Portland, Ore., also known as ‘Rip City’ for their NBA team, the Trail Blazers. Within this hip, rainy city lies a few trail blazers themselves, true to the definition. A “trailblazer” is defined as “a person who makes a new track through wild country; a pioneer; an innovator.” Rochelle Hearns is one of those trailblazers, and she’s taking females in the game to a whole new level.
The Women Coaches Advocacy Group recently connected with Rochelle to find out more about her efforts and decision to found one of the first all-female athlete, all-female staff clubs in the country! Bridge City Soccer Academy, founded in 2019, creates a safe environment for young female soccer players to flourish and thrive. The women coaches on Rochelle’s staff are highly qualified with extensive experience working with female players both on and off the field.
Rochelle currently serves as the Executive Director and Director of Coaching for the club. We presented her with a quick Q&A to learn more about what they’re doing and highlight their efforts within United Soccer Coaches. Have a look and if you know a woman coach who could benefit from this story, please share it with them!
Q: Tell us all about the club, the backstory/how it came about, and your mission.
Rochelle: I’ve been involved with club and college soccer for over 15 years and have watched clubs focus be purely on winning. I have unfortunately watched many young females be sold “fake promises” and end up either quitting soccer altogether, or having those coaches phase them out of the club completely. Coaches will make statements about development but, in reality, are all about winning. We wanted to provide a safe environment for girls. A place where we not only gave them the soccer skills to be successful on the field, but also leadership and life skills to be successful off the field. We want to be more than a typical club; we want to be a support system. We want to be a place where we encourage girls to go on and play at elite levels, but give them the information and education, and then let them choose their own pathway. We know we can develop top players, but we also want to develop the complete person. We want to be out in the community helping in underserved communities to give those girls an opportunity to play and develop life skills. Giving back to the communities that we are a part of in our day to day lives is a huge part of what we aim to do.
We focus on four areas that are our pillars. They include Player Development on the field, Soar (our leadership program), Community Impact and finally Community Outreach. We are an academy that focuses on the complete player that is run by amazing female role models. We provide the appropriate role model for young females: FEMALES. Females who have been in the game, and very successful at that. We truly aim to lead by example.
Our Mission: To empower young women to succeed as competitors on the field and as leaders in their communities; while respecting each individual unique pathway.
Our ultimate goal is to increase the number of female players in soccer, keep them engaged in the game and keep them playing for life.
Q: Tell us about the staff
Rochelle: Our staff is made up of 18 females, two with USSF “A” licenses, 14 Licenses in total and seven former college coaches. We have National Team standout and U.S. Youth National Team Staff Coach Shannon Boxx as our Academy Technical Director. Melanie Langley, who played and coached Division I soccer for many years along with ECNL. She has been a Developmental Academy Director, ODP State and Regional Coach.
Other coaches have all played at elite levels and have coached at all levels. To name a few: Kendal Johnson, ex pro-player for the Portland Thorns, runs our leadership program (SOAR). Erin Grand coached at the University of North Carolina. Cris Lewis just recently was the goalkeeper coach at University of Oregon, and Angela Harrison former goalkeeper coach at the University of Portland. Our Board of Director member Sue Levin, former Co-Founder and CEO of Lucy Active wear, currently Chief Commercial Officer for Bolt Threads. Kate Deines, ex pro-player who retired from the Seattle Reign, who now works for all-female run investment company Ellevest. Jennifer Stoltenberg former Division I standout for the University of Oregon and currently Product Manager GFA at Nike.
Q: What is your vision for the club?
Rochelle: It is a place for girls to feel confident. To give them the tools to be successful on and off of the field and instill a love for the game. A place that builds community leaders and successful young women. “To restore, develop and preserve the driving force of the sport we love…the joy of the game.”
Q: What is your best advice for young female players?
Rochelle: Let your actions be your voice! Don’t be the loud obnoxious person in the room trying to be heard. Be yourself, but let your game do the talking!