Alliance Coach Spotlight: Nicole Van Dyke

Spotlight on: Nicole Van Dyke

Six months pregnant, Nicole Van Dyke moved across the country, leaving her family behind, to live in a dorm room. Not one to shy away from the “big decisions,” she made the bold move to take the head women’s soccer coach position at the University of Pennsylvania after serving as an assistant coach and associate head coach at Stanford. That fearlessness has paid off, and now she’s entering her third year after leading Penn to a 9-3-4 record in 2016.

Nicole’s husband joined her in Pennsylvania two months later, but these are the types of tough choices women coaches make all the time.

Nicole credits her progress and achievements with her ability to stay focused and stay confident. A solid support system, particularly her husband and a great staff, has also helped Nicole succeed as both a coach and a mom.

Without many women coaches growing up, Nicole was also one of the only women in her coaching license courses. Despite not having those female coach role models, Nicole says she was lucky to have Simon Toben at Cal State Bakersfield provide an opportunity to coach college soccer early on. Nicole describes him as a strong advocate for coaches and ahead of the times when it comes to gender in sports.

So why do we need more women coaches? For her the question is, “Why not?”

The Alliance’s Impact

Nicole didn’t see the bigger picture of the issues women coaches face until she became involved with the Alliance of Women Coaches and attended a Women Coaches Academy (WCA).

“Stepping away for those 5 days when I was at Stanford was one of the most incredible experiences I had,” said Nicole.

In the WCA classroom, with women coaches at different levels from all over the country, Nicole felt like she was part of a team again. It inspired her to think outside of soccer and her own coaching bubble and think about the larger landscape.

“I think you knew you were always unique, but I didn’t really have all the facts behind it,” Nicole said. “It’s disappointing that the numbers are declining and so I try to be as active as I can. We need to continue to develop women coaches, empower them, and provide them the support that they may need. Especially when it comes down to making decisions about family, your future and things like that, because that can be very hard, particularly on women.”

On top of the WCA, Nicole sees the Alliance of Women Coaches as an organization that can affect all coaches, from a rookie to a seasoned veteran.

“I see the Alliance as the opportunity to empower more women, at whatever point in your career you’re at,” Nicole said. “Maybe you need positive energy to stay in the game. That’s what inspired me the most about the organization; it’s for everyone. It is a support system where some people might not have that.”

If You Can See Her, You Can Be Her

Nicole also believes in the power of “if you can see it, you can be it.” Despite not having many women coaches growing up, she recognizes the amazing women around the country who have paved the way for women like her. Nicole also sees the power in the position she has.

“We continue to do what we’re doing because we know the influence we’re having on these young women,” said Nicole. “It’s not easy but we persevere and we’re resilient. The end result is we get to work with some incredible young women who will do incredible things just having seen that a female can be a positive leader in their life, influence them and challenge them to take risks.”

Balancing Life as Mom and Coach

Balancing life as the mom of an almost two-year-old and being a coach has its challenges (think pumping breast milk at soccer tournaments in between games).

“There isn’t a day I don’t sprint home,” said Nicole. “And there isn’t a day I’m probably not late. Being a working mom, it’s hard not to feel the guilt.”

However, she also recognizes that the two also go hand in hand. “As a coach, it’s helped me,” Nicole said. “You become more patient with the process.” Liz Hanson once gave her some very influential advice, that coaching is the same as parenting: unconditional love.

“The best part is my son is going to see so many strong women every day,” said Nicole. “They love him so much. They are the best role models my son could have. It’s so fun watching him grow up with them. I’m grateful for that. We have an incredible opportunity. We have a lot of hours per week in such an incredible time in their life, where we really can impact them and the choices that they make. And help be a positive influence in their life. We have an incredible opportunity, and an incredible obligation.”