kentucky Youth Soccer recently had the opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with Kentucky native Taylor Roden. As a youth player, Taylor played for Commonwealth SC and Lexington FC. After high school, she played collegiately at Asbury University and Georgetown College.  Taylor is now an elementary school teacher as well as the head girls soccer coach at Lafayette High School and club soccer coach at Lexington FC.

Taylor became acquainted with the game at an early age as her dad coached soccer along with several other sports. In fact, he was one of the first soccer coaches at Bourbon County High School.  “He used to coach soccer with me in a baby backpack and so, I grew up on the sidelines with him,” said Taylor. Despite her dad coaching multiple sports, Taylor just wanted to play soccer and began playing at five years old.  It was evident that he played a positive role in her path to becoming a coach as she played for him for a long time.  When Taylor was 12 or 13, he encouraged her to try out for a select program if she really was serious about the game. His encouragement helped her to move from recreational soccer into a select program. In her first year, at what she claims was a surprise to many, she made the top team for her age group at Lexington FC. As she made the jump to a top select team, Taylor said, ““it was the best thing that happened to me (..) I would feel nervous going to practice because I went from my dad being the coach. I played every minute. I scored goals in every single game. And then I went to this new team that I didn’t know anybody, and everybody was really good.”  It was a challenging year but with the advice of her dad, her motto became, “learn something new.” That motto helped build her confidence and made her become comfortable within the team by the end of the season. Despite her growth in confidence on the team, she ended up not making the team the next year. That challenge helped her make the move to Commonwealth SC, a club that she felt was the perfect fit for her as a player.

As she began her high school career and on into college, Taylor’s leadership skills continued to grow. She was the captain of her high school team at Paul Laurence Dunbar and the captain of her team at Georgetown College. Toward the end of her college career, Taylor began her path toward coaching. “I’ve been on teams where I didn’t play a minute and I took those opportunities. Even when I wasn’t playing, I loved being on the bench and watching. I think those were the moments where I really realized I really enjoy what is happening on the field,” she said. “I was sitting on the bench right next to the coaches so I could hear the conversations.” These moments solidified the idea that she wanted to be involved in the game more than just as a player.

Growing up and playing for several coaches not only helped Taylor learn the game as a player from various perspectives but also gave her some insight on how to be a coach. “I bounced around through a lot of different programs and a lot of different experiences. I think that’s probably something that’s a good thing because I got to play for a lot of different clubs and people and just kind of seeing soccer through a lot of different lenses.”  Often, female players don’t have the luxury of having female coaches, but Taylor was fortunate to play for female coaches in high school and in college. “Seeing those people in those leadership positions made me realize this is normal and something that is totally possible.”  She was able to see her collegiate coach, Leah Castleman, pregnant and have a child during one of her college seasons. This allowed Taylor and her teammates to have an example of how a woman can be a coach at any level and still have a family. She said, because of Leah’s example, “it was something I could always picture myself doing.” For Taylor, Castleman was a role model giving her someone she could look up to, someone who helped pave the path for her and her teammates. 

Even as a youth player, Taylor was always a student of the game. She watched and idolized the 99ers, Mia Hamm in particular. She loved what these women represented and learned so much about the game from them including hard work and dedication to the sport. She will never forget when she had the chance to see these women play at Papa Johns Stadium, to experience that moment was unforgettable. As an adult, Taylor continues to grow and learn as a coach. Her and her husband, Jared Roden, watch all the soccer they possibly can and read as much material about the game as possible. She has earned her U.S. Soccer D License and hopes to earn her C license next. Additionally, she attends soccer focused events such as the Soccer Learning University to learn from experts in the field, and she utilizes her peers to exchange ideas. 

Taylor and Jared are a dynamic coaching duo in Lexington. Taylor is the head coach while Jared is the assistant coach in both high school and club soccer. Throughout the time they have coached together, Jared has been mistaken as the head coach on many occasions. In these situations, Jared has come up with different tactics to quickly get out of the line of sight of referees and make it apparent that Taylor is the head coach. He has even joked about making a shirt to wear to games that says, ‘I am with the head coach’ with an arrow.  Taylor said, “I want to give a huge shoutout to all of the Lexington referees. They have been phenomenal,” as they are doing their research before games and recognizing the women as head coaches. There are several incredible women in the Lexington area with the head coach role at both the high school and club level, so the assumption that only men are head coaches is going by the wayside. 

To further normalize this idea of female coaches, Taylor and a few others have formed a cohort of women coaches in the Central Kentucky area. This cohort started when fellow coach, Megan Skinner, reached out with the simple question of, “what can we do to better the game?” The group has met a few times over Zoom for discussions on this topic. This group of women has the potential to make a substantial impact on soccer in Central Kentucky and beyond. Players can see this group of women and know that they can be a coach when they grow up similar to what Taylor saw in her collegiate coach, Leah.  Now as a coach herself, Taylor wants to be “more intentional about spying coaching talent.” It is her goal to recognize coaching talent early and encourage those girls to get involved by taking Grassroots courses, shadow trainings at the club level and so on. She wants to “spark conversations and let those girls know, ‘I see potential in you through coaching and I think you’d be really good at that’.” She believes telling these girls she sees potential in them and starting those conversations will help ignite the light and guide them into coaching. 

Toward the end of the conversation, Taylor shared a couple of her favorite moments as a coach with us. Winning Presidents Cup for the first time is a special memory for Taylor.  She described the moment that one of her players started the scoring in the championship game. The previous year this player had a chance to win State Cup as a part of the white team. During the game, she took a free kick too early and scored but the goal didn’t count. At the Presidents Cup final, this player had the opportunity to have some poetic justice by taking a free kick and scoring. The team went on to win the game.

Another experience that has special place in her heart is how she and Jared have built a remarkable culture with the Lafayette High School program.  The school had been historically done poorly at soccer. Taylor said, “when we came, our goal was to make the girls proud of the program.” This year, the high school team had a lot of success.  The part that meant the most to her was the number of former players she coached who reached out and said, “I never thought Lafayette would get here.” Former players were so proud of and excited for the team. That is what she wanted to build at Lafayette, something they could all be proud to be a part of, Taylor said, “It was really cool when Jared and I were getting those messages from former players.” They said, “Wow we created this. These girls are super excited about how Lafayette is doing.”

Over the years, Roden has faced different challenges in the game whether it meant jumping to a team where she did not feel comfortable or taking on the game as a head coach where she is, at times, seen as second in command to her male assistant coach. Through these challenges, she has demonstrated persistence and a drive that has brought her to a place where she can make the path a little brighter for those young women who will come next. She is an excellent role model for players and coaches. Taylor said, “My purpose for coaching is to show these girls that this is something that can be enjoyable and that it is a fun experience you can do for the rest of your life. (…) I just want to develop players and specifically girls to just be lifelong learners and just people who enjoy the game for their life. (…) I want to create a positive and fun culture while still having high expectations and still performing at a high level.” Her dedication and commitment to the game and to her players is inspirational and is guiding the way for young women to pursue their passion to coach.

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Coach Highlight: Lora Gralheer

When did you begin playing soccer?  I started playing soccer when I was 6 or 7 years old on a LYSA recreational team. I played on a co-ed little kid team and was hooked from then on!

Can you tell us a little bit about your youth and collegiate playing careers? I kept playing in LYSA recreational or choice (you got to pick your teammates as opposed to being assigned a team and then play other teams that were formed the same way) programs until high school. At that point, I joined Lexington FC and played club soccer there for the rest of my youth career. I also participated in the KY ODP program and was a member of the KY State team for a couple years in the 1988 age group.

I went to Lexington Christian Academy from 1st grade through senior year of high school. In middle school, there was no girls team, so I decided to try out and play with the boys. I think this was one of the first times where soccer became more serious and the level of play was more competitive than just something I did on the weekends with my friends. It definitely took a bit for the guys to welcome me to the team, but after they realized that I could hold my own then they were all about it and some of them were my best friends through high school.

Once I got to high school, I wasn’t allowed to play on the boys team, so I went back to the girls team. While we had very little success as a team, it taught me a lot and it forced me to learn how to play every position, while still being creative on the ball and attacking whenever I got the opportunity.

I always knew I wanted to play college soccer, but looking back, was probably a bit naive about how the college recruiting process worked. I had some offers and opportunities to play at mid-major D1 schools as well as a couple D2 schools, but at the end of the day, I found myself at Centre College. 

My college career wasn’t stellar and after a year of injury my sophomore season, I decided to walk away from the team my junior year. It wasn’t an easy decision, but even now I can say it was the right decision. I had a lot of life things going on off the field that were keeping me from playing at the level that I knew I was capable of and I really think that had I kept pushing to play then I would have ended up hating the game now.

Was there one singular time or event that made you fall in love with the game or did it just flourish over time? I can’t think of anything super specific that made me fall in love with soccer, it just became something that I began to make a priority more and more in my life. I loved playing with my friends and, after having some personal success with things, it became easy to want to play more and more.

At a certain point in time, I kind of realized that I liked playing soccer more than a lot of my friends and it was always something that I looked forward to at the end of the day. I literally used to keep extra clothes in my car and had no problem stopping at random pick-up games to ask if I could hop in. Probably not the safest move or one that I’d recommend, but it led to me meeting people from around the city that just loved the game and enjoyed playing it whether it counted for anything or not.

Even after I officially stopped playing, I still found groups of people at Centre to play small-sided games with and, at one point, my friends and I had a pretty solid group of people in Lexington that would descend on any open field we could find to just play whenever we could. Soccer just always seemed to be something that I was around whether I was on an official team or not.

When did you decide you wanted to become a coach and how long have you been coaching? I actually helped with some of the earliest Commonwealth Soccer Club teams while I was still in high school. It was never anything official, just a couple practices or games that I would swing by and help with whenever a coach would let me.

I had my first real club coaching job when I was at Centre. I worked with a CKSC team for a year and really enjoyed being a part of that. I took my E license while I was working with that team and it definitely started to creep into my mind that maybe I could keep coaching to stay around the game in a new way.

During my senior year at Centre, I didn’t coach, but I picked it up again right after I graduated in the spring of 2011 and I haven’t had a year where I wasn’t coaching in some capacity since then.

What has your coaching path looked like from when you started to where you are now? It’s been all over the place. I started coaching with the CSC U9 Academy right after graduation. Then I moved to LFC and worked with teams there for 3 years. I started working with KY ODP at that time and have kept doing that since then. Once I realized how much I loved having soccer back in my life, I also reached out to my former college coach about serving as a volunteer assistant with the Centre Women’s Soccer team. For me, it was important to complete my four years with that program, even if it was in a highly unconventional way, and I ended up working with CWS from 2012-2014. During this time, won multiple SAA conference championships and we reached the NCAA Elite Eight for the first time in program history. CWS would go on to reach the NCAA Final Four in 2015.

Personally, I wanted a change of pace and to be closer to some of my college friends so I moved to Louisville and started coaching with Kentucky Fire Juniors (now Mockingbird Valley Premier). I coached high school soccer there - one year as an Assistant Coach at Male and five years with Mercy Academy. The last four years at Mercy, I was the Head Coach and oversaw the whole soccer program.

On the club side, I started coaching one team at KFJ and then slowly started helping with a second team. Then I got to coach two teams and started working part-time in the office on social media, website, and general communications stuff. Eventually that role continued to grow into a full time position as the Director of Communication which meant that I could afford to solely focus on soccer as my full time job.

In March 2020, we made the decision to re-brand the club and I oversaw that process which was another incredibly challenging thing, but also something that really makes you reflect on where you stand as a coach when it comes to the big picture items like: What does your club represent? How do you want to be known in the community? What values are important to you as a club and an individual?

While working through all of those questions, I was given the opportunity to become the Girls Director of Coaching for Mockingbird Valley Premier and, after some careful consideration, I took on that job and the task of growing our girls program at Mockingbird. Alongside a handful of incredible coaches, I created and oversaw our Girls Youth Academy where we sought to create an entry level program for younger girls to start learning more about all that club soccer had to offer.

Unexpectedly, the position of Centre College Women’s Soccer Assistant Coach opened up for the first time in over a decade and I decided to throw my hat in the ring for a chance to go back to Centre (again) and work with one of the best D3 women’s soccer programs in the country. I officially started in this role in February 2021 and we’re in the midst of a spring season for the first time in school history.

Did you have any role models in the game when you were a player? Were there any other coaches or individuals involved in the game who inspired you as a player and/or inspired you to become a future coach? Who were they and what inspired you to look up to those individuals? Like most coaches around my age (both male & female), I absolutely loved watching the 1999 Women’s World Cup and that was definitely a turning point for my soccer fandom. That entire team was special in so many ways, but as a center midfielder, Michelle Akers was always the one that I paid extra attention to - the ferocity that she played with no matter how beat up she was was definitely inspirational.

Growing up, I had some great coaches that helped me along the way when I was still figuring out what it meant to be serious about soccer. Coach Pete Akatsa was always someone that I loved having in my corner. My middle school boy’s coach, Jimmy Johnson, is someone that challenged me a lot on the field and the whole Johnson family is still my own family’s pseudo-family that we visit during the holidays.

When I finally started coaching, I was able to work with Michelle Rayner, Megan Skinner, and Kimberly Vaughn. All three of them were and continue to be fantastic resources for me and they definitely have helped support me in my coaching journey and teach me how to become a better coach along the way as well. Watching each of them coach and seeing how they handled themselves on and off the field definitely made me see the potential for coaching to be more than just a part time gig on the side.

Can you share about your experience coaching at all different levels, club, ODP, high school and college? What are some similarities and differences?  Do you change the way you approach coaching and alter your style of coaching depending on the level?  Can you share a little bit about how you do that? A lot of coaching for me has just been taking advantage of any opportunity to do so and being willing to try working in new environments as often as possible. It’s been super valuable in terms of my own coaching education for me to try and coach at different levels and in different environments as often as I can. Every time you work with a different group of players, how you approach things is going to change in little ways.

For me, coaching is about meeting players where they’re at and helping them reach their goals. When you’re working with different players, that starting point where you all begin is going to be different so that always has to be taken into account. I don’t think you change who you are or what you expect of the players, you just readjust your plan on how to get them to that goal. The set-up of the training session changes to create the right level for the group you’re working with and the tactics become more simplified or complex based on the team’s level of understanding as well. I don’t think that I really change who I am or my thoughts on how I want to coach, I just change the details to make it more applicable to that team. 

Overall, I’d highly recommend coaching at different levels and in different environments - it’s a great way to challenge yourself as a coach and an even better way for you to learn more about what parts of the game are most important to you. It’s easy to get in a routine with a team and having those days where you go coach someone else or coach somewhere else can help keep you on your toes. I’ve really enjoyed working with different groups and at different levels, especially during the same season, because of how it keeps things fresh and it really makes me aware of the details that I can shift between training sessions (size of activity, timing, numbers involved, etc.) to make things work for different groups.

In what ways did you further your knowledge of the game while playing as well as once you began your path to coaching? How has that helped you grow into the coach you are today? I started attending coaching courses as soon as I began coaching, so in a formal way, that definitely helped me learn to understand some of what it means to be a coach. Beyond that, I think a lot of any coach’s coaching education comes from being on the fields and actively trying to improve along the way.

I attended and still try to attend a lot of training sessions for teams that aren’t my own. Watching other coaches work is an incredible way to learn, so when I wasn’t on the field I tried to pay attention to what the coach was doing and why. There were things that I liked and things that I didn’t like, but that helped me start to formulate ideas as to what I wanted my own training sessions to look like.

When it’s safe to travel & meet in large groups, attending coaching events like the United Soccer Coaches convention or the KYSA Learning University are great ways to continue to grow as a coach. They’re also fantastic opportunities to meet new coaches that come from different backgrounds and have different viewpoints on the game.

Can you share one or two of your favorite and/or most meaningful coaching moments? The successes are easier to highlight than all the little moments that led up to them, but there’s no real way to put an entire season and/or team into words. I’ve been really fortunate to have a lot of really cool soccer things to look back on, so just choosing a few is definitely a challenge, but here’s are a few highlights.

With KY ODP, going to Holland was absolutely a highlight and that entire trip was eye opening. Travelling in general is something I enjoy, so to be able to travel as a coach and learn from the coaching staff at Feyenoord as well as the other KY ODP coaches on the trip was an awesome experience.

On the club soccer front, winning State Cup with the Kentucky Fire Juniors G99 Premier Red and then again with the KFJ G00 Premier Red team in back to back years was pretty exciting. Both trips to the Midwest Regional Championships were tons of fun and being able to advance to the semifinals with the KFJ G00 Red group made that trip even more special.

Winning the 6th Region Championship with Mercy Academy this past fall is a memory that I’ll look back on fondly for a long time. That group of players had been through their share of ups and downs even without trying to play in a COVID year, but their ability to persevere and their performance in that championship game was definitely one of my proudest coaching moments.

What impact do you hope to have on the game and one those who come after you? I hope that players that played for me learned to love the game of soccer because that’s when you know that they’ll be willing to give back to it later. I want them to enjoy their time on the field, at training and games, and to understand that giving up your time for something bigger than yourself is worth it.

It’d be awesome to see some of them on the sidelines coaching and there have already been a few of them hopping in with younger teams to help out, so if anything I did helped show them that coaching is something worth investing in then I’d absolutely take that as well.

What message do you have for young people, especially women, who want to start coaching? Dive in and give it a try! You’ll never know what you can do in any career path if you don’t truly commit to it. I was privileged enough to have a support system around me that allowed me to jump into the deep end of coaching even when it wasn’t the most lucrative position and when it meant I might need to have an extra job or two on the side. I know that’s not the case for everyone and not having that type of support system can make committing to the time that coaching requires a challenge.

On that same note, it’s up to you to grow your network and create your own support system of coaches, both male and female, that are able to support you, challenge you, and guide you through the early years of your coaching career. Be willing to try new things and meet new people, you’ll never know when someone you randomly met along the way might be the exact person you need down the road. 

Lastly, coaching education matters. If you have the opportunity to go learn whether it’s a formal US Soccer course, a United Soccer Coaches diploma, a random one-day clinic at a local college or university, or a webinar from someone on the other side of the world, take the time to invest in your coaching education. If you expect your players to remain dedicated to improving their skills then you must remain equally committed to growing as a coach.

If you could go back in time and share some advice with your younger self, what would you say? The plan you make for yourself isn’t always the plan that you need. Your path will be windy and have plenty of ups and downs, but it’ll be a path all your own. Learn to control the things you can and understand how to accept those that you can’t. 

If you put in the work, even when there’s no immediate reward or opportunity on the horizon, you’ll be ready when your time comes. When that time comes, seize the opportunity and make sure that no one can ever question why you got that chance.

Be willing to lend a hand to those beneath you because those above you were always willing to lend you a hand when you needed it. Your job is not just to blaze your own trail, but to clear the path so the next person can follow. You’re going to benefit from those that came before you, so make sure the next generation can say the same about you.






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