Kim DeCesare wrote her retirement letter while awaiting a plane to North Carolina and her first college coaching job. Since landing, she’s made peace with her past and now embraces the future.
“I thought, I want to write something that people can use to help them reflect on their own experiences and kind of reassure myself at the same time,” she told Backline Soccer during a phone interview last week. “Even though my professional career wasn’t the best and wasn’t the most successful that it still was an important part of my life. I also feel like I‘ve learned so much … I learned a lot about myself, soccer, and the world really.”
For 20 years, Kim DeCesare has identified as a soccer player. The beautiful game of football has taken her from Long Island to North Carolina, around the world, and back again. On June 14, DeCesare was named assistant coach of the Elon University Women’s Soccer program, just 40 miles west of Duke University where she played college soccer.
In the piece for Women’s Soccer Zone, DeCesare beautifully discussed understanding to appreciate a career plagued by injury and perhaps void of the traditional success and accolades of a professional athlete.
“I am not here looking for sympathy or pity. This is an opportunity for whoever is reading to know that careers, which are not entirely packed with countless minutes, prestigious awards and multiple championships, should still be recognized as successful. It is all about how you define achievement and what you decide to learn from it. I consider myself lucky to have the ability to move on from things quickly and see the bigger picture. Let’s be honest, you don’t learn as many lessons from the easy, happy and positive experiences, as you do from the shitty ones.”
Back to something familiar
It is not unusual for players to shift to coaching once they hang up the boots. However, it’s not as common to coach, train, and referee as a pre-teen. DeCesare enrolled in a referee course at age 11. “It was a six-week referee course. It was three hours a night for a couple of nights a week.”
She served as a referee for two years before becoming a personal trainer. “Around 13 of 14 years old, I started coaching little kids. I remember I would ride my bike to my neighbor’s house, pick her up on my bike, ride to the park and trainer her for an hour and earn $5-$10.”
By her first two college seasons at Duke University, DeCesare knew she wanted to coach at the college level, “By my freshman or sophomore year of college, I was like, ‘I want to be a college coach. I want to be a coach at Duke.'” As she begins her first year with Elon, DeCesare has much to learn. Yet, starting a second soccer career one county over from Duke must feel pretty good.
He latest international stop was in the Netherlands with PSV Eindhoven. She moved in hopes of reviving an injury-plagued career but again was sidelined with a broken leg. It was during the time DeCesare circled back to some WoSo news she had heard in passing. “I heard that Elon was getting a new women’s soccer coaching staff, but I remember not even thinking about it [much]. Then [around the time] I broke my leg … I thought maybe I should see what the update is with that.” By then, Elon had already announced their new head coach Neil Payne and assistant coach Paul Babba.