From South Africa to Texas and now Arizona, Kylie Louw has successfully followed her collegiate soccer career to become an assistant coach for the Arizona soccer program under Tony Amato.
Amato served as Louw’s coach at Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA) from 2009 to 2012.
“It was an easy transition,” Louw said. “I am familiar with his coaching style, because I played under him. It was easy for me to slide into what his plans are. We have the same views on a lot of things and similar philosophies.”
Adjusting from being one of the most successful soccer players in SFA program history and being a member of the 2012 South African Olympic team to becoming an assistant coach has been the difficult part of the transition for Louw.
“For me, personally, going from playing to coaching is a little bit difficult,” Louw adds. “It has nothing to do with Tony, it’s a personal thing. Otherwise, it has been pretty easy and I’ve enjoyed it.”
However, she finds many positives from having the student-athlete experience herself to share with her players.
“It helps me see a different side,” Louw said. “I always say, ‘When I was a player.’ I hate saying that, but a lot of the time it translates. I can understand and relate to the girls a lot more. There are a lot of things that players do that coaches don’t understand, but it is easier for me to see why they’re doing that.”
Louw can use her playing experience to identify with the current players and help them relate to her.
“I went through the same things,” Louw adds. “I think it’s huge, especially because the girls can relate to me. It’s not just a one-sided thing. I think a lot of the time for them it’s like ‘She’s been there. She’s done that. She knows what she’s talking about.’”
Louw can also use her experience playing on other teams.
“Playing on the national team is huge because I’ve seen the different sides of the game. The college game is very different from international competition. Obviously, South African soccer is very different from American style. It’s been interesting but all put together it makes it easier and fun. I’ve been enjoying it.”
One of the easiest adjustments for Louw, which is unusual for some, is the climate change.
“The climate is great,” Louw said. “It is hot, but it’s very similar to South Africa. In east Texas, I struggled way more because it’s hot and humid. I think I can handle it. It’s been good so far. I like Arizona. Tucson reminds me a lot of home.”
Before the summer comes to an end, Louw wants to go back to her home of South Africa to refresh for the upcoming season. Until then, she and the coaching staff have been making plans for their first season together.
“Over the summer, we have been doing a lot to prepare,” Louw said. “We are coming in new so everything we do is brand new. We are starting fresh. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that we are getting ready for the girls.”
Last year, Arizona soccer had a record of 6-11-3. Despite a losing record, the new staff has new, higher expectations for the 2013 Wildcats.
“It’s very difficult to come in and say ‘this is what we are going to do. This is the plan. This is how we are going to do it,’” Louw said. “It’s a work in progress. There are things we aspire to do. We obviously want to make the NCAA tournament. That would be huge. We want to take it one game at a time. We have a lot of incoming freshman and 33 players on our roster. It’s a lot of work in the beginning and getting the team settled is going to be a challenge in itself.”
Although Louw was the last member of the coaching staff to arrive to Tucson, her relationship with the team has grown.
“I think in the beginning they were a little apprehensive because I came in a little late,” Louw said. “I think they have taken to me very well. I think we are pretty close as a team. A lot of them are staying over the summer, which isn’t very common, so I think they are all excited for the season.”
With a relationship growing with the team she can now call her own, there’s one thing that Louw wants her players to take away from her as coach.
“Especially in college you only get four years of soccer,” Louw said. “You can’t waste it. There are a lot of decisions that you have to make. You have to be passionate about the game and make the right decisions and do everything that you can to be at your best performance because time is limited. I hate saying you can’t waste time, but every game counts.”
Louw also knows it is crucial to live in the moment and appreciate the little things.
“Be passionate because it will fly by and next thing you know it will be the last game. I think it’s important as a player to not wake up dreading practice but rather wanting to go to practice. A lot of people take that for granted.”