Lesle Gallimore: It's a wonderful time to lean on one another to help grow the game in a positive and unified way

Lelse Gallimore, head coach of the University of Washington women's team since 1994, is the 2018 President of United Soccer Coaches, the world's largest soccer coaches organization, formerly known as the NSCAA. The longest serving Pac-12 soccer coach, Gallimore is also a U.S. Soccer national staff coaching instructor. Her UW alum include Hope Solo, who was a candidate in the year's U.S. Soccer presidential election, which was won by Carlos Cordeiro.

Lesle Gallimore (Photo courtesy of UW SID)

SA: What did you think of Hope Solo's run for U.S. Soccer Federation presidency?

LESLE GALLIMORE: I'm proud of Hope for putting herself in the mix of candidates. Her voice is an important one and her message on the fight for equality for women and under-represented groups is one that should not be ignored.

Despite not winning the election, Hope is going to continue to be an advocate and strong consistent champion for equality as she's extremely passionate about it and fearless when it comes to saying what needs to be said.

Hope Solo and Lesle Gallimore

SA: What would you like to see from new U.S. Soccer Federation President, Carlos Cordeiro?

LESLE GALLIMORE: Specifically what we as a board and staff at United Soccer Coaches laid out in our position paper to all of the candidates and then to Carlos when he won the position:

1. Respect the time and talents that all coaches give -- from parent volunteer to pro. They shape the soccer experience. 2. Recognize that effective soccer coaching education comes in different shapes and sizes. Collaborate with your member organizations and coaches to identify multiple coaching education pathways, rather than dictate "this way or the highway." 3. Embrace all levels of our sport. High school soccer is a valuable part of the soccer culture in thousands of communities across the nation. College soccer literally drives our youth game. Adult amateur soccer provides opportunities for lifelong participation. 4. Celebrate and encourage the extraordinary talents of elite youth and professional players, but know our sport is strongest when every player loves the game. Don't forsake the 99% for the 1%. 5. Honor America and American soccer coaches by respecting that our soccer roots are now deep and rich. We can learn much from the rest of the world, but help us strengthen our own path to soccer greatness.

I understand the issues and concerns regarding our national teams and programs, but they cannot be the sole focus of our federation when so many other constituencies fall under their umbrella.

SOCCER AMERICA: What do you hope to accomplish as United Soccer Coaches' President?

LESLE GALLIMORE: I aim to support our Coaching Education department so that our offerings continue to be relevant, innovative and constantly improved upon as well as, in some way, recognized by U.S. Soccer in conjunction their education pathway. ... Continued growth in our membership via new members and member retention, with a specific emphasis on the support of our Advocacy Council, Membership and Diversity groups which in turn create and foster leadership and leadership opportunities within our organization.

I want to work with our professional coaches member group to make sure United Soccer Coaches is serving their needs on a level consistent with professional coaches associations around the world. Our professional coaches are a valued and vital part of our association.

Also, work with many of our legacy members to create new and meaningful ways to involve them so that the long and rich traditions of our association are not lost and that their knowledge and wisdom is a resource that we value and utilize.

On Female Coaches ...

SA: The Tucker Center gave NCAA Division I women's soccer a "D" on its gender report card because of the low percentage (26.2%) of women head coaches at D1 programs. What's your impression?

My impression is that at all levels we haven't as a sports group personally invested in young females, whether while they are still playing and may be considering coaching as a profession, or even once they have begun their coaching careers. When I use the word personal investment, I mean mentoring and educating them properly. It is also my impression that once a female coach, head or assistant "fails" that she is done for good.

Sometimes this is by choice because the experience was so poor, or more prevalent is that they are just written off as bad coaches. You don't see that with male coaches in the women's college soccer, or most sports for that matter.

Male coaches are often given second chances and beyond whether they are perceived as successful or not.

What is needed to increase the number of female head coaches?

There are men who have done a wonderful job of creating an environment within their college programs whereby young women are encouraged to follow coaching as a career path or they do well to hire female assistants and train and advocate for them to become head coaches.

There aren't nearly enough of these male coaches. It is difficult for me to comprehend that in 2018 there are still college women's program staffs that have no females.

I also get discouraged when I hear of women coaches who are only given administrative tasks on staff and have no coaching as a part of their role. I'd love to see athletics directors take more of a lead in guiding their coaches of women's sports, both genders, to hire and properly train and mentor women coaches.

The #MeToo movement has shed light on how hostile a work environment can be for women. What's your experience been in soccer?

Overall, I have been fortunate in my playing and coaching career.

Specifically in college coaching I have had tremendous people to look up to and who have given me a lot of responsibility and their trust.

Dr. Luella Lillly, Marie Tuite, Chris Dawson, and Bill Merrell at Cal gave me such invaluable experience as a leader when I was playing and coaching. Barbara Hedges, Kit Green and again, Marie Tuite, and now Jennifer Cohen, at Washington have been leaders and role models for me, and colleagues that have made my coaching career one where I've been able to improve and grow constantly.

Looking back at some of the coaching behaviors I was exposed to as a young player I am shocked at what was tolerated; thankfully none of it was so egregious that I was scarred by it, but it was still something that today would raise flags or cause alarm and with that said, I can't say that colleagues or teammates weren't harmed by a hostile playing or work environment.

In our profession of coaching sometimes the hostility comes more in the form of inequity. Inequity is probably what I've been exposed to the most and in that case it is often a case of where you don't know you're being treated unequally.

Lesle Gallimore was an All-American defender at Cal (Photo courtesy of Cal SID)

How different are the kids now, the so-called Generation Z, compared to your early years of coaching? Do you have to coach differently than you did earlier in your career?

I wasn't aware we were on Gen Z. Did I miss Y? My question is: what generation comes next?

Of course, there is a difference in today's generation of young people than previous generations I've coached or was a part of when I was a player.

As a coach I feel it my obligation to understand them and try to figure out what makes them tick so that you can teach them in a way that helps them improve as athletes, specifically as soccer players and as people. Determine what it is that you want them to learn and then figure out the best way to teach it to them.

This doesn't mean that you lower your standard, you evolve and take the time to figure it out. I think there is a natural reaction for coaches to quit on kids because of "the way they are" or to label them as "entitled or spoiled" and then give up on coaching them.

As the adults dealing with "this generation," we have to own our part in who they have become, we're their teachers, their parents, their coaches, so how they are has to have something to do with us, so we should acknowledge that and embrace the challenge of helping them be their best.

This generation is driven and can do incredible things if we give them the freedom and permission to fail trying. I always say I want to be like my players when I grown up; these are some really special young women we get to be around.

Lesle Gallimore's Favorite Soccer Movies

"The Damned United," about Brian Clough's Leeds United coaching stint, and "Pele: The Birth of Legend" -- because I’ve met Pele twice and his is a great story.

Favorite Soccer Books?
I don’t have a favorite soccer book, but am interested in reading different books on tactics and team management by different coaches of all sports. I also enjoy reading books that I feel relate to leadership in general or books from other sports or stories that can relate back to being a part of a team. "Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics" by Dan Brown is one that resonates with me and our program immensely -- and is always recommended reading for incoming freshmen.

On Youth Soccer ...

What's your opinion on U.S. Soccer launching the girls Development Academy, which created competition with the ECNL for the nation's top girls talent?

The Development Academy in my opinion is something U.S. Soccer absolutely needed to do and should be doing. There is a lot of money being made in youth sports, so when there is competition for players and dollars things are naturally going to become contentious.

I think this happened when the Girls DA launched. The question itself is a bit funny to me because "created competition for the nation's top girls talent" sounds to me like it's a finite and set pool.

This is a part of a bigger problem in girls soccer is that we're trying to pinpoint the top talent at the moment more than we are working to create as much talent as we possibly can in this country. It has to be looked at as a continuous process that never has an end point.

What advice do you have for young players who want to become high-level college players?

My advice is to be a coachable player who is hungry for information, curious about how to solve problems and willing to try things at the risk of getting it wrong more often until you start getting it right more often.

It is important to be self-aware and honest with yourself about your motivation and level of passion for being a Division I athlete. It is a serious commitment and too often young players end up in something they didn't expect or understand when they committed to it.

Advice for parents who hope their soccer-playing children get college soccer scholarships?

My advice to all parents is to be responsible and diligent about saving for college and look at earning an athletic scholarship as a bonus and not something to be relied on completely.

Obviously, college is a big expense, but too often players end up in a program that is a poor fit athletically and academically because money was the sole or most important determinant in their choice.

Parents need to be realistic and help guide their children to an informed decision that makes sense for that player and makes financial sense for their family without making the athletic scholarship the sole focus.

Is there anything you would like youth coaches to improve upon to prepare players for college soccer?

Understanding their defensive roles is a big one for me. There are too many players that come into a college program against older, bigger, faster players and don't understand that they have a role when their team isn't in possession. They start behind, in my opinion, if their defending capabilities and knowledge are behind. I'd also say that the better problem-solvers and decision-makers you develop, the better chance they will have success in college. Players who are given the solutions in practice and games by their coaches without learning through mistakes and failure tend to struggle when things get difficult.

Anything else you would like to add or address?

I am excited for the upcoming year as we enter a new era for U.S. Soccer under Carlos Cordeiro's leadership and I get to experience life as President of United Soccer Coaches. I do think this is a wonderful time for coaches and the other stakeholders in our beautiful game to begin to lean on one another to help grow the game in a positive and unified way.

3 comments about "Lesle Gallimore: It's a wonderful time to lean on one another to help grow the game in a positive and unified way".
  1. Louise Waxler, February 23, 2018 at 10:37 a.m.

    This interview speaks volumes about Lesle and her unfailing devotion to the players at every level in our sport. She excels as a role model for young women and athletes and has a high level of personal integrity matched only by her intensity. Over the last 22 years, I've enjoyed every project on which we've worked together and am looking forward to her leading the United Soccer Coaches in 2018.

  2. R2 Dad, February 23, 2018 at 5:17 p.m.

    Great interview--these columns are very helpful to introduce readers to people who are involved in the sport that we may not know.

    "It is also my impression that once a female coach, head or assistant "fails" that she is done for good."

    I'm very curious what this means as it applies to all coaches. What does it mean to fail? Was their team's record poor? Did they not develop players? This concept of "failure" as it applies to coaches seems so subjective that it's no wonder we don't have a good pyramid of coaches in this country.

    What does it mean to be a "good" coach, and who gets to prioritize coach qualities to make hiring decisions?

  3. James Madison, February 23, 2018 at 7:25 p.m.

    Why comment on the percentage of female coaches of women's college teams as if women are fit only to coach women and not also men?

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