Mary Seiffert

Indiana Wesleyan University Women’s Soccer / Indy Premier SC

United Soccer Coaches Faith-Based Coaches Community Member

Who or what inspired you to pursue coaching?

In college, I knew I wanted to be involved in some sort of environment where I could mentor and invest in young people. I was studying Youth Ministry and had been involved in various soccer camp settings but never thought that coaching was an opportunity that could combine those two things that I loved. I accepted a Graduate Assistant position at a university after graduation and also worked with the Missionary Athletes International-Chicago Eagles branch. It was through those experiences I saw that coaching was an opportunity to pair the game that I loved with community and the opportunity to mentor and I knew that was what I wanted to do!

My personal faith has inspired me to pursue coaching because it is an opportunity to remind myself and others that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves and something that lasts much longer than a winning record. In sport where there can be temptation to be self-focused or transactional as a coach (consciously or subconsciously viewing players’ value based on performance and results), my faith drives me to pursue coaching to inspire myself and others to be different – to use soccer as an avenue to give back and to serve others, to show genuine love, care, and concern for each member of the team no matter how many minutes they get on the field, and to help players focus on personal growth and the process and not worry so much about “what it looks like” right now.

I am thankful that I had college coaches and coaching mentors throughout my experiences that demonstrated what that looked like- pairing a competitive soccer environment with the love, care, and concern for me as a person- which drove and inspired that pursuit of coaching in my own life. 

How has being a United Soccer Coaches Member benefited you?

Being a United Soccer Coaches Member has benefited me by not only providing invaluable resources and formal learning opportunities as a coach, but also by providing a community of coaches that has created opportunities for conversations and informal learning among that community.

What do you feel has been the hardest part of coaching?

For me, the hardest part of coaching has been not comparing myself to other coaches. There are so many quality coaches in my circle and on the national stage that I look up to and want to learn from, but we are all different in personality, skillsets, coaching contexts, etc. At times I am tempted to become discouraged, get away from who I am, or try to implement something that maybe wouldn’t work where I am at and I am working on taking those ideas and growth goals and applying them within my own personality, skillset, and context. I think that is where real growth and confidence happens. That takes hard work and bravery and many times it is easier to look at someone who does it well and think- “I wish I was more like that” or “I’ll never be as good of a coach because that’s not my personality or strength!” It takes assessing which areas we do need to address and be challenged in, even when it is uncomfortable, and which ideas we can take and make our own or admirable traits we can adapt in relationship to our personality and strengths.

How do you measure success with your team?

Measuring success in regards to individual player experience, our goal is that the players grow as people, as soccer players, and as a part of a community, and that they enjoy the game. I see “the 3 C’s” not only as a way for leaders to build trust but also as a measuring stick in holistic development- are players growing in character (as a person); are they growing in competence (as a soccer player); and are they growing in connections (as a part of a community-team/program/something bigger than themselves)?

Measuring success in regards to a program or team as a whole is in evaluating our program culture goal. It’s the idea of the “both/and” culture- We believe that you can be both very competitive and driven in the sport and you can have a joyful environment where coaches, players, staff, etc. demonstrate love, care, and concern for one another.  It’s not always perfect but it’s what we strive for each day. 

True success is actually cyclical and both of these things feed into the other- If players are individually growing as people, as soccer players, and as a part of a community, then they are investing in that “both/and” culture. And if the team buys into the “both/and” culture, then they will develop individually in those three areas. We believe that without this culture- that if we are driven by just one side or the other- it may result in temporary gains or on the field successes but by being driven by the “both/and” standard is what leads to sustainable growth both on and off the field. On the field wins and championships, etc. can definitely be a part of it, but it is the holistic development and culture that drives a sustainable environment and leads to success that lasts longer than a career or the last whistle.

What has been your favorite United Soccer Coaches education course and why?

When I think about my favorite United Soccer Coaches education course- it’s not so much a course that comes to mind but an experience. To me, the United Soccer Coaches annual convention has been my favorite educational opportunity that the associaition provides.  I am not only able to learn from the classroom and field sessions but also able to connect with the larger coaching community. Going back to what I highlighted earlier- the opportunity to connect with coaches from different backgrounds and from all over, whether I have known them for years or just met them five minutes prior, has provided invaluable space to have conversations, to learn from each other, challenge each other, encourage each other, and just grow in a larger love for the game and those we serve.  I always leave those events re-energized and with a renewed focus on the “why”!