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DMCV Sharks Goalkeeper Coach Molly Halloran on Why Youth Soccer Needs Women Coaches
DMCV Sharks Goalkeeper Coach Molly Halloran on Why Youth Soccer Needs Women Coaches | Del Mar Carmel Valley Sharks, DMCV, Molly Halloran, Shannon MacMillan, U.S. Women's National Team, Female Coaches, Positive Coaching Alliance, Jim Madrid, Lesle Gallimore, U.S. Soccer, Women soccer coaches, women youth soccer coaches, San Diego youth soccer, Cal South youth soccer,

Molly Halloran is goalkeeper coach at Del Mar Carmel Valley Sharks. Photo Credit: DMCV Sharks

Youth Soccer News: DMCV Sharks Goalkeeper Coach Molly Halloran on Why We Need Female Coaches

Where are all the great female coaches? SoccerNation sets out to find the answer to that question in this series of articles about the importance of having female coaches at the youth soccer level. Today Del Mar Carmel Valley Sharks coach Molly Halloran shares her views on female coaches and her own experiences as a player and coach. San Diego's youth soccer scene is helping change the landscape of youth soccer in America.

In a field where female coaches are the minority, Molly Halloran is even more exceptional – a successful goalkeeper coach with a top Southern California club. But perhaps that should not be so strange, considering the Director of Operations at Del Mar Carvel Valley Sharks, where Halloran coaches, is former U.S. Women’s National Team player Shannon MacMillan.

Halloran is no stranger to blazing trails, being part of one of the first women’s soccer team at the University of Louisville in 1989. She was one of 11 incoming freshman who were offered scholarships – still fewer than the men’s team offered at the time. After two years of fighting for equal scholarships as required by Title IX, the women finally reached parity during Halloran’s junior year. Today, she points out, Louisville is one of the leaders in equality between women’s and men’s sports.

After college, because the only playing option for women at the time was the U.S. WNT, Halloran moved on to coaching to remain involved in the sport she loved. She began coaching in her native Kentucky in 1994 and eventually worked her way up to Assistant and Goalkeeper Coach at St. Henry District High School and at NCAA Division II Thomas More College. Her final stop before coming to California was three years as Assistant and Goalkeeper Coach for the elite Notre Dame Academy in Park Hills, KY. During that time her team was awarded a Top 25 adidas National Ranking and a Final Four appearance in the Kentucky State Championship.

SoccerNation asked Halloran to share some of her experiences as a female coach coming in from a different region.

Diane Scavuzzo: We all know men and women are different, how do these differences impact coaching youth soccer? What would you say are the biggest differences between male and female coaches?

Molly Halloran: Most female coaches want to mentor players in all areas of their life. Women are innately nurturers. We work on the technical side of being a soccer player, but if emotional or personal issues are a barrier to learning, we intercede to find out how we can help overcome that obstacle. Then our players can grow even more as a person and a player.

Diane Scavuzzo: What are your goals as a coach?

Molly Halloran: My goal is to positively affect every child placed in my path.

To build youth soccer players up, give them self confidence, show them that they can make mistakes and that is okay. I will still support them. You can’t learn from a mistake if you never make one!

I still see too many yelling, screaming male coaches on the sideline demeaning the child for making a mistake on the field ....

I want to give them the strongest technical foundation I can while I am coaching them. I use “amazing,” “spectacular,” “awesome,” and “rock star” to describe their actions during training.

To see a little face beam because I told them they are amazing is the greatest reward on the earth because the truth is, they may not get much positive at home.They may need Coach Molly to be the one person that day that told them they are amazing. And it clears the path so that child will hear the constructive coaching that comes next. If they are on the defensive and only hearing the things they are doing wrong all the time, they are not open to learn. They are behind a wall of protection.

Diane Scavuzzo: Do you see this type of coaching becoming more prevalent, or is it still “old school” coaching from your perspective?

Molly Halloran: I think we have a newer generation of men who understand this way of positive coaching. Obviously being positive has been an issue since we had to create the Positive Coaching Alliance to spread the word. Jim Madrid is doing amazing things teaching these principles to sports teams around the country, but much less with some of our local SoCal coaches.

I still see too many yelling, screaming male coaches on the sideline demeaning the child for making a mistake on the field or only caring about winning.

I sit on the sideline at tournaments and cringe at what I hear come out the mouths of some of these “old school” coaches. I have had more than one conversation about sportsmanship and role model behavior with a coach after a game where I see bad behavior. That bad behavior usually correlates directly with the behavior seen in their players during that game.

We are role models and those little kids will repeat and act exactly the way we do, whether it’s respectful, thoughtful, caring behavior or the exact opposite. We have a chance to make a positive impact and I am glad more men are stepping up to the challenge. Just in the past three years, Shannon MacMillan has hired an amazing group of positive role model male coaches because she is dictating a culture of positive coaching. It is the way of the future, so everyone else better get on board!

Diane Scavuzzo: Why do you think there are so few women coaches?

Molly Halloran: I believe there are a few reasons for the small number of female coaches, especially in Southern California. I moved from Kentucky six years ago after having coached at the collegiate level and elite high school level for 14 years. I was pulled into coaching as I finished my four years at the University of Louisville by my role model coaches who gave me the foundation to become a four-year student athlete. They were eager to teach me how to be a coach and leader and grow from being a player only. And they did just that. They spent the time to mentor me, let me make my mistakes, and grow in the experiences laid in my path to figure out what kind of coach and leader I was going to be.

Diane Scavuzzo: How is California different?

Women are looked down upon in the world of professional soccer -- I got zero respect when I started contacting and meeting with DOCs who brushed me off because I didn’t fit their male model.

I was called “sweetie” and “honey” -- That kind of behavior in my day job would constitute harassment, but in the soccer world it is just accepted.

Molly Halloran: The difference I see in California is that the establishment and leaders of the clubs here are, for the most part, dominated by European males who keep recruiting coaches who are like them.

Women are looked down upon in the world of professional soccer, and I found that out first hand when I moved. I had 14 years of coaching experience helping lead my high school team to state championships and final four appearances, and I had been playing since I was seven years old in Club and Division I, and ODP. And I got zero respect when I started contacting and meeting with DOCs who brushed me off because I didn’t fit their male model.

I was called “sweetie” and “honey” and demeaned in more ways that I can count. And mind you, I had been working at a high level in the corporate world for a decade when I moved here. That kind of behavior in my day job would constitute harassment, but in the soccer world it is just accepted.

So I walked away from each sit down with a male DOC saddened by the closed-mindedness that I was witnessing. I thought, well maybe I won’t be coaching in California after all if this is the way it is.

Diane Scavuzzo: What changed things for you?

Molly Halloran: Shannon Mac Millan took over at the DMCV Sharks in February of 2009. She brought me on board in April of 2009 and I instantly saw the difference a female DOC can make.

I saw how the “been there done that” attitude that we have as female ex-players and coaches can impact not only the young girls we coach but also the boys who think it pretty cool to have an ex-female player working with them daily. It changes the perspective of that young boy to, “hey, girls can do anything!” It is impactful to get feedback from parents of young girls saying, “It is so amazing to have a strong, positive, successful female role model for my daughter.”

And it is spectacular for Shannon MacMillan to come back into the coaching and DOC role to give back to the sport that helped her become who she is today. She has been an amazing role model not only to our DMCV Sharks teams, but to the entire Cal South family. Luckily for me, I was able to be mentored by her over the past six years as she allowed me to be a part of her teams as an assistant. I learned more in those six years than in all my years of coaching and playing.

 It is so heartwarming to see kids, boys and girls, come up to Shannon at tournaments to meet her and get their picture taken. She is so gracious with requests for fundraisers or anything else that will help propel the sport forward or make a positive impact on the kids we coach. So it is the impact of strong women like Shannon who are coming back into coaching and recruiting like-minded female ex-players to do the same!

Diane Scavuzzo: Do you think there is a difference between coaching girls and boys?

Molly Halloran: We now have 65 teams between girls and boys in the Sharks Club, and I train all of the goalkeepers. So that is a huge number of keepers. I train boys and girls together, and it’s a great way to see the difference in how they learn.

I don’t think it’s a boy or girl thing. It’s understanding each child’s personality and finding out their learning style, and then matching my teaching to their style.

Every child is different, and I need to morph into the best coach for each child. It’s the same way a corporate leader needs to coach and mentor their staff differently to get the most out of each person. That is called being a leader.

It is very important for young girls to have a true female role model to look up to.

Diane Scavuzzo: Who do you think is the best female coach in the world?

Molly Halloran: I had the pleasure to learn from Lesle Gallimore at my U.S. Soccer ‘C’ License a couple years ago. Her positive yet tough, no-nonsense style appealed to me. At the same time all the men – ninety percent of coaches present – admired her style as well. So it is possible to be a strong female coach that both sexes can be impacted by equally. I think watching other female collegiate coaches and their positive coaching style during NCAA tournaments gives me hope for the future that more women will be pulled into the upper ranks of Division I programs.

Diane Scavuzzo: Did you have any female coaches when you were a youth player/college player?

Molly Halloran: No, and thank goodness the male coaches I had were positive, nurturing role models in every way. Like I said, they pulled me back into coaching, mentored me and taught me how to be the best coach possible, just like they did when they were teaching me how to be the best player and leader possible.

Diane Scavuzzo: What traits does a female coach need to survive and thrive?

Molly Halloran: Thick skin! Don’t take anything personally; just know your role and move forward. I can’t change what other people say or do. I can only be steadfast in my way of thinking and make a positive impact everywhere I go.

Diane Scavuzzo: What do you see as the future for female soccer coaches?

Molly Halloran: All things change in time. The world of soccer is dominated around the world by men. Being a progressive nation, the U.S. has a chance to truly make an impact on this change. Our women were the first and most dominant team in the world for many years, but now other countries are putting the money and effort into building women’s teams. The time has come for forward motion for women being accepted at a high level as equals in the coaching world.

In this male-dominated sport it is very important for young girls to have a true female role model to look up to.

I have mentored and coached more kids in my 20 years of coaching than I can count, and I am glad things have begun to change with more female players coming back to coach. We are only at the beginning of volumes of young females finishing up their playing careers and wanting to give back to the system that built them. We are at the precipice of evening out the disparity between men and women in coaching. The future is bright! We just need to keep that door open, recruit the great young female players and mentor them back into coaching! 

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