Member Monday: Katie Knudsen

The game of fútbol holds a different meaning for everyone — some are the ultimate fans and others take the pitch themselves from childhood & beyond. For Katie Knudsen, the game gives her an opportunity to be a leader and role model for young girls in her community. At just 21 years old, Katie is the youngest and only female head coach for the Claremont Stars Soccer Club.

Prior to her shift to coaching, Katie spent 12 years of her life playing competitive soccer. One of her favorite memories from her time on the field came at the age of 14. Her team was the first from Claremont to win the 50th AYSO National Games, and she was able to do so with her best friends & teammates by her side. Experiences like that are exactly what help Katie connect to her players in ways that others can’t.

As an ACFC Member and supporter with Pandemonium, Katie looks forward to taking her players to their first professional women’s soccer game in 2022 and to show them the great possibilities for women in sports.

Meet Katie Knudsen.

Q: What inspired you to become a coach? What is the best thing about coaching?
I was inspired to start coaching when I knew that playing soccer seriously wasn’t the path for me, but I still wanted soccer to be a part of my life. Once I tried it out, I realized that I love coaching more than I ever loved playing. After that, I was inspired to take coaching more seriously. For me, the best thing about coaching is seeing players develop and being able to build lasting relationships with them. I have some girls who I have coached since they were 10-years-old. Now some of them are working on getting their driver’s licenses! It’s been really great to watch them grow up and to see the brilliant soccer players they’ve become. 

Q: What is it like being the youngest and only female head coach for your club?
At first it was a little intimidating because I was sort of thrown into coaches meetings with guys who are much older than me and had much more experience. Now that I have some experience, I feel like being young and the only woman coach for my club gives me an edge over the other coaches. In meetings, my fellow coaches mention that they have difficulty connecting with their players. I have found that has never been a problem for me because my age has helped me connect with players easily. Being a woman has helped me understand the girls at our club much better and in ways that other coaches can’t because they were never in their situation like I was as a player. I think my main goal as a coach is to be the coach I wish I had when I was younger. I don’t think any challenge is going to get between me and that goal. 

Q: What challenges have you faced in coaching and how did you overcome them?
As a coach, I’ve had quite a few challenges. The biggest challenge is having to convince referees and other coaches that I am qualified to be a coach. Almost every game, other coaches or referees ask where my team’s coach is, if I’m one of the players, or how old I am. It’s been difficult learning how to adjust to referees or opponents talking down to me because of my age and because I’m a girl, but it’s worth it to be able to do something I love. 

Q: How important is it for young girls to have women role models to look up to in soccer?
I think it’s really important for young girls to have women role models to look up to in soccer. When girls see someone like them playing soccer on TV, it inspires them to dream bigger. Having women as coaches helps younger girls understand instructions and encouragement better because it comes from someone who is like them, and at one point was them.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your hospital volunteer work? What is your favorite part about volunteering?
I’ve been volunteering at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center since I was 16, so for about 5 years. I just recently passed my 800 hours mark. I’ve volunteered at all parts of the hospital from the emergency room to the pharmacy to the front desk, helping out patients, family, and staff. My favorite part about volunteering is how I get to help people in such simple ways when they need it most. It’s nice to help patients any way I can, from getting them blankets or water to just taking some time to talk to them while they’re in the hospital. Throughout the pandemic, it has also been nice to help out the hospital staff, particularly with vaccine distribution. The staff has been really overwhelmed so it’s been great to help in any way I can to make their lives a little easier. 

Q: What is your favorite soccer memory as a coach and as a player?
My favorite memory as a player was definitely winning the 50th AYSO National Games in Torrance when I was 14. A bunch of girls from my club team decided to play AYSO as well, so I got to play with all my friends. It started out as a fun tournament but we ended up winning the whole thing. We were the first team from Claremont to ever win it!

As a coach, I’ve made so many good memories. One of my favorite experiences was going through my US Soccer D license course. The courses are pretty expensive but LA84 was really generous and covered half the cost of my class for me and my classmates. We had an all-women's class with all women instructors! It was so much fun learning how to become a better coach and sharing experiences with other women coaches throughout the 6-month course.

Another favorite memory as a coach was near the end of one of my first seasons. A mom of one of my players came up to me crying and said that this was the first time her child actually wanted to go to soccer practice. Overall every interaction I have with every team I coach has produced good memories. It’s really special to be a coach and to see your players develop as both soccer players and as people and to be able to play a part in their lives. 

Q: Who is your favorite soccer player and why?
I have a lot of favorites, but if I have to choose one it would definitely be Vivianne Miedema of the Netherlands and Arsenal. I love her style of play and how she is able to just sneak into defender’s blind spots. She can really score with either foot and make it look so easy. She is also so consistent and is a scoring threat at any spot on the field at any point of the game, all without being very flashy. I really admire her talent, especially how she became her country’s leading goal scorer, male or female, at just 22.

Q: How did you become interested in Angel City FC?
Whenever I’m not coaching or in class, I’m pretty much always watching a soccer game. I like to watch men’s or women’s in any country, so I’ve always been a big fan of the NWSL. It was fun to watch but I never really had a team to cheer for. I was just waiting for Los Angeles to get a team! As soon as news came out that we were getting one, I knew I was going to be a die-hard fan for life. 

Q: What does it mean to you to have a professional women’s soccer team in Los Angeles?
It means so much to have a professional women’s soccer team in LA. I think Los Angeles has such a strong soccer community and there are so many fans of women’s soccer here. The only time LA has been able to experience women’s soccer live is a few times a year when the USWNT plays here if we’re lucky. I think fans of women’s soccer in Los Angeles deserve more than that. 

Q: What are you looking forward to most from Angel City FC’s inaugural 2022 season?
I am most looking forward to being able to go to games with teams I coach for Angel City FC’s inaugural 2022 season. Many of the players I coach have never been to a professional soccer game before, so I’m really excited to experience that with them. I can’t wait for all of the young girls in Los Angeles to see Angel City FC and be inspired to dream past both high school and college soccer and see how much there is out there for them. I think that it’s important for coaches and fans of soccer to leave the game better than we found it and I think Angel City FC is the first part of that for me. I’m excited for young girls to see the team I wish I had when I was their age. 

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