I know, we all thought it, we were shocked. How did a 23 year old triple threat, brains, beauty and brawny, girl get the job as Head Coach at a division 1 university? She hasn’t experienced the peaks and valleys that come with a long tenure. She hasn’t coached players that are now high-level internationals pros such as Hope Solo, Tina Ellertson, or Veronica Perez. She’s pretty much fresh out of college herself. What can she bring to the table? How did this happen? I had to get the scoop for you. I’ll admit I walked into this interview thinking her age has to present more pressure to an already challenging task. I needed to know what Coach Melissa was thinking and she was eager to share it.
Soccer is huge in the Bakersfield community, with numerous soccer clubs and more on the way. This historical moment of hiring Melissa Phillips didn’t go unnoticed. To date with 3 losses and no wins under her belt as head coach, I’m still confident this passionate young, mature coach will come back with some wins and end with a great season. I’m rooting loud; I’m rooting proud for her.
My conversation with Melissa Phillips was refreshing and assuring. She may be young, but she is ready to assume the position as head soccer coach. To my pleasant surprise, she proved to be quite mature and able to handle my direct and off beat questions in a very professional manner. She quickly dispelled the myth that a Division 1 level sports team, has to have an old experienced coach with years of experience at the university level. I’ve spoken to several career coaches and they preach experience, experience, experience. Can’t coach at a university without experience; Melissa Phillips is shutting that myth down.
It makes me wonder if CSUB Athletic Director, Jeff Konya, will change the game by hiring possibly the youngest head coach in history, by bringing in fresh blood to build the women soccer team and rejuvenate the fans? Maybe young coaches will soon become the trend, like twitter or face book? I’m applauding him for this innovative idea. I’m a believer that passion surpasses experience in many arenas and Coach Melissa has oodles of passion and bundles of energy.
Q: What advice did your athletic director, Jeff Konya give you when taking on this job?
A:“Be confident.” He said that he hired me because of my confident nature. He told me to be the energizer of the program, and to hire a more experienced coaching staff. I knew the ins and outs of the program and to me, hiring someone new would be like starting over, the team didn’t need to start over; they needed to build on what they already had.
Q: Are the expectations elevated with this being your very first head coaching position and at such a young age with little experience coaching on this level?
A:I always have high expectations of myself and my team, even when I was the assistant coach. There are things in each game that we can do better and learn from and that’s how we’ll approach this season. At the end of the season we’ll be able to look back and be proud of how we played. I don’t focus on others expectations. I just focus on my team and our goals. I am very passionate about soccer and I believe how I coach is a direct reflection of me. With around 700 fans in attendance at the UCLA game, with the average in attendance being about 300, I believe the fans support us.
Q: Why do you think more people attended the game against UCLA?
A:We are using more aggressive marketing tactics, building better relationships with the community through our programs, like our soccer camps, our free clinics, our local youth soccer club, which has 24 teams within the club and we are strategically creating a relationship link between CSUB soccer and the community. We are very focused on getting youth teams to come out to play with us and watch us play. We have a very kid zone appealing environment. We want to be the community team.”
Q: How are you able to handle such a great responsibility at such a fresh age?
A:I am very confident and aware of the responsibility, and with more responsibility come more stress, but I knew what I was getting when I signed up. I have been an assistant coach for two years here at CSUB, so I have a first hand view at what is expected and what is needed. I am also surrounded by two great assistant coaches, Coach John Smith and Coach Leanne Tucker; who are both here to help the program win. I have also been blessed to have inherited a great program that is easy to build upon and continue on path of progression.”
I am very proud of the girls. I love to watch the team passion and love for the game, along with their hard work to consistently represent themselves and their school and be the best of their abilities. The girls lessen the pressure because they have showed very well against some very competitive teams.
Q: Do you think the players will have a professional level of respect for you being that your only 6 years out of high school and some of them are like 4 years out of high school?
A:Again, I was an assistant coach for CSUB women soccer team for the last two years. I also did not play at CSUB; therefore I am able to have a complete separation. Plus, I have always had older friends, which has contributed to my maturity. I also feel that the close age allows the girls to feel comfortable talking and asking question, they don’t feel like I’m unapproachable. Having been around many of them as the assistant coach, allowed me to be the good guy. Really, I just have a respective group of girls who just want to win.
Q: What are some of your immediate plans to get involved and give back to the community?
A:Keep our soccer club teams, clinics, soccer camps, breast cancer awareness events, habitat for humanity, visit schools, do more things outside of soccer in and for the community. My goal is to put a face to the team in our community. Plus I am open to ideas from the community; they can email me at email@example.com
I concluded that Coach Melissa is going to bring in some energy and soon we won’t be able to get a seat to watch the girls play soccer, because they will become winners under her coaching. I’m rooting for Coach Melissa; she is going to be a fresh bonus. She will also get the fans excited to show up and support. Because everyone loves a winner!
They need to find their confidence from their preparation and stay even-keeled and win the next one. This season will be about learning to handle the curves that will get thrown to Coach Melissa, the bumps in the road so to speak. Assume the position of survival, resilience and some redemption. I am confident this young coach is ready to take on the challenge. Watch close and cheer loudly.
Melissa Phillips FUN FACTS – 5 in 5:
She’s from Roseville, California which is about 20 minutes north of Sacramento, went to school at Cal State, so being in Bakersfield is like being home. She started playing soccer at 5 years. Her mom knew she was a sporty girl, so she just went out and signed her up. She went to her first practice and loved it. At the age of 8, she started playing on a traveling team. It is then that soccer became her passion. Unlike many children, Melissa knew her path early; she recently located her high school vision board, which stated that she wanted to be a head soccer coach in five years. Hello, she accomplished that. So to the Professor who disputed me that children shouldn’t play competitive sports until high school, Coach Melissa has proven, has proven, the earlier the better. You just have to have a balance; she would not be making history had she started in high school. Cheers to Melissa.
Q:Are you a girly, girl or a tomboy?
A:Mixed – I love being able to go to work in soccer cloth, put I love jeans, I have a jean fetish.
Q:Can we expect you to fashionable and cute on the sideline or straight athletic?
A:Definitely have soccer gear on, but I’ll show my girly fashionable side with a nice watch and a smidge of mascara.
Q:What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
A:Brush my teeth, wash my face, rinse off, have my morning cup of English breakfast tea with milk and sugar, play with Pele (named after an old Brazilian soccer player). I like to wake up early enough to savor the morning before riding my bike to work. (She’s smart and green – I love it.
Q:Tell me something about you that the fans may not know?
A:I love music, I am a massive music buff; I love Bakersfield because there is so much live music here. I also play the guitar.
Q:Are you a basketball or football girl?
A:Basketball, I played in high school.
Like my father, Willie J. Frink always says, “Soccer is simple, but it is difficult to play simple.” The whole city will be watching Coach Mel, play this simple game well.
Play the game,
Writer for Bakersfield Neighborhood Examiner
Author of ~369 Things A Woman Must Enjoy Before She Dies
California State University, Bakersfield Athletics Department
8 GYM – 9001 Stockdale Highway, Bakersfield, CA 93311-1022
Phone: (661) 654-2188 / www.csub.edu
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