Thank you to Positive Coaching Alliance for featuring Alison on your blog!
ALISON FOLEY: Work Hard, Have Fun, and Remain Positive
- Why did you become a coach?
The college coach who recruited me, Dave Lombardo who had moved to JMU in Virginia, asked if I would come down and be his graduate assistant coach. I found out I loved coaching! I realized through the game that I loved to play, I could now coach and impact players both on and off the field.
- You coached your 2018 team, your last team at BC, to a 14-5-1 record, and your 15thNCAA appearance. Congratulations. You have coached some impressive winning teams over the years, what made the difference for those teams?
I think the most important element on our most successful teams has undoubtedly been a result of great team chemistry. In college you spend a lot of time with your teammates. Often you live with them, eat with them, take classes and travel with them. Your team truly becomes your surrogate family in college.
- What makes a team successful, on the scoreboard and off the field?
I think when you can instill a sense of pride in your players both as being a member of the team and someone who represents their school and community you will have someone that is truly focused on your core values and works hard every day to uphold a standard of excellence.
- You coached at the college level for 22 years, but you also ran clinics for girls at BC for many years. How would you compare coaching young campers to coaching college players?
From a soccer specific perspective; with your younger players you are really emphasizing the fundamentals of the game and the technical aspects of soccer. In college you work more on tactics, game management, and the physical side of the game. With both audiences you want to emphasize having fun and working hard.
- You co-wrote a book How to Coach Girls, why? Who is the book for, and what level coach?
Writing the book was really encouraged by co-author, Mia Wenjen. Our girls grew up together and whenever she had an issue with one of her kids coaches or with their teams she would run it by me. Finally, she said you really need to write a book and share these coaching and team dynamic solutions.
The book is really focused on youth players and can be helpful for parents, coaches, and soccer organizations. Mia and I have really enjoyed meeting with youth sport organizations and discussing the book.
- How has coaching changed in the 21 years since you began at BC? What is better? What is worse?
I think the biggest part of college coaching that has changed is the recruiting. It is happening a lot earlier. Nobody takes their 5 official visits their senior year anymore to explore their schools. They make a decision much earlier now. I think it was better in the earlier years of my career as you had more time to mature and truly make an educated decision.
- Who is in your “coaching tree”?
One of my former players is Kia McNeill, Head Coach at Brown University. Three of my former assistants are now college head coaches: Chris Hamblin at Harvard University, Neel Bhattacharjee at Binghamton University, and Sarah Dacey at Barry University.
What has been exciting is how many players are coaching as assistants in college or head coaches in high school and club. We’ve got lots of players that are soccer moms and coaching their daughters as well.
- I hear you believe in yoga for soccer players – tell me more.
I really believe in yoga and certainly think it offers so many benefits to soccer players. First yoga teaches mindfulness and how to breathe. Which I think is so important in tight games or in preparation for matches or practice for that matter. It also increases flexibility and strengthens your core which is really neglected in typical practice settings. It works your balance and stability which I believe certainly decreases ankle and knee injuries.
- Why did you start Foley Athletic Advising (FAA)?
I started Foley Athletic Advising because I felt with all my experiences through college coaching, directing a club and being a soccer mom myself I could provide a service to players and families and help them navigate this ever so tricky college recruiting process. The process can bring a lot of stress to players and families alike and I try to streamline the process and give guidance to make it more of a stress-free and positive experience.
- What will your counseling involve? In person consultations? Showcases? On and off the field training? You have an assessment session coming up: February 18, 10-11:30 am in Newton, what will that involve?
I do individual counseling in which we develop your own personal road map in the recruiting process. From developing a college list of schools that are right for you to directing communication between college coaches and how best to get yourself evaluated. The assessments are training sessions that evaluate your technical, fitness level and tactical awareness. The sessions are videotaped and analyzed by our staff and then we provide a written evaluation and recommendation on a collegiate level that is right for you. The New England Top 100 College Showcase is June 8th and June 9th at Brandies University. It is an invitation only showcase where club coaches recommend their top players to participate. You can also get invited by going to an assessment and being selected.
- What is your goal with FAA?
The goal is really to create opportunities and offer direction to high school athletes that aspire to play in college.
- 20th anniversary of the 99ers World Cup win in the Rose Bowl is coming up – what did that game mean to you? To soccer for girls and women?
I think this was a monumental tournament for all of us girls women in the game. It shattered attendance and TV viewing records, and sold more team paraphernalia than any sport after a major tournament.
On the bigger stage it represented gender equality and was so influential proving that women could perform at such a technically high level and at such a great pace that could captivate any audience.
- Have any predictions for this year’s World Cup winner? Why did you pick them?
I do. But I am going to not share it . . . haha! I hope the U.S. of course wins.
- You were an All-American, spent 22 years coaching at the college level, and are a soccer mom yourself, do you have any advice for parents of young soccer players?
I think the best piece of advice I can give to parents is always remain positive.On the side-lines, in the car ride after the game and with other parents. It’s easy to be critical of the coaches and your child or other players on their team but it doesn’t serve any purpose to share your opinion unless its positive. Remember, soccer is a game and games are meant to be fun. So do everything to keep it upbeat and enjoyable. Your words and comments are powerful.