SoccerToday’s Women In Soccer Series
Jen Lalor, former known as Lalor-Nielsen, is passionate about soccer. In a country where soccer is rapidly becoming more popular, Jen Lalor is a pioneer in the landscape of this sport. Born in Chula Vista and a home grown product of San Diego, Lalor is a former professional soccer player who played for the U.S. National Women’s Team and was nominated for the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2012. Lalor played at the Women’s World Cup in Sweden and as a college student at Santa Clara University. More modest than most, Lalor is a star who wants to give back and a powerhouse coach on and off the field.
Interviewed for our Women in Soccer Series, Jen Lalor is currently the Head Coach of the WPSL San Diego SeaLions and Director of Girls at San Diego Football Academy. The SeaLions season is underway and the team just earned another victory on the field when Keane scored a powerful Hat Trick to help earn a 4-0 win over Legends FC.
Diane Scavuzzo: Who do you think is the best female coach in the world?
Jen Lalor: In my opinion, I think Pia Sundhage is the best female coach in the world.
I had never been personally coached by her but players I know have and they all speak so highly of her. When I played in the WUSA for the San Diego Spirit, Coach Sundhage coached for another team in the league – the Boston Breakers. I was able to see her in action. This is when she was starting to make a name for herself here in the United States.
Sundhage is extremely knowledgeable, relates to her players well, is extremely passionate, and her players give her 100% back.
On a few occasions, I have had the opportunity to see Sundhage coach and interact with the US National Team and my first impression was how much joy and excitement filled the area. That is hard to create at the highest level. Everyone on the field and supporting the team bought into her concept, coaching style and way of thinking.
Not only does Sundhage create a great product on the field, you could see the players truly enjoy every minute of being coached by her and they loved playing for her. The National Team players always speak of her with pride – you can really see the belief, respect and strong connection they all had for her and each other. That atmosphere and mentality starts at the top and Coach Sundhage truly built something special and unique within the team.
Diane Scavuzzo: What inspires you to coach?
Jen Lalor: I absolutely love this sport. It has given me so much as a player and now as a coach.
I truly enjoy sharing my experiences and knowledge of the game to these young players and hopefully I inspire them to work hard and hopefully I can help them achieve their dream. For me, coaching is much more than just the actual teaching of the physical game that is being played on the field. That is definitely part of it but the other half is what also inspires me as a coach – building a strong connection with my players and finding ways to give them confidence and belief in themselves, especially female players.
I have come to realize that during the experience my players have with soccer (all the practices, all the games and all the time they spend with me on the field), I am building and molding their emotional mindset as well.
When I give them confidence on the field , they will have confidence in the classroom and in other aspects of their day to day life.
It’s a big responsibility that I take personally and I am constantly aware of.
I am always striving to be a positive influence in their life. In coaching young female players, giving them belief and confidence in themselves is critical as well as guiding them to make good decisions and choices on and off the field.
I take great pride in this. Soccer has been everything to me, it is my life. Coaching is my life. I always hope to inspire any player that comes my way because they absolutely inspire me to keep doing what I’m doing.
Diane Scavuzzo: How long have you coached the San Diego SeaLions?
Jen Lalor: I have been honored and proud to be Head Coach of the San Diego SeaLions for the past 4 years. I am currently starting my 5th season. I have also been a player for this franchise as well as an assistant coach. I take great pride in this organization because there is so much tradition and history here – it dates back 26 years ago from when this franchise first started. It is truly an amazing story.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is it like coaching the SeaLions after winning the WPSL Championship?
Jen Lalor: I have to say every season is incredibly special and unique. It was an amazing feeling and atmosphere winning a National Championship last year and I was honored to coach these girls and it’s always special coaching this team.
One of the things I am most proud of was to see all of their hard work and sacrifice pay off.
We demand and expect so much from these girls (time and commitment) and it was a special celebration for the team and franchise. Being National Champions last year really was 3 years in the making because this core group has been together, dedicated to being the best team they possibly could be — and each season, we had been getting closer and closer. Last year, the end result was completely gratifying and inspiring.
Our goal this season is of course to REPEAT and we will continue to work and strive towards that goal. These girls are proud of what they had accomplished but each season brings on a new set of challenges that keeps them inspired and motivated. That is one of the main reasons why this team is so unique and special. They know this is bigger than just themselves. Our SeaLions fully understand the meaning of TEAM. Being on top doesn’t come easy but staying on top is even harder. That is our goal! We take one game at a time.
Diane Scavuzzo: The new season has just started. How do you feel the team is doing?
Jen Lalor: We have had a long pre-season. We started training in March. The team practices 4 times a week, twice a week on the field and the other two practices are very specialized. One day a week is at TCTC and the other day is at Armone’s Studio in La Jolla. They focus on strength, endurance, quickness, power, balance and nutrition during the early stages of pre-season. We have been very fortunate this pre-season as well to have the opportunity to scrimmage some of the best college teams around and various top Youth National Teams.
On and off the field these girls are well trained and most importantly, self motivated. There is a core group returning from last year’s squad and we have added 7 new players to this year’s roster. They have all brought personality and some of them have even stepped into starting roles on the field. It has been fun to watch them grow and see them evolve in a short amount of time.
As a coach, it has been very encouraging.
The newcomers are: Hannah Keane (SDSU), Taryn Boudreau (LSU), Zoya Farzaneh (UC Irvine), Jordan Bruce (UC Irvine), Taleen Taylor (Boston Univ.), Allie Bailey (Texas A&M) and Amy Alber (Cal State San Marcos).
The product on the field is tremendous. It is a fun atmosphere and a great way for young players to learn.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is the greatest challenge for the season?
Jen Lalor: Like all seasons, one of the biggest challenges this team faces is commitment to every game and practice. The core group understands how it works but the new players need to buy into our philosophy and mentality as quick as possible.
This bond and sacrifice takes time. The earlier this can happen, the more success we will have.
Quite a few players from last years Championship squad has either moved away, couldn’t commit to play this season due to work or logistics or was drafted in the NWSL.
Diane Scavuzzo: Is it hard to balance a strong commitment to soccer and work/family responsibilities?
Jen Lalor: We expect so much out of these girls and most of them have full time jobs and/or a family but somehow they find a way to make it work.
Check out a SeaLions game – Schedule Information Click Here and watch Lalor in action.