By: Kelly Rockey
College women’s soccer team will have a new leader on the sidelines for the 2014 season. Mary Schroeder, 34, will be replacing former head coach Claire Morgan for the Orcas after Morgan recently accepted an assistant coaching position at Western Washington University.
“What excites me most about taking on the team for next season is the group of returners and finding new players to mesh with the amazing chemistry of the current group,” Schroeder said.
Whatcom Athletic Director Chris Scrimsher said he is excited for Schroeder to become the new head coach, adding that she is passionate about teaching the game of soccer, and is “fully vested in the job both athletically and academically.”
Schroeder said she tries to promote herself as a “player’s coach.”
The Orcas had a lot of success on and off the field last year, as they finished the season with a 10-2-8 overall record (9-0-7 in league), and an average team GPA of 3.4. They were eventually eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Northwest Athletic Association of Community College (NWAACC) playoffs.
“The best attribute I see in Mary is her ability to balance being a coach, friend, and mentor for us,” said Whatcom student and freshman forward Taylor Alflen. “She will be able to get serious when we need it, but be a friend when needed, also as a mentor, [and] help us grow outside of soccer.”
Schroeder, who also coaches for Bellingham’s youth soccer organization Whatcom Football Club (FC) Rangers, has an extensive background in soccer both as a coach and player. After playing at Bishop Blanchet High School in Seattle, she walked-on to Western’s soccer team as a freshman, and eventually earned an athletic scholarship as a sophomore that continued throughout her college playing days. She was an award winning player in college, earning Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) honors in 2000, 2001, and 2002, according to the Whatcom FC Rangers’ website.
In 2011, she earned a United States Soccer Federation (USSF) license credential stating that she has passed an educational course on coaching soccer.
Schroeder says her involvement with the local youth soccer teams has proved advantageous for her. She has been coaching with the Rangers since 2002, and will continue to do so along with coaching at Whatcom, she said.
Through her time with the Rangers and other various coaching experiences, she said she has known of or met many of Whatcom’s players prior to becoming their head coach. She said the community aspect is one of the most intriguing parts of her new coaching position.
“I’m also excited to see players that I’ve coached throughout the years, through Rangers [and other previous coaching positions], achieve success at the next level being student athletes,” Schroeder said.
Scrimsher officially introduced Schroeder to the team April 22 at a meeting between her and the eight returning players.
At the meeting, Schroeder said she takes a “more holistic approach” to coaching, and strives to “make her players comfortable” by becoming steadily involved with their day-to-day schedules.
Scrimsher said a transition between coaches can bring a “component of complexity” to an athletic program, but he does not see that being the case in this situation.
“Mary has many similarities with Claire, and she is picking up right where Claire left off,” he said.
Schroeder and Morgan also have previous experience together, as Schroeder actually coached Morgan as a player in high school.
“We have stayed connected through the soccer community ever since, through playing against each other and together on teams, through working at the Whatcom Sports Commission together,” Schroeder said. “Most recently she is the GU15 Blue team coach for Rangers while I am the GU15 Gold team coach.”
On the field, Schroeder said she plans to bring a lot of physicality to practice. She said she also wants to be able to tailor her coaching to fit the needs of the individual team members.
“I think the team is handling this transition very well,” Alflen said. “We were a little nervous at first because we had done so well with Claire last year and some of us came to Whatcom to play for Claire, but we decided to stick together and all return. We’re all really excited to have Mary as our coach.”
The team begins practicing for next season in early August, with individual workouts and other activities.