Social Studies teacher becomes soccer coach

Jill Merkle shares her new experience with coaching


Lilia Gonzalez

Used with permission from Jill Merkle.

Lilia Gonzalez

What made you want to become a soccer coach?

I’ve coached before and I always really loved coaching because it’s a group of people that are choosing to be there and it’s an outdoor activity. The teams I’ve had in my past have been some of the most meaningful friendships, so in a lot of ways I just wanted to be able to be a part of that and help facilitate that with other players. I know the soccer program was changing a little bit this year and I was told what was trying to be built and felt like I was on board for that. 

How is this team different from your other coaching experiences?

I coached a seventh and eighth grade team where everything was written out for me, so I’m having to make a lot more decisions about what we do that day, and just generally I’ve mostly coached track before, and track is so much more individual and about what you can give feedback on. Coaching a team sport feels a lot different and to me it feels a lot more like a classroom almost, you’re trying to build community and that’s where you get better and grow as a team and what makes it fun. You can be a really good team and also hate your experience if you don’t have a good community built on your team.

How has coaching gone so far this year?

I really really love my team and my girls that are there and that’s awesome. it’s kind of what I assumed, it’s a lot, it’s a long day when you teach and then you go and coach, so I feel that stress sometimes, but I generally always feel better after practice than I did before. 

What is it like being a teacher and a coach at the same time? 

One thing is that the time pressure is a lot, but actually being in the school and being able to be here and then go and coach, I think is one of the coolest things. That makes me really excited and it’s really fun to see players in the school. It also gives me a different relationship with some of my students and that’s been actually really special for me. Even though the time commitment is a lot, the actual experience of being a teacher in the school is very cool.

How has getting a new coaching staff impacted the program?

We work together really well. I work a lot with Megan Felton, who is the ninth grade coach, and she’s amazing. I would say to build any program, it takes time and energy and so I think that we are on the right start, but it’s going to take a little time to build some momentum.

What are some new things you are teaching the players this year?

I would say that they are probably teaching me way more than I’m teaching them with soccer skills because it’s been a few years for me. What I’m really trying to focus on is that this team is not my team, but their team. As we’re making decisions with what formats to play and what drills to do, they’re actually having a lot of ownership over that which I think is a little bit different than what has been done before, but that’s also what I do in my classroom. I’m trying that out with coaching and sometimes that can be frustrating, but I think that’s a new way to look at it.