SoccerToday Interview Series
SoccerToday caught up with Shannon MacMillan, Gold Medalist and Hall of Fame Soccer Star. MacMillan enjoyed a fabulous twelve year career and is one of the few women running a youth soccer club in America as Director of Club Operations for the Del Mar Carmel Valley Sharks Soccer Club.
Check out MacMillan’s advice for players, youth coaches and women in soccer.,
Diane Scavuzzo: As a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team that won the gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics and the 1999 Women’s World Cup, what advice would you give to current national teams players?
Shannon MacMillan: Take a moment to stop and breathe everything in! Being a part of team USA is amazing – try to meet other athletes. When your event is over – try to enjoy other events. Embrace and enjoy every moment as it goes quickly.
Diane Scavuzzo: What has been your greatest challenge since you hung up your professional cleats?
Shannon MacMillan: I fought joining the youth soccer club world because I think it has mutated into such a big business-focused world of recruiting and making empty promises for kids and their families.
The biggest challenge for me has been trying to educate families about the soccer culture we want at the DMCV Sharks – developing players and teaching them the tools and life lessons the game offers, so they succeed in life as well.
Diane Scavuzzo: What traits does a female need to survive and thrive in the soccer industry?
Shannon MacMillan: Confidence, experience and a love and passion for the game. Thick skin doesn’t hurt as well
Diane Scavuzzo: If you look back at your career, what is the one thing you would change, if you could?
Shannon MacMillan: I wouldn’t change a thing! In all honesty, it wasn’t easy and I faced plenty of obstacles and challenges. Each moment, the highs and lows, all taught me a lesson and shaped who I am.
Diane Scavuzzo: The grooming of a Home Grown player – what does it take?
Shannon MacMillan: It takes a youth soccer club that has the soccer player and their development as the main focus.
To become a Home Grown player — It takes a player that envisions playing at the highest level and is more than willing to put the time and work into it. They have to have the passion and love of the game.
Diane Scavuzzo: The cultural pressures on parents to create super achieving kids – how does this impact youth soccer in America?
Shannon MacMillan: It puts immense pressure on everyone involved – the players and coaches. This is why we see so many kids burn out and quit soccer at such an early age.
I have enjoyed the luxury of playing soccer and winning at every level possible, so I am able to truly focus on the youth players and their own development – on and off the field.
I am not trying to “live vicariously” through any team or player.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do we need to change to keep kids in the game?
Shannon MacMillan: Let the kids just play! Too much pressure is placed on these young kids and they are treated like little professionals. Let them play and fall in love with the game and extract the life lessons.
Diane Scavuzzo: How do you balance being a mom with your soccer career?
Shannon MacMillan: It is definitely difficult! I am blessed with a very easy going son who travels well and helps immensely. I also have a great support group that help me juggle everything.
Diane Scavuzzo: Why do you think there are so few women in the soccer world?
Shannon MacMillan: It has been a male dominated environment but I think we are slowly starting to change that trend. It is important for people such as myself, Carrie Taylor and other female leaders in the area to really invest in and mentor female coaches.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is your most memorable moment of your soccer career?
Shannon MacMillan: While the medals and championships are certainly nice – the most memorable moment for me was when Clive Charles asked me to be an assistant coach at the University of Portland. It was right after I graduated and it was only a volunteer assistant role. There is no way to put a price on the time I was able to work side by side with Clive as a coach.
Diane Scavuzzo: Why do you do what you do? What inspires you?
Shannon MacMillan: The game of soccer has been amazing for me so it is important to give back to the sport and help inspire the kids. Soccer shaped who I am as a person and a coach – and I feel so fortunate that my job is coaching soccer and working with kids.