Shearer is first woman to be head coach of area boys soccer team

September 21, 2004|JILL ERWIN

STANFORD - Erin Shearer doesn't consider herself a groundbreaker or trendsetter. She's just a soccer coach.

But the fact she's coaching the Lincoln County boys team makes her different from other area coaches.

"We were kind of scared at first, because we didn't know what she would be like," senior Jordan Kelsey said. "But she's just as good as any male coach. Her being female doesn't matter."

Women have coached area boys high school teams before, but it has been in sports like track, cross country, golf, swimming and tennis - more individual sports. Shearer is the first woman to be the head coach of an area boys soccer team.

She said it's not a big deal, to the point the players don't even think about it anymore.

"After school, they'll just start changing," Shearer said. "I'm like 'Keep your clothes on!' They forget I'm there sometimes."

Count Brandon Sanders among those that have never thought twice about Shearer taking over the program. The senior said he doesn't take extra time to think about what he's saying or doing just because there's a woman in the huddle.


"I was cool with it from the beginning," Sanders said. "At least now we have someone in that knows soccer."

Shearer has known the players on the boys team for nearly a year. She joined the girls team staff as an assistant coach to Wiley Faw midway through last season. The two teams often shared the field and practiced at the same time, so Shearer got to see the boys during practice and was able to enjoy some lighter time with them.

"I wasn't their coach last year, so they could cut up with me and we joked around," Shearer said. "They took some time to get used to the fact I was in charge now."

That change came about when Shearer realized she didn't want to be a girls assistant this year. She talked with former athletics director Don Story, who made her an offer to be boys coach.

"He said, 'What do you think about working with the boys, as the head coach?'" Shearer said. "And I thought about it, and I was like, 'Well, yeah. I can do that.' So here I am."

Helped start two soccer programs

Shearer has helped start two soccer programs, and is working to improve Lincoln's. She joined the Danville girls team for its inaugural season in 1998. She then moved on to Saint Catharine, which was starting up a women's college soccer program. The first-year players weren't plentiful enough to field a team, but they still had to earn their scholarships.

"We had to practice every morning and every night to earn our money," Shearer said.

The first year did not count against her eligibility, leaving them with two seasons to play. However, Shearer became pregnant at the age of 19 and missed the team's first year. Her daughter, Cloe, was born and Shearer's thoughts turned to her.

As the child matured, however, Shearer started thinking about getting back into the game. She contacted the coach, Martin Bodkin, and he said she was more than welcome to return.

Cloe became a fixture on the sideline.

"She came to practices and games with me," Shearer said. "It was good to get back together with all the girls on the team. It was a lot of fun."

Now she's having fun with her new team. The Patriots have won just one game, but Shearer said they are getting better. She has learned to look past the "boy things" they do and focus on helping them improve.

"They just do a lot more gross stuff than girls do," Shearer said. "Some of them at the beginning of this year, though, didn't really warm up to me at first. I think they were like 'This is a girl telling us what to do.' But I love these kids. I couldn't ask for better. They don't give me a hard time about anything."

Shearer said she doesn't think she's doing anything special, other than showing people there are no gender barriers. She said she thinks the past is the most obvious reason for why there aren't more females coaching males.

"It's not ... people just don't do it. They're just not used to it," Shearer said. "But there's no reason they can't."

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