Angela Salem: A professional mindset

Kristian Rhim
@Legendary__Kris

A normal day for women’s soccer assistant coach Angela Salem begins when she leaves her Boston home at around 9 a.m to make it in time for 10 a.m. practice with the Boston Breakers, a professional team in the National Women’s Soccer League. She trains until 12 p.m., then leaves the Breakers facilities around 1 p.m to head over to Springfield College just in time to make it to coach 4 p.m. women’s soccer practice. After practice ends she heads over to class at Springfield and then drives two hours back to her home in Boston.

“My life has been so crazy,” said Salem. “One time we [the Boston Breakers] had three games in a week and I just wanted one day off but I couldn’t because I have to be here.”

Salem grew up in Copley, Ohio, just outside of Akron and comes from a soccer family. As the youngest of four and the daughter of two soccer coaches, she watched as her two sisters played in college and her brother played professionally in the North American Soccer League. The sport was introduced to her at an early age and she quickly fell in love with it.

She attended Copley High School where her mom was her coach. She started at attacking center midfielder all four years, earning all-state honors in her sophomore, junior and senior seasons.

After a thought out recruiting process, Salem made the decision to attend Francis Marion University. Although it was not as much of a soccer powerhouse, as other schools she considered, Salem believed she had found the best deal. Francis Marion had never produced a professional women’s soccer player, but Salem was different.

After her senior season, Salem decided to go pro. She tried out, and made Sky Blue FC in the Women’s Professional Soccer League. Then left for the Atlanta Beat after a coaching change, in Atlanta she was moved to a new role as defensive midfielder rather than her normal attacking midfielder position.

Defensive midfielder is a position known for big and physical defenders, so at 5’3” and not very physical the switch was challenging for Salem.

“It sucked,” said Salem. “But I learned that if you want to get on the field you have to adapt, and if it’s what’s best for the team then that’s what you need to do. I hate it because you have to defend the whole time. I didn’t have a choice though, you don’t have a choice professionally, but i’ve grown to love it.”

Salem eventually made the transition smooth and quickly found success in just her third year professionally. In 2012 Salem played for the Western New York Flash, alongside Olympians Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd. She started all 16 games and helped the Flash to its third straight WPSL (Women’s Professional Soccer League) championship, scoring the game winning penalty kick after double overtime against the Chicago Red Stars.

Now, Salem is one of the best defensive midfielders and a fan favorite in the National Women’s Soccer League.This season she was voted team Most Valuable Player by fans and Players’ Player (Player of the Year) by her teammates for the second year in a row. She also eclipsed the 100 games played mark on September 10.

Salem uses her successful transition to defensive midfielder in coaching.

“I know if we ever put a player in a position they are not super comfortable with I can go talk to them just to make sure they’re comfortable because i know what it feels like.” said Salem.

Sarah Swetland, a freshman who also switched from a scoring position in forward to more of a passing position as a midfielder in high school, praised Salem.

“She brings a lot of knowledge and enthusiasm to the team,” she said. “She’s also a great role model as she’s balancing school and coaching along with [professional] soccer.”

At 29 years old, a seasoned veteran just finishing her eighth year professionally, Salem found herself looking at life after soccer and stumbled across Springfield College.

“I knew I wanted to be in athletics and I came across the athletic counseling program at Springfield that I thought was interesting,” said Salem. “I saw that this [assistant coach] position was an option for a GA [graduate assistant] so I applied and coach [Gibson] ended up offering me a spot.”

Salem quickly shot down the idea of leaving Springfield in the event that playing professionally and coaching at Springfield would cause too much conflict

“I think it is not so much a question of do I like this but am I going to play another year,” said Salem. “Boston offered me another contract but we reached an agreement that if it’s too much I’d retire. I’m happy in this position, I’m having a good time learning so it might be time for that next step.”

 

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