Coaching at the Highest Level

Coaching a team to an NCAA Division I championship is no easy task. Erica Dambach, head coach of Penn State University’s women’s soccer team, did just that in 2015.

I originally interviewed coach Dambach for the midterm project, but decided to go another way with it. However, interviewing her and learning what it is like coaching at the highest level possible could not go unnoticed.

Coach Dambach has obviously been doing something right if she has managed to coach multiple Division I soccer programs, along with even coaching for the U.S. Women’s National Team and being part of an Olympic Gold and a World Cup.

“It’s humbling, exciting, and eye opening,” Coach said. “It’s gratifying, you feel like you can really impact players that you never thought you could really impact.”

Being a soccer coach myself, I would like to learn as much as I can so I can better myself as a coach and the players I work with, even though six year olds could care less about how much I actually know. So I was interested to see what some of coach Dambach’s coaching philosophies were and how they have helped her in her career so far.

“Character is our biggest thing,” Coach said. “We bring them (recruits) in with the assumption that they can play, but sometimes athleticisms just isn’t enough… A player can wind up sitting on the bench with a bad attitude and end up leaving, or they can buy into the program and end up raising a national championship… It’s their choice.”

This surprised me. Penn State has one of the most historic sports programs in the country. So I figured that all they looked for were the best players in the country, ignored the personal aspect of the game, and focused solely on winning the game. It is humbling to know that coaches all the up to the Division I and national team level value attitude as much as some of my coaches in the past have.

After winning the national championship in 2015, the PSU women’s team was knocked out of the NCAA tournament in the early stages in 2016. But coach Dambach did not see that as something the team was going to let bring down their spirits for the 2017 season.

“Beyond winning it, we created a culture I always dreamed of creating,” Coach said. “You learn from all mistakes and through years of experience, you can’t get too high and too low with it.”

Currently, the team is 7-3-1 going into the second half of their season and coach Dambach is ready to take on anything their upcoming schedule has to offer them.

“This group has all the potential in the world,” Coach said. “There’s not a team that we play or going to play that scares me.”



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