Felicia Kappes on Inspiring Women in Soccer
Del Mar Carmel Valley Sharks Coach Felicia Kappes is a highly acclaimed, vivacious and well respected soccer coach with a wealth of experience. With a successful track record illustrating her real understanding of player development and youth soccer in America, Kappes is a shinning example of leadership on and off the field.
Women In Soccer: Felicia Kappes’ influence in youth soccer has provided Southern Californians with a pathway for elite young female players to reach and be prepared for college soccer.
With an outstanding three year national championship run, Kappes’ DMCV Sharks Elite Girls 96/97 team won back-to-back US Youth Soccer National Championships and finished as finalist the last year. The team has also won numerous Cal South National Cup titles.
Kappes coaches along side former USWNT star and current club Executive Director Shannon MacMillan. US Soccer Hall of Famer MacMillan played on the U.S. Women’s National team for 12 years. Together they have developed a program for college bound players that exceeds expectations.
SoccerToday’s Diane Scavuzzo spoke with Kappes on the growth of the role of women in soccer and the need to inspire youth talent.
Diane Scavuzzo: When did you first start coaching?
Felicia Kappes: I started coaching immediately after my college soccer career ended at UCSD. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do but I knew I was passionate about soccer.
I have always felt so grateful for all soccer has taught me on and off the field. I knew I wanted to give back.
As a child, my mom felt strongly about having all her children participate in team sports, mainly to keep us out of trouble given she was a single mom struggling to provide for us.
Diane Scavuzzo: What inspires you?
Felicia Kappes: The hardships I endured as a child molded and inspired me as a coach to help other young athletes as they pursued a higher education and success.
What I realized along the way was that soccer not only afforded me an opportunity for a better life, it shaped and developed me as a person. The incredible life lessons I learned with every success and failure were invaluable. These life lessons — and giving back to the soccer community — are what continue to inspire me to this day.
Diane Scavuzzo: What about you surprises people the most?
Felicia Kappes: I think one thing that surprises most people about me is that I am a devoted mother of 4 children ranging in ages from 7 to 18 and yet I am extremely competitive and passionate about my career as well. Let’s just say we thrive in chaos and I have an incredible husband and loving supportive family. It truly takes a village.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are you most proud of?
Felicia Kappes: One incredible accomplishment I am proud is our two-time US Youth National Championships and National Finalists at the DMCV Sharks’ team.
However, anyone who knew that special team, knows I am most proud of how they did it and how those young ladies presented themselves on and off the field. They were and still are a family, they were incredible role models to our younger players and always gave back to our community.
I feel strongly — as a coach — that it is my job to teach life lessons along the way and hopefully have my players grow as people before they move on.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do you think is the most challenging or infuriating thing about working as a woman in soccer?
Felicia Kappes: Honestly, up until about 10-15 years ago — I have been coaching about 25 years — I constantly felt I had to prove myself to all my male colleagues, I felt I wasn’t as respected given my age and gender.
I questioned my own strengths and my confidence was rocked a bit.
However, I was very fortunate to have some very instrumental female role models in Judith Sweet and Lesle Gallimore who inspired me throughout my career and helped shaped who I am today as a coach.
Diane Scavuzzo: Do female coaches face any special challenges? What are they?
Felicia Kappes: Personally, as a female coach, I am challenged everyday balancing my family and a career. I think women are often the main caretakers of their home and extended family and some guilt may creep in as they pursue a full time successful career in soccer.
For me, I changed my career path of becoming a college coach and college athletic administrator in order to have the family I dreamed of in San Diego. No regrets at all but sometimes that is a factor for women.
Women have to be better at pursuing opportunities and taking risks.
Our way is often to nurture and take care of others but we forget to put ourselves first, problematic perhaps when pursuing promotions.
Diane Scavuzzo: What traits does a female coach need to survive and thrive?
Felicia Kappes: I wish I could honestly say all things are equal but we are not there yet. Women in soccer need to be confident, goal oriented, driven, passionate, nurturing, strong and independent. We, as women, need to continue to push ourselves further with professional development.
We need to mentor and support other women in soccer. We need to be true to who we are — and not concerned with what others believe we should be.
Once you are able to do that, great things happen.
Diane Scavuzzo: How important is winning?
Felicia Kappes: I’m always asked how I feel about winning. Interesting question given the key buzz words in youth soccer is player development and playing a nice brand of possession soccer. Yet, in order to do either of these things, you need to provide an environment to actually develop players … they need to be allowed to play freely and make mistakes which in turn may have you lose some games.
Coaches are often more worried about their personal success, or points for other tournaments, or fear of losing players or whatever.
For me, I believe it is very important to be clear with your goals from the beginning and have everyone “buy into” what you are doing. Once that happens, player development can truly happen.