By: Mae Margaret Davis
SEC Digital Network
AUBURN, Ala. - Many recent college graduates face an uphill battle in today’s society. They spend at least four years getting their degrees only to often times face uncertainty, unemployment or even a lost sense of identity as they try to figure out “what’s next?” when the security of their alma maters has all but disappeared.
Former Auburn soccer star Katy Frierson has managed to quell most of those common problems with plans and dreams of using soccer to accomplish more than she might have ever thought possible.
Only the fifth four-time First Team All-Southeastern Conference selection in league history, Frierson left Auburn owning six school records, including assists in a season (13), career assists (42), career points (104) and game-winning goals (11). An All-American as both a junior and senior, she guided Auburn from the midfield and was the 10th overall pick in the 2012 Women’s Professional Soccer Draft.
After playing one season for the Western New York Flash, Frierson returned to the Plains and is in the midst of her fifth season as a member of the Auburn soccer team, this time as a volunteer assistant coach.
“As a player, I’ve always loved soccer and always had a passion for the game,” Frierson said. “I’m kind of on the side where I like to understand the game, the positioning, the intricacies of the game, so to speak. I think that coaching will allow me to convey that passion to other kids and the knowledge I have for soccer, I want to share with others.”
The evolution from a game-changer on the field to a mentor on the sidelines seemed to come naturally for Frierson.
While she knows she became a better player in her four years as a Tiger, Frierson says it was what she accomplished off the field that helps her relate to the current players, many of whom were her teammates.
“I was nervous coming in because I thought having been teammates with some of the players would be a huge disadvantage to the whole experience, but I transitioned well,” Frierson said. “They’ve all been very receptive, too, which has encouraged me to continue to tell them what I want to tell them.
“Last year being a senior and being a captain, I was a leader in how I was kind of dictating what people did and telling people what to do and trying to encourage them and coach them in that way. I think it helps that I have a relationship with them because then they come to me, and they’re more willing to listen to what I’m saying.”
Beyond helping the girls develop into better soccer players, Frierson has a passion for seeing players through the same journey she took herself.
“The most important part is the impact you can have on kids,” Frierson said. “College students are at the most impressionable time of their lives. Soccer allows you to form the foundation of the relationship, but I think being a coach, you have the trust with the players. I can lead players in a way that’ll help them for the rest of their lives, and I think that’s the most important thing, and that’s really why I want to be a coach. It’s how you can serve others and impact others and teach them.”
Much of Frierson’s own early coaching philosophy doesn’t have as much to do with strategy on the field as it does with the players learning things about themselves.
As a senior, Frierson and the Tigers won the 2011 SEC Tournament Championship, but Frierson says that wasn’t what she took away the most from her experience at Auburn, and it isn’t what she wants her players to focus on, either.
“Winning that championship was huge, but that wasn’t the most important thing for my career,” Frierson said. “It’s playing good teams and learning that we can beat them. It’s learning how to believe in one another. It’s learning how, ‘We’re kind of the underdog going into this game, but that’s all right because we’re going to fight and compete with one another.’ It’s a lot of those little things you learn along the way.”
As a student of the game, Frierson had skilled teachers to learn from, as well. The opportunity to coach alongside two of her mentors has allowed Frierson to be a better assistant to both the players and coaching staff.
“I know what [Auburn head] Coach [Karen] Hoppa wants out of the players,” Frierson said. “I know how she coaches them. I know how [associate head coach] Amy [Berbary] teaches the forwards to make runs. I know what they expect from the players tactically, technically, on the field, off the field. Knowing those expectations, I can help convey those a lot easier, and I played under those expectations so I understand what’s really important to Coach Hoppa and Amy.”
While Frierson continues to succeed on the field as an assistant, she is also looking forward to the next step in her academic and professional journey.
Frierson graduated from Auburn in three and a half years with a degree in political science. Having traveled to many different countries throughout her playing days, Frierson is eager to go back to school and combine her passion for the game with academics and a love for helping others.
“I thought law school would be a great next step,” Frierson said. “I’m very interested in international development, helping foreign countries get out of poverty, mitigate hunger, that kind of stuff. I think going to law school and getting a law degree would be a huge platform for me to do what I want to do in the future.”
In the time she spent overseas, Frierson recognized the need for humanitarian efforts in some of the poorest parts of the world, but also saw an opportunity to use soccer as a tool to link people together from all walks of life.
“I love the world, and I love people,” Frierson said. “I think my faith played a huge factor in that, being called to serve others and ‘make disciples of all nations,’ that kind of thing. It’s kind of this ongoing life goal of mine to do that. I think being a coach will give me the platform to be able to do that and to be able to form a nonprofit of some sort and incorporate soccer and education and those kinds of things.”
Frierson recognizes that the game she loves is unique and calls it “inherently powerful.” As the world’s most popular sport, Frierson believes soccer can go beyond the pitch and transcend boarders, conflict and oppression.
“I think that soccer allows you to form relationships with people, and that’s the medium into cultures and people and societies. It’s cool to be a part of soccer because it’s so much bigger than any one person. It’s so much bigger than any team.
“You’re not trying change anybody or do anything like that. You’re just going to love them and learn from them, and in the meantime, change happens between the two. You take soccer as the basis, and then once you do form those relationships, then you can start saying, ‘How can we help? What do you need from us?’ I think that’s how I want to make everything that I’ve done matter to other people.”