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Charlotte 49ers Kim Cardelle coaches to mentor, inspire women
Assistant a role model for professional success
 
Published Monday, March 30, 2020 8:00 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

CHARLOTTE 49ERS ATHLETICS
Charlotte 49ers women's soccer assistant coach Kim Cardelle looks to nurture young women who might consider following her example.

Women head soccer coaches at the Division I level are not commonplace.

Four of the 14 programs in Conference USA have one—Texas El Paso’s Kathryn Bologun, Old Dominion’s Angie Hind, Alabama Birmingham Erica Demers, and Florida International’s Sharolta Nonen. Kim Cardelle of the Charlotte 49ers was recently promoted to first assistant, replacing Michael Swan, who took the head coaching position at Marshall in December.

It was not a path the Phoenix native and Catawba alumna expected to follow.

“The inspiration to become a coach was definitely nurtured by another coach who saw those qualities in me,” Cardelle said. “So many female soccer players are coached by men, and they can’t picture themselves in that role, because it’s a male [there]. Until they lay eyes on a female coach, or play for a female coach, and have that little bit of a sparkle or that dream that they could be like that person too, that’s what it’s going to take.”  

Cardelle, who played for Charlotte 49ers head coach John Cullen at Catawba, holds a U.S. Soccer Federation National D License and earned a United Soccer Coaches Advanced Diploma in 2017. She spent 2008 playing in the USL W-League with the Carolina Railhawks. Her coaching background includes girls’ head coach at Mount Pleasant High School in Mount Pleasant, North Carolina, and Charlotte Soccer Academy.

Cardelle’s collegiate coaching experience began during her time at Catawba, where she spent three years as an assistant.

“While I was playing, John sort of nurtured the coach in me, and I started even as a sophomore in college coaching under-9 girls, and U11 teams in my offseason,” Cardelle said. “I was getting a taste of coaching at a much earlier age because I was able to manage the time to do it and in the process just really loved it. Seeing where the club game has gone for women and girls in general is fantastic.”


As graduation approached, Cardelle contemplated her next move. Should she return to Phoenix or stay in the Carolinas?

“Right about that time, John brought me into his office and was like, ‘do you want to come on as an assistant at Catawba?’ Cardelle said. “I’m thinking, ‘I can’t turn that opportunity down,’ just knowing the caliber of coach that he is, and that I had no experience really, and none at the collegiate level. That is just something you don’t walk away from.”

Said Cullen: “I knew when I was working with Kim at Catawba, she had the pedigree and the qualities to be a good coach. I suppose as an older coach, the first thing I want to do is reach out to some younger people who have some aspirations to be in the game. She stepped away from the game for a little bit to go on a different career path, but I wanted to keep her in consideration for Charlotte when I got here.”


Cardelle took a break from coaching, attributing that time away as what drew her back. She called Cullen, said it was what she was made for, which coincided with an opening at Charlotte.

“I knew the importance of having good female role models around the program was essential,” Cullen said. “Always in the back of my mind, I knew Kim was somebody I would be interested in asking about whether she would like to return to soccer and get into coaching, because she’s got a gift. She’s committed to it. She wants to improve. She loves the competitive side of it. I think she likes to empower young female players to be the best they can be. It was always a consideration for me to ask Kim to come on board. When the timing was right, I’m glad she said yes.”

Cultural attributions signify coaching as a male role. Few females hear they would make a great coach. Fewer see their teammates go on to play professionally. Charlotte all-time leading scorer Martha Thomas, who plays in England’s first division for West Ham United’s women’s side is an exception.

“[Players] aren’t seeing enough players like Martha who go on and play and make a living doing it, and are able to do it for many years after their collegiate career,” Cardelle said. “They often see that there is more opportunity for men. You’re not going to change that overnight. When there becomes more opportunity for women to play post collegiately it will be commonplace. Then when they get in those higher levels, their knowledge of the game gets them into a position to where they can become coaches of the game. They don’t have to get to those levels to become coaches. They can coach little kids teams like I did, and get a sense, ‘do I like doing this day in and day out? Do I enjoy giving back to a sport that gave to me for my entire life? Or do I just want to pursue a different career?”

While the U.S. Women’s National Team has pushed boundaries, and the addition  of the National Women’s Soccer League has shown female soccer players there is another level, playing professionally still seems like a dream compared to men who have domestic leagues ranging from Major League Soccer through third division National Independent Soccer Association. Male soccer is prioritized over the women’s game.

“The comparison I often make is a man coaching a female sport, nobody blinks or bats an eye at it, but a woman coaching a male sport or even just men’s soccer, it’s unthinkable right now,” Cardelle said. “I’m not here to necessarily challenge that. My question is why. It’s because we’ve been basically conditioned to think men are more equipped to do a role that really women can do too, but we just don’t see them in those roles. We don’t physically see them in those roles enough to accept it as commonplace, or as a lot of people may phrase it, as seeing men and women as equals.”

Yet Cardelle isn’t interested in coaching men’s soccer. She doesn’t debate the differences between the nature of the games, but the perception that the most qualified candidate should be the coach, that’s a battle worth fighting.

“Is [equality] going to be possible?” Cardelle asked. “I would hope so, maybe one day, in our own way, because men and women are different, and the sports are different, and I do think the relatability is different. That is why I don’t want to be a woman coaching men’s soccer. I want to be a woman coaching women’s soccer, and I want to see more women coaching women’s soccer.”

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