Stefanie Golan didn’t intend to become a coach.
At Duke University, she studied political science with the intent to go to law school and use that degree to get into the CIA or FBI as a special agent. She was redshirted her junior year, however, due to injury, and was off the soccer field for nearly 18 months. During that time, her coaches encouraged her to consider going into coaching herself. Not quite convinced, she started pursuing an MBA, but knew it wasn’t the right fit within the first six months.
“I made the decision that coaching was what I really wanted to do,” she says, “so I pursued it full-time and haven’t looked back.”
Golan has been a head soccer coach since 2009, first at the United States Military Academy, and now at the University of Minnesota, where she has been since 2012. Before that, she spent two seasons as the Black Knights’ associate head coach.
One of the aspects of Northeastern’s Master of Sports Leadership program Golan liked most was the challenge of gaining new perspectives on her role.
“As coaches, we tend to see things through our lenses, and that of the student-athletes,” she says. “To be successful at a higher level, it is critical to be able to learn the perspective of administration, which enhances my ability to communicate with athletes and get things done much more efficiently and effectively.”
Over the years, Golan’s family has grown—she and her husband have 10-year-old and eight-month-old sons—and she couldn’t be happier about how her job and personal life overlap. “People seek balance, but for me, it is more about making my family a part of my program, as well as my program a part of my family,” she says. Her older son has gone out recruiting with her since he was two years old.
“The team treats my boys, and my assistant coaches’ kids, like younger siblings, and they are very welcoming to our spouses as well,” she says. She has found many similarities between coaching and raising children. “There are a lot of moving parts that you have to coordinate for your kids, as well as your team: you have to communicate well; you have to be extremely organized; you strive to model the way,” she says. “You also work to develop habits in your kids and players that will lead to future success in life, and you try to inspire them on a daily basis to be better than they were the day before.”
Golan is proud that after her son was born in May 2016, she was back on the road recruiting in July, started preseason in August, and went on to win both the Big Ten regular season and Conference Tournament Championships in the same year. Her husband, kids, and parents were all there when her team won the championship. “Being able to share those moments with them has been pretty special,” she says.
Like most coaches, Golan thrives on the competition and the wins. “But I also enjoy the opportunity to shape young women’s lives,” she says. “I love the random emails, texts, and calls from players who I’ve coached thanking me for different things they felt helped them get to where they are now.”