A legendary coach steps down, and a woman takes his place
By Brian Quarstad
In response to your article concerning Ulen-Hitterdal Spartans boys' basketball coach Kelly Anderson, an even more dramatic story happened this past fall and was unfortunately missed by our Minnesota media outlets.
At the Blake School, which has been a power in boys' soccer for years, was another female coach, Joan Seivold, only the third woman to coach a boys' varsity soccer team in Minnesota. She nearly took Blake back to the Minnesota State High School Soccer Tournament for the third year in a row, even though it was her first year at coaching boys' varsity sports.
For 41 years Blake had the same boys' soccer coach, Charlie Seel. In the process, Seel became one of the most winning high school coaches in the United States.
Seel's team won the 2008 Minnesota State High School Boys 1A Soccer Championship. He announced his retirement immediately after.
The athletic director at Blake had a big job and a big question. How do you replace a coaching legend like Charlie Seel? The question may have been daunting at first, but after time it became a no-brainer.
"If you read her resume and it was J. Seivold, not Joan, and you substituted Jack, Jerry or Joe, and you saw somebody that had been an All-American at the University of North Carolina and they had won two NCAA Division I Championships, you would ask, 'Where did you find this person?' " said Jim Lindsay, Blake's athletic director. "She had played at the highest level with the U.S. National Team and had also coached her girls' high school teams to the state championships numerous times in North Carolina."
While the MPR article reported that many women are reluctant to coach because of family obligations, Seivold, who is also the assistant athletic director at Blake, felt that her experience raising boys actually helped prepare her for her new position. She struggled over whether to apply for the coaching job, but as she reflected she realized she would be a good candidate.
She had coached the junior high boys' team at Blake and has two boys of her own, both very good athletes in their own right. "Because of my own sons, there was a lot of psychology with the boys that I understand," said Seivold. "I don't know anyone who enjoys learning that doesn't want a new challenge. I finally decided I could bring something to the table that would be of value to the team, based on my experiences."
She had played two years at the University of North Carolina and was an All-American for both of those years. Her UNC team won championships both years she attended. She also played for the very first U.S. Women's National Team. Not only does she hold the record for scoring the first goal for the U.S. Women's National team, she holds that team's record for the most consecutive goals scored.
Seivold said she didn't give too much thought to the shoes she would be filling in the Blake job. "One of the strengths that Charlie [Seel] had, he cared about those kids," said Seivold. "To me, you don't need the knowledge and experience that I have, to be a quality coach. The one critical piece is, you have to care about the kids."
Lindsay said the players and their parents soon realized her abilities. "She has very quickly gained the confidence and respect of most everyone in the Blake soccer community," he said.
The athletic director said he wasn't trying to create a stir by hiring a woman. "Gender really didn't play into it," he said. "We weren't trying to go out and break the glass ceiling to hire our next coach." Rather, he was looking for the best person for the job. Seivold was it.
Brian Quarstad, St. Paul, has been involved with soccer for over 30 years. His website, Inside Minnesota Soccer, reports local and national soccer news.