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The value of female coaches at College Cup

Article Written by J.R. Eskilson
Published: December 23, 2019

One of the best coaching staffs in college soccer was broken up last week when Loyola Marymount announced Jenny Bindon as the new head coach of the women’s soccer team. Bindon was the assistant coach at UCLA where she helped the Bruins to two College Cup appearances over the last three seasons - 2017 and 2019. 

Bindon was part of the all-female coaching staff for UCLA - an unfortunate rarity even in 2019. Bruins head coach Amanda Cromwell spoke about assembling an all-female staff earlier this month at the College Cup press conference. 

“With my former assistants moving on, Lou (Louise Lieberman), who’s now at San Diego, and Josh (Joshua Walters, Sr.) is now at JMU and we had that opening, it was on my mind to hire a woman to fill that role, and I needed a goalkeeper,” Cromwell said. “How I found (current UCLA assistant coach) Jenny (Bindon) was actually by chance. I ran into her coming out of the bathroom at the NSCAA Convention, United Soccer Coaches now. A mutual friend introduced us, it was just one of those divine intervention-kind of things. But yes, it was something I was looking to do in my career at some point.”

Cromwell’s all-female staff also includes Sam Greene. It’s been a dream team on the sideline for the Bruins. Since Bindon’s arrival and Greene’s promotion to assistant coach, UCLA is 11-2-2 in the NCAA Division I Tournament with a pair of appearances in the College Cup.

In the 2019 College Cup, Cromwell once again stood alone as the only female coach among the bunch. She elegantly pointed this out on social media prior to the press conferences before the games. 

Cromwell’s players were aware of the significance of their head coach’s comments and they were inspired by her words as well.

“As a woman, especially in a sport where most of the attention is on the males a lot of the time, it is very inspiring for us being led by not only a head coach who’s a female but an entire staff that’s female,” UCLA senior defender Kaiya McCullough said. “I think it just motivates us a bit more just to kind of get this done, not only for ourselves but for her and to just help further the women’s game as much as we can.”

“I think it’s super inspiring for our coaches,” UCLA senior goalkeeper Teagan Micah said. “I love that they’re all females. I love that we’re all able to connect to them on different levels and for me, I think it’s huge that we have more female coaches in the game and they’re just showing other coaches it is possible. It’s possible to get a team to a Final Four, and we wanna show people, especially female coaches, that it is possible to win a national championship with an all-female staff.”

For McCullough, Cromwell was her first female coach, and she saw the value in having her as her mentor in college.  

“We were talking about that the other day, actually, about how I don’t think I would’ve liked having a male coach as much in college just because how taxing it is, not only the soccer, but the mental aspect and especially going to a school like UCLA, the academics are very hard, too, so I think that having a mentor I could relate to a bit more really helped me in my career here,” McCullough said. “Obviously I’m almost done, but it’s been a really good journey, and I’m glad that it’s been aided by Amanda.”

Micah said that she had female coaches growing up as well as male coaches. 

“(Cromwell) has been a mentor for us off the pitch as well,” Micah said. “I grew up with quite a few female coaches, too, but one of the main coaches in my life is male but I don’t really see any difference between the two. At the end of the day, they’re there for us and they’re there to support us and she’s done that amazingly throughout our whole entire career at UCLA.”

Cromwell’s trip to the College Cup in 2019 was her third appearance in the Final Four since taking over the job in Westwood in 2013. In her debut season as the head coach of the Bruins, she won the NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer National Championship. She was the second woman to win the NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer National Championship as a head coach. Florida’s Becky Burleigh was the first in 1998. Penn State’s Erica Dambach joined the elite group in 2015 when the Nittany Lions lifted the trophy in Cary. 

The success of the trio is thanks to their handwork, intelligence, and surrounding themselves with equally motivated individuals. Their accomplishments are meaningful to their programs, but it’s also been meaningful to inspiring the next group of coaches, which will hopefully come from their players. They’re counting on it so Cromwell is not alone in 2020 and beyond.

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