From her early days in soccer on the fields of Long Island to her current day spot as head coach of the University of Miami’s Women’s Soccer Team, Mary-Frances Monroe has enjoyed a great deal of success.
She’s been a state champion at Long Island’s Northport High School, was an All-American during her collegiate days at the University of Connecticut and as a coach has had success at the University of Albany and now in South Florida with the Hurricanes.
During her junior year at UConn in 2000, Monroe was named a First Team All-American by College Soccer Online. The First Team that year included Hope Solo, Abby Wambach and fellow Long Islander Christie Welsh.
Monroe took a different path to the collegiate coaching ranks as she took the Albany head-coaching job at the age of 24. During her seven years with the Great Danes, she and her staff received America East coaching honors and would earn postseason honors that included the school’s first-ever Division I playoff berth.
Her first four years in Miami has seen the program play with greater consistency, earn wins over nationally ranked opponents and had several players earn conference and national recognition for their play.
Recently, Monroe, an East Northport native, spoke with SleterFC.com before the start of the 2017 season about her expectations for the Hurricanes, the growth of the women’s game and her memories of growing up and playing soccer on Long Island.
SLETERFC.COM: How are the preseason preparations going?
MARY-FRANCES MONROE: It is nice to have the group back together. We have a lot of players returning and most of the team has a good idea what the league (Atlantic Coast Conference) is like and what our non-conference schedule is like. Our philosophy is that we want to be the fittest team in the conference and in the country.
SFC.COM: This is now your fifth season in Miami. How have you seen the program grow and attract talented players to Miami?
MFM: From the recruiting side, we work to bring players in that work to buy into our philosophy and who want to play in the ACC. We want to have players come in right away and play and last season we had a lot of positives. While we lost some great seniors last year, we have worked to fill those positions. We may not have the all-star or national team players that other schools have, but we teach our players to work together and that is what has made us a success.
SFC.COM: Is it a challenge to get players to think of Miami for soccer?
MFM: I think the greatest challenge is the competition for players we face being in the ACC. We don’t have the tradition of other teams of being in the Final Four. And we’re out recruiting many of the same players as other schools. Miami is an enjoyable place and a great school for athletics that goes beyond football and basketball and includes top teams in volleyball, tennis and track.
SFC.COM: What attracted you to Miami?
MFM: I was 24 when I was the head coach at Albany and I jumped right in with both feet. I had some great role models to follow and would talk with Jill Ellis (U.S. Women’s National Team head coach) a lot when I had the Albany program. When the Miami opportunity came about, I was not looking to leave, but they reached out and wanted to talk with me. I know that I wanted at some point to coach at the highest level and this was a great opportunity that not many coaches get. There is only about 300 head coaching jobs across the country. Miami plays in the best conference in the country and in coming to Miami I knew I had to be up to the challenge and needed to be strong.
SFC.COM: At what point did you start thinking about coaching as the next stage in your soccer career?
MFM: I always knew I wanted to be around soccer. I had other opportunities to do other things with my life, but to be away from the game I love would have been difficult. I would have loved to have been an assistant at a big time school to allow me to learn from others. But I had an opportunity to get in there right away and had to figure out what worked and what didn’t work. There are times now that I want to jump in and train with the girls. There is still a piece of me that is still a player.
SFC.COM: What were the keys to your success as a coach at such a young age?
MFM: I have really great role models to guide me. I knew I could be a teacher of the game and my personality is that I want to learn all the time. Even as a head coach I know I can learn from other coaches, assistant coaches and players. When I got to Albany I knew something wasn’t right and that the culture wasn’t where it needed to be. It was important for me to build the culture first, which took a few years. We wanted players that were good people first. You could have been the best player in the country, but if that individual wasn’t a good person it wasn’t going to work with me. We now do the same thing at Miami.
SFC.COM: When you look back at your playing days on Long Island, what stands out?
MFM: There are so many moments. I remember making the New York State team, which was the first time I was around the best players from across the state. We won the State title during my junior year at Northport High School. I was also very lucky with my club team because half of my high school team played on that club team.