Balance is a tricky thing — even for lifelong athletes.
Lisa Cole is the technical director of the Centre Soccer Association, a nonprofit organization that, it may not surprise you to learn, involves copious amounts of soccer — developmentally, recreationally and competitively.
They also deliver.
Cole’s resume in this particular arena is long and unwieldy, so it’s probably best just to hit the highlights; she is the former head coach of the Women’s Professional Soccer Team, the Boston Breakers; she has coached at the collegiate level with programs at Florida State and the University of Rhode Island; and she’s also been working with young athletes on the soccer field in one capacity or another since middle school.
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Those paying close attention may have noticed a theme developing.
“My friends tease me. They’re like ‘you need to find balance,’ ” Cole said.
It’s good, maybe even great, advice — and maybe one day, when she’s back in the country, Cole will even take heed of it.
It’s a catalyst for them then getting serious about their women’s program.
Right now, balance is a little bit harder to come by — because Lisa Cole is the new head coach of the Papua New Guinea U-20 women’s team for the 2016 World Cup — and there’s a good chance that soccer will come up at some point.
“It’s a catalyst for them then getting serious about their women’s program,” Cole said.
She’s working with 26 young and untested players from Papua New Guinea who have just exited the fitness phase of their training.
Next, they’ll work on further developing the technical and tactical skills that they’ll need to be competitive.
This could be something of a challenge considering that many of the young women on Cole’s team are from different villages practicing a variety of dialects.
It’s a hurdle that might have bothered her once before — but now not so much. The language barrier is a problem, sure, but with the help of her assistants, it’s a workable one.
“As a young coach I wanted control of everything, and you just don’t have control of everything,” Cole said.
She was discovered in the sixth or seventh grade.
Cole was kicking around a soccer ball outside when a father standing nearby saw her technique and asked her to come down field and demo a few moves for his kids.
And thus, a career was born.
“There was something inside me that knew I was going to be a coach,” Cole said.
She continued to help coach local soccer teams all through high school and beyond, eventually accumulating the aforementioned resume — the Boston Breakers, Florida State, University of Rhode Island — and winging her way to Papua New Guinea.
Cole feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach at all levels of the game, experiences that have led her to a singular conclusion.
“It’s always about the players in the end,” Cole said.
When her team in Papua New Guinea was first beginning to take shape, Cole and her staff introduced a variety of activities designed to bring the young women closer together.
She said that many of her players defined themselves strictly through the context of the clan that they were from. They took pride in representing their village.
Cole needed them to take pride in representing their team.
“We are literally doing things that get them to see themselves as bigger than their clan,” Cole said
That includes continuing their education.
Cole said that a handful of her players have never been to school and that all but four of them have opted to take the opportunity presented by the team to score grades as well as goals.
For however long she stays in Papua New Guinea, Cole hopes her impact lasts much longer.
“I hope that when we leave, we leave something that has flourished and grown and now no longer needs us,” Cole said.
Because in the end, it’s all about balance.