With the VIU Mariners Women’s Soccer season in full swing and playoffs forthcoming, we chatted with newly appointed Apprentice Coach Zoe Grace in order to get to know her even better. Coach Grace was among 12 candidates chosen for the 2018-19 Female Apprentice Coach Program established by the CCAA in 2004. Kevin Lindo, Head Coach of the Mariners Women’s team will serve as Zoe’s primary mentor during the 2018-19 season. Grace has five years of first-hand experience as a Mariners player, winning two provincial titles, and appearing in a pair of CCAA Nationals in her time as a player. That intimate knowledge of all the facets of Mariners soccer, along with her experiences coaching youth leagues and working as an Assistant Coach with her former high school in Saskatoon, SK, provide Grace with a strong platform to continue building her coaching resume.

In general terms, regardless of the playing position, what’s easy about transitioning from a player to a coach? What’s difficult about it? Did you expect certain things to be easy that were hard and vice versa?

Not a lot about the transition was necessarily easy. As a player, I had made a lot of good friends who are still on the team and taking on a different role in the team meant that those relationships had to change. Figuring out how to maintain those friendships and be seen as a coach has been challenging, but not as difficult as I had first expected. One of the things that I think has helped the transition has been my age. Being quite a bit older than the majority of the players has made it easier to separate myself.

Can you talk about how you got chosen for the CCAA Female Apprentice Coach Program?

Kevin Lindo had mentioned the program to me last year and so this past spring I filled out an application and sent it to the CCAA with the help of Kevin and Stephanie White, our Athletic Director, and found out about a month later that I was chosen for the program.

What are some of your roles as an Apprentice Coach?

Some of my roles include running warm-ups before games, running some drills at practices, handling some managerial duties, and educating myself in terms of coaching courses and my own research on coaching styles, philosophies, and new drills to integrate into training.

Who was your first female coach and how did they help grow your love for the game?

My first female coach was a woman named Peta Bonham-Smith. She was so passionate about the game it was impossible not to be inspired by her. The way she cared about the development about each and every player and the way she was invested in getting us to love the game as much as she did really fueled my love for soccer. She was a great example of how female coaches can be strong and in control but passionate and caring at the same time.

How has Kevin Lindo helped you develop as a Coach?

Kevin has helped me develop as a coach by explaining the reasoning behind everything he does as he does it, and providing me with opportunities to step outside my comfort zone and letting me make my own mistakes. He has also provided me with opportunities to further my coaching education which has been invaluable.

Do you think it’s important to hire and train more female coaches?

I think it’s important for females to know that the opportunity is there to step into coaching positions. I think it is important to have more female coaches with training coaching female sports in order to set an example for young girls who have coaching aspirations.

What adversities have you faced being a woman throughout sports and how did you use those as a stepping-stone to make you stronger?

One of the biggest adversities I myself have faced is having expectations (or lack thereof) placed on myself and teammates strictly due to our gender. “Female soccer players are unable to…” is a phrase I’ve heard far too many times. I use that phrase as a stepping stone to try and prove that statement wrong. Hopefully instead we can start to focus on how individuals can improve their game, regardless of gender.

What advice would you give to young women looking to enter into coaching as a possible career path?

Talk to your coaches about how they got started and get tips from them. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and step outside of your comfort zone into a role you’re not used to.

How has your experience as a Mariners player helped you in your role as a coach for the team?

It was beneficial coming on to the team as a coach knowing the background and playing style of a lot of the players. It was also beneficial knowing a lot of the rituals that go on within the team and the way the league works.

What is your favorite part about coaching?

Seeing players succeed at something you’ve helped them with, and getting to be around a group of people that are as passionate about the sport as you are.

What are some of the most important values that you try to instill in your players?

Work for each other and stay positive.

The PACWEST conference has been extremely competitive this year; in your opinion, how has the team dealt with the highs and lows of the season?

Really well. Our league has been incredibly tight this season with only 2 points currently separating first and last place. We haven’t lost sight of our ultimate goal and I’ve been really impressed with how focused the team has been.

What goals do you have for the team in the upcoming PACWEST championships?

We’ve been steadily improving throughout the season, so I just want them to play as well as we know they can and hopefully come out with a positive result.