Assistant soccer coaches serve same family
Published: Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 19:07
In the competitive and monstrously successful realm of college athletics, there are things that are simple to do as a fan. Choosing a favorite player, following statistics and cheering your lungs out at a sporting event are examples of these simple things.
What usually slips past the DVRs of passionate sports zealots are the people behind the scenes who give their very hearts and souls to make sure that what you watch on your plasma screen is even possible.
Texas A&M soccer team assistant coaches Phil and Lori Stephenson are not only prime examples of those who put sweat and blood into the athletic programs at A&M, but they are one of the only examples of co-coaches who share a family. Yes, they're married.
Phil grew up in England and was recruited to play soccer on the collegiate level in the United States. Lori was the daughter of a United States military man and grew up participating in nearly every sport.
Both of the Stephensons played soccer in college and went on to be All-Americans on the pitch. Phil said they both attended a ceremony honoring their abilities but didn't find out the other had been there until years later.
"It was a funny story," Phil said. "We had no idea that the other one of us was there!"
After playing in college, Phil was offered the head coach position at Methodist College in Fayetteville, N.C. Phil also was working with the Olympic Development Program for the southern U.S.
A&M head coach G Guerrieri had worked with Phil in the development program, and when an assistant coaching position opened up for the A&M team, Guerrieri immediately pursued Phil for the job.
"Phil and Lori and I always had similar beliefs about the game," Guerrieri said. "So when the opportunity came to hire a new assistant coach, Phil was the guy I went to."
Soon after, Lori and the couples' two children moved down to College Station, and another coaching position opened for the A&M soccer team.
Guerrieri said that the team at that time lacked a personal role model in the coaching staff that could connect with the players. Lori became that figure immediately when she was hired.
As a former player, Lori fit in the position well, and continues to be everything the players need to transition from high school to college competition.
Senior midfielder Nicole Ketchum said that Lori's presence with the players is priceless.
"She has this ability to really seek out the players," Ketchum said. "She always knows if something is wrong, even if you're trying to hide it."
But the pitch is not the only place where the Stephensons share turf. Life at the Stephenson home, Phil said, is a place where soccer and coaching become irrelevant.
"We joke about it all the time, but the only way to make a marriage and life work is to be able to separate work and home," Phil said.
Even when watching a soccer game on television, Phil has two sides that can watch the game: the fan and the coach. He said he prefers to relax and just be the fan when enjoying professional soccer.
"Phil comes off as this serious guy, but he's actually very, very funny," Ketchum said. "He's very professional on the field, but he's definitely the goofy one."
Ketchum said that the one thing that really characterizes the Stephensons as coaches and as people is that they are completely selfless.
"They give up so much time for the players, for the team," Ketchum said. "Their hearts are genuinely into what they do, and to see that really represents the only way that this team can function."