Ewing United soccer coaches built friendship on the soccer field
Kristen Vincent and Lauren Sparano know a thing or two about soccer.
The two have been playing the sport on the same team since they were in the U-8 age division with Ewing United. Now 23 and 22, respectively, Vincent and Sparano are coaching their own U-16 Ewing United team.
Vincent said soccer played a major part in the foundation of their friendship.
“For me, it was a lot of just trust on the field,” she said. “We built that trust on the field, and it just kind of carried its way out into real life. I think without soccer, we probably wouldn’t even know each other.”
Sparano agreed. Because they were both defenders, they constantly worked together on the pitch, whether it was for their Ewing United team or the Ewing High School varsity squad.
Vincent and Sparano said their time with Ewing United was particularly memorable.
“We happened to be very successful in the South Jersey league that we played in,” Vincent said. “We called ourselves ‘the tournament team’ because we’d come out of tournaments with wins upon wins. It was an awesome team to play for.”
Coincidentally, their fathers co-coached their squad.
“Now, we’re carrying that on,” Vincent said. “They love it. They’re excited when they talk to people about it, especially because we’re doing it together. Some of our other teammates are coaching separately, but we’re still together. I think it’s cool.”
Every year, they said, they looked forward to playing in a Memorial Day tournament in Virginia.
“You build relationships down there because you don’t know the area,” Sparano said. “We couldn’t drive yet. You only have your team to depend on. You’re together for days in a row.”
They’re going back for the first time since their playing days when they take their team this year.
“We went when we were probably 16, and they went that year, too,” Sparano siad. “They were probably eight years old. They don’t even remember it. I think we’re more excited than they are. We know what to look forward to because we’ve been there and we had those experiences. We really pushed it.”
“Once they get down there, they’ll be even more excited,” she said. “For us, it’s like a flashback. It’s like going back in time.”
Sometimes, Vincent said, simply watching the girls play reminds her and Sparano of themselves.
“It’s never 100% great,” she said. “Lauren and I had our moments, but we always squashed them about five minutes later. I always knew no matter what happened on the field, no matter how much she hated me at any moment, she always had my back.”
She sees that in her players, who range in age from 14 to 16.
Vincent has been with the team since in was formed eight years ago.
“I was tired of feeling like I was the only coach,” she said. “My dad and I kept trying to get her to join. She always wanted to do it, but it was just a matter of actually getting into it. I always thought that she was somebody who could contribute.”
Sparano’s insight turned out to be just what the squad needed. She said she and Vincent each have different coaching styles that mesh well.
“In a way, we both play good cop bad cop in different scenarios,” Vincent said. “We kind of feed off of one another. If she’s taking on getting them going, and I see someone struggling, I’ll be like the softer one. She likes to joke around and I like to joke around, too, but in different scenarios.”
Sparano and Vincent are close in age to their players. They said it’s an advantage, for the most part.
“It depends on the day,” Sparano said. “It’s tough in general because they’re high school girls. The attitudes flare sometimes. It also makes it fun. They feel as though they can come to us. It’s easier for us to understand them.”
Vincent said their players feel more comfortable in general around them than they might feel around older coaches.
“We’ll get a text asking for a ride to practice or something,” she said. “When we were that age, we didn’t do it unless we had to. We never wanted to call our coaches. It’s just natural with them.”
The two said their jobs are tough sometimes, but they wouldn’t do anything differently.
“It’s a ride,” Vincent said. “Would I change it? Absolutely not. I’m very excited for the couple of years we have left with them. You have your ups and downs. There are other times when you can literally just sit with them and have a conversation and not stop laughing. Game time, they turn it on. They really do. They’re ready. They want to make us happy.”