My Coaching Story: Goodbye United States, Hello Australia

On May 11, 2017 during my senior year in high school, I tore my ACL which meant that I would have to red shirt my freshman year in college. While injured, I decided almost immediately that upon graduating from college, I would become a professional soccer player. After that first year with my college program, I stayed with the team for one more year before I ultimately decided that the coach didn’t have my best interests at heart and so I left the program to try and do a non-traditional path to try and get me to reach my goal.

This is when I started playing with a lot of men’s teams. I loved every second of it and every environment I walked into, they were welcoming and accepting of me, which is not something I can say of all groups or places.

Every single day, I was my own accountability partner. For the next six years, no one would care if I missed a training, no one would care if I just walked away from the game altogether. I think that’s what a lot of people don’t realize sometimes about my journey and how lonely it has been for me in this team sport.

Upon graduating, I bounced around from semi-pro team to semi-pro teams in the summer, to two failed visas with professional teams overseas.

My first agent sexually harassed me and made it difficult for me to leave my contract.

My second agent was almost non-existent and I was essentially my own agent, although I didn’t realize this until after a year and a half of working with him that he was not truly advocating for me and representing me to the best of his abilities and was just doing the bare minimum.

And that leads me to today.

Today I have officially signed my first professional contract.

After years of sacrifices made by me and others for me, I have finally reached my goal.

As elated as I am, here’s what I want to talk about for the remainder of my post.

What the chairman of the club told me very clearly from the beginning was this:

“We really want you in to improve the players and to lead and bring a great culture and to help our young girls so they improve. The clubs’ ultimate goal whilst I am Chairman is that eventually both men and women’s teams are made up of 80% of our Junior players. It all takes time to get them to the senior level.”

I have played for and with a handful of professional and semi-professional teams. After speaking with people who work closely with professional players or teams in other sports, I realized this, which was also confirmed by them as well. There are not many people who outright say what a player’s role is within the club.

For me, I always knew my teams valued the youth players more than the older players and that they were the focus of the club. However, this always led to frustration amongst the older girls because they were always confused about their role-specifically because they might not be playing the whole game because the management wanted younger players to get minutes, regardless if they earned it or not.

For me to hear what my role is, I am more than comfortable in that position and suits me very well. I think that these sorts of explicit conversations, no matter how obvious it may be, should be had more often. Each player needs to know what their worth, value, and role is to the program. Immediately, I can say I felt bought into the club and I would do anything for them knowing that I have a clear sense of purpose and direction.

As you might begin to see from time to time, I will take more of a player-coach perspective as I begin this new journey. I am excited for this new cultural experience and the outstanding education of my new coaches.

AUTHOR: My name is Sarah Karlik and I am the the creator of Coaches Digest. I graduated from the University of Mary Washington where I earned my BA in English with a concentration in creative writing and also completed my undergraduate course work in secondary education. I am currently a graduate assistant for a women’s soccer team at a University where I am earning my masters degree in Leadership. While earning my masters degree online and coaching at the University, I am continuing my journey as a professional player in Australia while school is out of session. I have also interned as a strength and conditioning coach for the University of North Carolina and coached soccer at various levels and age groups for the last eight years.