New Soccer Coach Angela Kelly Speaks

Scotland native Angela Kelly was recently recruited from the University of Tennessee to become Texas’ new women’s soccer coach. Here, Mia Hamm’s old roommate talks about winning four straight national championships in college and gunning for more as a coach.

What led you to North Carolina as a player? I was born in Scotland, and my dad played in leagues in Glasgow, so I was constantly around the soccer culture. Then my parents immigrated to Canada, and I grew up there. At that time, just to be able to obtain a scholarship as a female athlete was unique. I had been playing with the (Canadian) national team, and (UNC head coach) Anson Dorrance was the coach of the U.S. team at the time. We were able to play against them. I went down to a soccer camp at North Carolina, and one of his assistants saw me and said they would love to have me come. That was the beginning of my senior year and really the whole process. I think it was good fortune, and I couldn’t be more grateful. It was everything I could have ever dreamed of, as far as getting a scholarship and playing at the highest level.

Describe the experience of winning four straight national titles with the Tar Heels. It was so much more about the journey. The actual championships are only a byproduct of everything you do, and they’re somewhat fleeting. I can say that because I did have the privilege of winning four. You win a championship, you high-five, you shower, you eat, you come home, and you have to go to class the next day. The world is still going on. It doesn’t stop when you win a championship. In fact, it only becomes more apparent that you have to just work harder. That was the environment that was cultivated and certainly the environment that I believe in and will continue to foster.

How did you become involved in coaching? I never dreamed of being a coach. I really was just focused on being the best soccer player I could be. I had always worked camps for Anson in the summers, and then the opportunity came to go to Tennessee (as an assistant coach). But I’m interested in people, and Anson was a wonderful motivator, so I was always interested in how to motivate individuals and just seeing what buttons you push to cultivate the best in the pursuit of excellence. I was still training, but Anson said I needed to go be a coach. So I was an assistant at Tennessee, but still focused on being the best player I could be.

How did you develop a relationship with legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt?

The head coaching job had opened up, and I was 27. It was January, and the (WUSA) was about to start in March. Coach Summitt was writing her notes, and I knocked on her door. I asked for a moment of her time. I started talking, and she kept writing. And I said, “Well, the league is starting …” And she said, “Is this about the head coaching job that we just offered you? My perspective is you don’t play soccer anymore. You coach, and I’m going to do everything in my power to make you successful.” Pat has become one of my best friends and a mentor. And there’s such a mutual respect between Tennessee and Texas as far as how they represent the female athlete. They have always been the flagships.

How have you grown into the coach you are today?

As a player, I know we weren’t given as much back then, and there was a hunger and a sense of fight for what we believed in. Now, as a coach, it’s a challenge to continue to give these young student-athletes that hunger and the sense of pride and passion for what they represent. At the forefront of my philosophy is a hunger to compete, a hunger and passion to pursue excellence, because that’s what we all signed up for and why people come to play soccer at The University of Texas is to win championships. We’re going to enjoy this journey together, put in the time and invest in one another. There isn’t anyone in the game who has been able to make millions. Mia Hamm has been very, very successful, but being her roommate in college, I know she was a political science major, and she took her academics so seriously. Until Mia Hamm doesn’t think education matters anymore, I don’t want any young lady to sit here and tell me it doesn’t matter. Every young lady who plays for me is going to get an education, that’s first and foremost.

What was appealing to you about The University of Texas? I think The University of Texas is appealing to every single human being in this country. There is so much respect in the nation, in the athletic and academic realm, for this university. Everybody knows that, so when Texas is interested in speaking with you, you are always interested in speaking with Texas. In my opinion, in my estimation, this is a place where soccer can be played at the absolute highest level. The talent within the state of Texas alone can win national championships. I’m not naïve to know that. I felt good in my heart that this is the place I needed to be.

As you assemble your team for the spring, what short-term goals will you set? It’s really just spend as much time as possible getting to know the team. I want them to know I am excited and honored to be their head coach and to be the one who will train them to become the best they can be. I want them to be 100 percent invested into everything they committed to, which is Texas. The first order of business is to create that family environment where we are consistent, respectful, understanding and completely committed to putting ourselves on the line and possibly even making mistakes in training. We’ll have a clear understanding that we’re here to win championships, and this is exactly how we get there. The most consistent factor in their lives, during the time they’re here, is going to be me.

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