|Organisation:||KC Courage WPSL|
Wendy Louque is the current Director of the KC Courage, the KC Courage Girls High School Soccer Alternative Team and Head Coach for the WPSL team.
Wendy has been involved with coaching at various levels of soccer for the past 32 years. She has been involved with two Christian soccer organizations, Athletes in Action (AIA) and Ultimate Goal Ministries (UGM). Louque has coached internationally for both organizations, first traveling to Sweden in 2003 coachine UGM’s U-19 girls team in the Gothia Cup. In 2005, 2006 and 2007 she traveled with AIA, coaching the South American Women’s Tour, with games in Brazil and Paraguay.
Louisiana native, Coach Louque began her collegiate career at Southern Mississippi. After one season, she returned to her native state, transferring to LSU. Along with her collegiate experience, Louque played on three Louisiana state cup teams, and was a four-time all-state performer in high school.
In 2011, Louque was selected by the NSCAA as the Regional Assistant Coach of the year and National Assistant Coach of the Year, becoming the first female and first junior college coach to earn this honor. Coach Louque was also an NSCAA Board of Directors Candidate in 2013.
Coach Louque received her bachelor’s degree in Journalism from LSU and her master’s in Organizational Administration and Leadership from MNU. In 2013 she served as Head Coach for the Kansas City Shock WPSL team. Coach Louque currently lives in Olathe, Kansas with her husband, Bryan, and their three children.
In the summer of 2013 I accepted the head coaching position with the newly formed and first WPSL team in Kansas City, the Kansas City Shock. That summer, I was blessed to work with a friend, Anita Rodriguez, who had recently left a local Div 1 college coaching position. Very quickly we became aware of the Shock’s financial instability so she and I starting planning for how we would continue with having our own team. The KC Courage was formed the following spring, when the Kansas City Shock officially folded.
I met with a few people in the soccer business that I trusted and discussed my plan with them about starting my own team. I was advised of several different business models and told that mine would never be sustainable in the current saturated sports market in Kansas City. I moved forward anyway, knowing in my gut that I could prove everyone wrong. I formed an LLC and began to look for local team sponsors to help make it through the first season. Lindsay Eversmeyer, who is the owner and coach of the St. Louis based WPSL team called Fire & Ice, was extremely encouraging and helpful as a mentor during our first year.
Since then, Coach Rodriguez has moved to Pittsburg and is now coaching with the new WPSL team in Pittsburgh, Steel City FC. That team is also owned and run by women, and had a terrific inaugural season this past summer.
This past spring the KC Courage applied for and was approved for our 501c3 (non-profit) charitable status. It’s my hope to be able to do more community service activities for our local community, especially for the lower income populations. Everyone who works with the KC Courage volunteers their time and I think that says a lot for the heart and culture of our soccer club. We are looking forward to our third season playing in the WPSL.
The WPSL is a summer league and our WPSL team starts training in May, so the fall and winter is the off-season for me. In March the KC Courage offers a unique opportunity for local high school girls. Because of high school rules, girls are not allowed to play both club soccer and high school soccer at the same time so club soccer ceases play during the high school season in the spring. However, the KC Courage offers training to any girls 9-12 grade who are home schooled, who choose not to play soccer for their high school or don’t have soccer at their high school. As their personal and work schedules allow, our post-college KC Courage WPSL players train with this team, as well. It is not our intent to purge local players from their high school teams, but simply provide the opportunity for those not wanting to participate. March 2016 will be our third year running this program.
At the end of April we have tryouts for our WPSL team. Our season runs mid-May through the end of July. The WPSL is a highly competitive national league with over 70 teams competing nationwide. With the folding of the W-League last month, the WPSL is the only league in the US that offers this level of play. WPSL team rosters consist of college, post-college, international players and talented high school players every year. Many college programs encourage their players to play in this summer league because the coaches know that it helps them prepare for the upcoming season. Players gain tremendous experience playing alongside other dedicated, competitive players, some of whom are former professional soccer players and others who are aspiring to become professionals on or off the field.
Our team typically trains three times a week. Most of our players work at least a part-time job during the season and almost all of our post-college players have full-time careers. Training for our WPSL team takes place at night so it’s doable for a college student and someone working a full-time job. Our games are played on the weekends for that reason, as well.
Once our preseason gets underway, I’m responsible for the business side of the team in addition to the coaching. I have several co-coaches that share with the responsibility in training the team. That is another reason why I believe it’s important to surround yourself with smart, talented, like-minded people who share your passion and vision.
I coached my very first team almost 32 years ago. I was a freshman in high school and the team was a group of five year old boys. The experience gave me my first taste of teaching sportsmanship and teamwork in a way that was fun. Over the years, I have worked as a crisis line counselor, telemarketer, radio advertising executive, retail salesperson, and finally as marketing director in the health care field, but I feel most alive when I’m coaching. My highlights always involve relationships and hearing from former players. Whether it’s right after finishing a season or years down the road, when a former player tells me how much I’ve impacted them in a positive way, that’s my biggest highlight.
I will begin by saying that it helps tremendously when you have a spouse that supports you and your passion for coaching. I have been fortunate over the years that the conflicts have been very minimal. I was an assistant coach at a junior college for 12 years. My kids were three and five when I started. I was employed part-time and except for game day travel, I was home to get my kids off to school and also at home when they got home. I remember one time talking with someone about “work” and my daughter said “Mom you don’t work, you just go to soccer”.
I got pregnant with my third child in 2007 and had a difficult pregnancy also complicated by the fact that I knew she would be born with disabilities. I traveled to Brazil that summer while pregnant and coached a women’s team with Athletes in Action. It was my third trip to Brazil. It was difficult because I was sick the entire time. When I returned home, my 20wk ultrasound showed a brain malformation and my doctor told me that my baby would be a burden and asked if I wanted to schedule an abortion. That wasn’t an option for me and even though the pregnancy wasn’t planned, I believed it to be a gift from God. I struggled with coaching that fall because I was nauseous all the time, worried about the health of my unborn baby and then put on bedrest for a month because of preeclampsia. I will say that in juggling the responsibility of a family alongside a coaching career that it helps to work for an organization that is family-oriented and sensitive to the possible conflicts.
Coaches have an extremely influential role in their player’s lives. I coached for 12 years at the college level and each year saw a marked decline each year in the number of girls that decided to play after high school. In my experience the reasons range from poor coaching and bad experiences to rebelling against parents and burnout. Coaching is about much more than just teaching about sport. It’s a sacred trust and avenue that can be used to build character, integrity and teach about life. I have firsthand knowledge that player issues can range from depression and eating disorders to domestic violence and rape. These are issues that are much bigger than the game of soccer. Because coaches are so influential in the lives of their players, they can’t ignore negative outside influences that can affect their teams. Sports should be the safe haven where coaches nurture and help their players navigate through life. Players are people first. I hold dearly to the honor that I have been able to have being involved in the lives of my athletes teaching them to make wise choices, learn from their mistakes and grow into confident young women who can contribute in positive ways to society for the rest of their lives. I hold dear all of the relationships that I’ve made and cultivated over the years. That is what coaching means to me.
For the past three years, at the beginning of each WPSL season, I have asked my players if they have ever had a head female coach before. Out of almost 80 athletes, less than 5% have ever had a head female coach before. When I get their answers, my response (half-jokingly) is “boy are you in for a treat”. But what I’m really saying to my players is “I love my job. I love my family and now I’m going to love you. I hope that you’ll give me the chance to be a strong role model and show you that a woman can have a family and still do a job that she loves.”
Women are grossly underrepresented in coaching, especially at the elite levels and I’m not sure if there is just one good answer, but I think one of the main reasons is because women are mothers. I know that the time commitment is hard when you have your own kids and I have three. Coaching isn’t a nine to five job. If you have to be a caregiver to your children and then also be available for your players, I will tell you that it isn’t easy.
It also isn’t easy if you have to be a caregiver to your spouse as well. My husband, who suffers from kidney disease, was hospitalized days before my home opener last summer. It was a super stressful time for me with both responsibilities tugging at my attention. It helps to have a good support system outside of your family and I’m blessed to have great church friends and neighbors that can help fill the gap at home when needed.
Find a mentor and also be a mentor. Seek out a woman that has been coaching for longer than you to help guide you along the way. And also seek out a younger woman or girl who has great leadership qualities to guide into a possible coaching career. The concept of mentoring is a proven one and works in virtually any environment. Mentoring is important because the support and encouragement of other coaches helps you become better and more confident in your abilities. And finally, never burn bridges because nothing is worth cutting off someone completely.