SD Loyal's most qualified coach is also the highest ranking female coach in men's professional soccer. She is now a San Diegan, but it was a winding
SD Loyal’s most qualified coach is also the highest ranking female coach in men’s professional soccer. She is now a San Diegan, but it was a winding road that brought her to her new home.
I spoke with Taylor about the path that brought her from Michigan to San Diego and the lessons and experiences that prepared her for helping lead SD Loyal alongside Landon Donovan.
It all began in Flint
Carrie Taylor grew up in Flint, Michigan. She played on teams in her community and eventually played for the women’s club team at the University of Michigan as a Pre-Med major. As she was preparing to graduate, Title IX benefits made their way to Ann Arbor. The University of Michigan was going to field their first NCAA DI Women’s Soccer team, and Taylor knew she had to be a part of it. She stayed at Michigan for a fifth year so that she could compete in NCAA DI Women’s Soccer. The experience, much to the chagrin of her parents at the time, proved to her that she wasn’t meant to be a doctor. Instead, she knew she wanted to be a soccer coach.
College lessons learned, but not all were in the classroom
As we were talking about her years at Michigan, Taylor talked about the experience of playing club soccer. “It’s funny,” she told me, “how much that club team taught me. We had to hire our own coach. Order our own uniforms. Organize our own travel and tryouts. It all was a smaller younger version of what I’m doing here in San Diego.”
“I was meant to be a soccer coach.”
After college, Taylor became the assistant coach of the Women’s Soccer team at Temple University, then she moved on to Xavier University where she coached NCAA Division 1 soccer as well as local club teams. Switching lanes, she put her biology degree to work and decided to teach high school bio and also coach high school soccer. She told me, “Those years of coaching high school showed me that I wasn’t a teacher who was coaching. I was a coach who was teaching. That’s when I knew that I was meant to be a soccer coach.”
Knowing she was striving for more of a coaching challenge, a friend encouraged her to apply for head coaching positions at colleges. “A friend of mine pushed me to apply at Mt. Saint Joseph University. They’re a DIII program, and they needed one coach to be the head coach for the women’s team. That same coach would start up their first men’s team from scratch.”
Head coach of an NCAA men’s college soccer team
Taylor got the job. She took over the very successful women’s program and also was in charge of building the brand new men’s soccer program. “It was so hard. I don’t know how I survived,” she told me, chuckling at the memories. “But it’s crazy how that prepared me so well for SD Loyal. I could never have seen it at the time. But it was so busy, such a challenge, and it prepared me so well for what I’m doing now. Practices had to be planned. Tryouts had to be organized. Players had to be scouted and recruited, all for a brand new men’s team. All while also coaching the women’s team. Had I not coached those college teams, I never wouldn’t have felt comfortable taking this [SD Loyal] job.
“Respect had to be earned at that college program. I had to prove to young men and the university leadership that I knew what I was doing — that I could coach, lead, recruit, scout, all of it. That job wasn’t easy at all, and it totally prepared me for SD Loyal.”
“So, how did you end up in California?”
Following along the journey Taylor was describing, I asked her, “So, how did you end up in California?”
With a chuckle and a wistful sigh, she remembered a specific day. “Do you know what sleet is? I have to explain it to people here in California. They don’t even know what it is. It’s pretty much frozen rain, not pretty snow. Ugh. It’s horrible. I was sitting in my office at Mount Saint Jo, looking out my window at another day of sleet, and I just knew I had to get out. There was a coaching job in Orange County, so I applied and got it. Once I came out here, I loved it. But then I ended up in Canada for a little while.”
While living in Orange County, Taylor’s United FC Girls U14 team won a USYS National Championship. She was offered the job as the assistant coach for the “W-League” team at the Vancouver Whitecaps and a head coaching position in their girls’ academy system.
She explained, “It was such a great offer, I couldn’t say no. The W-League team needed an assistant coach, and I was also the head coach of their U18 team.”
More lessons learned from inside the MLS
“I was supposed to be on a two-year contract, but the Whitecaps ended their W-League team. I didn’t get to work through the whole two years. But, I did get to have an office inside the Vancouver Whitecaps organization. I was right next to the head coach and the entire MLS club leadership staff.”
“I got to see how an MLS franchise operates from the inside. It taught me so much. That was perfect preparation for SD Loyal. Just like with the women’s club team at Michigan, then college coaching. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was learning lessons and gaining experience that prepared me for SD Loyal. It really is crazy looking back. Every step of the way prepared me for this.”
SD Loyal: “All In”
Looking back with perfect hindsight, it seems obvious that Taylor’s path, although winding, was leading her straight to San Diego. But how did the offer from SD Loyal come about? She told me, “I’ve known Landon [Donovan] for years. We worked on the Soccer City project together. With the USL announcement for San Diego, we talked about my being a senior advisor. At the time, though, the assistant coach position was going to be part-time.”
“I told him, ‘Honestly, I’d be offended if you didn’t consider me,’ but I knew the position was supposed to be part-time. So, I was just going to be an advisor. Then one day we were talking about the team, the mission, the vision, the values, about being ‘all in.'”
“We both realized that the assistant coach, whoever it was, had to be full-time. If this team was going to be ‘all in,’ there was no other option. Once Landon decided both assistants needed to be full-time, he offered me the job, and I accepted immediately.”
Hometown San Diego: “The soccer community in San Diego is amazing.”
San Diego is full of natives and “transplants” who all love their home town. Taylor is no different. A transplant by way of the midwest, Orange County, and Canada, she now proudly calls San Diego home. I asked her what is it about San Diego that made her decide to put down roots.
Pausing to really think about it, she then answered, “Throughout my career, I’ve lived in a lot of places, and I’ve played and coached at all levels of this game. The soccer community in San Diego is amazing. It really is unique. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I am so proud to be a San Diegan now. We are going to give our all to San Diego. Landon says it all the time, but it’s true: This city has been put though a lot when it comes to soccer.”
“San Diego deserves a great soccer team, and that’s what we’re working to create. The whole SD Loyal staff have been through battles together. It’s made us stronger. We are closer than we would have been otherwise. All of these battles have made us love the San Diego soccer community even more. We have a LOT of work to do, but we are all so excited and proud to represent San Diego. I want to thank Landon for believing in me, and Warren [Smith] and Andrew [Vassiliadis] for the opportunity.”
Leaving a Legacy
Since today is “Giving Tuesday,” I asked Taylor about her mission to fund a scholarship in her childhood home of Flint, Michigan. She happily told me all about it:
“I grew up in Flint, Michigan,” she began. “We had a sports program for kids, called ‘Flint Olympian and CANUSA Games.’ It’s a summer program with lots of sports. Soccer, baseball, basketball, tons of sports. You’d compete against other teams from other schools, then at the end, they’d choose an all-star team. The all-star teams would play against Canadian teams and Canadian teams would come play us.”
“I was in that growing up, and it was such an important program for me. It had a huge impact on my life. That’s where I got my work ethic, my confidence. All of the coaches are volunteers, but nothing is free to run. The school system tries to fund it. Flint’s economy, though, can’t sustain it because the population has gone down so much recently.”
The Carrie Taylor Scholarship Fund
“I got a little college scholarship when I played in it, and I want to leave a legacy. Giving back is so important. Even though I don’t have kids of my own, I feel like I have thousands who have played for me over the years and who still play in that program back in Flint. I started the Carrie Taylor Scholarship Fund. It’s a one thousand dollar scholarship. Every year a female athlete who has participated in the Flint Olympian and CANUSA games and has done community service and has at least a 3.0 GPA, will win this scholarship. And, it’s renewable through her years of vocational school, two-year school, or four-year school, as long as she keeps a minimum GPA.”
Taylor continued, “I have enough to get the scholarship going now. To keep it going through the years, I need to create an endowment. People can donate online to help me reach the goal. I know we’ll get there eventually. If you could share the link, that would be awesome.”
SAY NO MORE, Carrie! CLICK HERE to donate to the Carrie Taylor Scholarship Fund. Every little bit helps!
Taylor added, “Thanks in advance for anyone that wants to donate!”
Stay tuned to SoccerNation for the latest on SD Loyal.
(hint: tryouts are coming! the first ones sold out, but….)