Whatever your sport or field, no matter how intimidated you may feel, go to the convention!

SarahWith experience coaching at all three NCAA Divisions, and two trips to the NCAA tournament, Sarah is currently the Assistant Men’s Coach at Dutchess County Community College (NJCAA).  She worked with US Youth Soccer’s Olympic Development Program in Eastern N.Y. for 8 years and served as director of the Girls North program from 2011-2015. Her current focus is on youth development and she works with clubs in New York and is the owner of SJI Training.




There is a lot of talk of the importance mentors these days. 

Perhaps a story can best illustrate the potential value of such a relationship. 

When I was a junior in college by chance I met the woman who would become my first mentor, though no one called it that at the time. I was a 21-year-old kid working at one of a number of soccer camps the summer before my senior year. It was the early ’90s and I had very little experience with females in any kind of sport leadership role, particularly in soccer. With few exceptions my coaches in every sport had all been men  and the coaches I saw on TV were always men. To my surprise there was one other woman working the camp. She was in her late twenties, which from my naive perspective was old and experienced. After playing at a high Division I level, she had moved into the college coaching ranks. She was who I wanted to be.


After the camp we kept in touch. Well, I kept in touch and hounded her on the phone. This was the mid ’90s – the early email days and decades before LinkedIn. I wanted to coach after college and I was certain that she knew everything. In one of our conversations she told me I should go to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Convention (NSCAA). As a Christmas gift my mom paid my registration. I made arrangements to sleep on a friend’s floor and in January I printed copies of my resume, packed my best adult clothes which at the time meant pleated khakis, and headed to Philadelphia. I was totally unprepared, overwhelmed and absolutely in over my head. It was the best advice I could ever have gotten. At the convention my eyes were opened to the possibilities, I saw more people I knew than I expected, learned a bit of soccer and got a job offer. Pretty good advice.


Over the years, I have had the opportunity to give the same advice to many young coaches and am always pleased to see them when they arrive wide eyed and eager at their first convention. I am even more excited when I see them year after year in different roles and jobs as they make their way through careers in coaching. In a small way I feel I am passing on what was given to me.


It is now well over 20 years since I met my first mentor. As we have each made our way in the often nomadic world of coaching, our paths continue to cross. We have coached with and against each other, been convention roommates, gotten to know each other’s significant others and been there through hirings and firings. Been both sounding boards and a listening ears. While she is still my go-to for advice, our relationship has become one of friends and peers. Now both in our 40’s we are the old friends you can hardly imagine having in your 20’s.


Every mentor relationship is different, some are short and specific while others grow into a lasting friendship. Find as many people you can who will help you in one or many aspects of your career. Some may be short relationships and fill a specific need. If you are lucky a few will grow and evolve with you. And whatever your sport or field, no matter how intimidated you may feel, go to the convention! ☺