Clara stumbled into coaching girls soccer after an abrupt knee injury cut her playing career at Macalester College short. Now, she coaches for Blaine Soccer Club, where she teaches players valuable on and off the field lessons.
“It’s a really interesting shift. When I was playing in college my career got cut a little bit short because I tore my ACL my senior year, so I kind of immediately had to step into a different kind of leadership role where I couldn’t physically play the sport and show kind of my leadership in that way. I think after transitioning to a coach you really focus on the experience of the girls and the experience of the people that you work with and that you coached. I think soccer and coaching soccer is x’s and o’s in some ways, but it’s so much more than that. It’s so much more about, you know, instilling competition in young girls, which is something I value so much.
In some ways, when you play, you know it’s all about tactics and strategy and that individual excellence, and then when you become a coach, it becomes about ideas and values and culture a lot more when you’re kind of trying to build a team.”
“When I speak to a team for the first time, a lot of it has to do with my baseline expectations and then everything after that is what they create based on what they know. So I’ll say I expect that there’s a baseline effort. You show up, and you work hard and you never judge another teammate for working hard.
We have something called a t-chart… What does working hard look like? What is being supportive of other teammates? What does being respectful looks like? On the flip side is what it does (the players) think more critically about the type of team they want to be a part of.”
“I’d say for youth sports there’s just been a huge boom in young girls participating. I think in all sports we’ve seen it as well, and it’s really exciting.
Minnesota especially, I think has seen… just this huge boom of girls ready to get after it and compete at the highest level. I think obviously a huge part of that is that they can see female role models at the highest professional level. I mean, with the media attention that the USWNT has been getting and then the national teams all over the world has just been huge for girls to be able to see what success looks like in their sport.”
“I think it’s a really interesting culture, and I’ve actually worked… or at least (have) seen some young female players who think that female coaches are inferior to male coaches. These are young girls who will say this which is a huge problem, and I think it’s our job right to show them what’s possible. The way you show up, the way you present yourself, the way you interact with your male and female co-workers is huge. They see that, they read that.
I think just teaching them how to show up for themselves, advocate for themselves in conversations. Tell them that as a female, something might not be given to you right away, but you’ve got to stay aware of your surroundings, make sure you know what you want first, and then go get it. It’s really important that as a female coach you lead an environment that’s not obedience based… that it’s not just ‘listen to what I do.’ It’s a team culture of balancing. Buying into team culture and being a part of it and supporting it and wanting it but also finding your own way and finding what you like to do and stepping up when you think something’s wrong or something’s unfair.”