By Kylie Blanchard
Soccer has been a part of Sarah Cook’s life since her early elementary school days. From her start playing in the Bismarck Soccer League to her current position as head women’s soccer coach at the University of Mary, she has found success on the pitch.
When the opportunity arose to take the coaching helm at her alma mater in 2012, it was a move she felt was right.
“I put a lot of thought into it. It was a professional move I wanted to make,” she says. “The school was the right fit for me, so I went for it.”
Sarah was a member of the 2001 Century High School girls state champion soccer team, and the following year she began playing at the University of Mary. She was team captain from 2002 to 2004 and earned All-American honors in three of those years. Sarah and the University of Mary squad also competed in the NAIA national tournament in 2002, 2003, and 2004, and she was named 2003 Region II player of the year.
She began coaching junior varsity soccer at Century High School and club soccer while in college. In 2007, she became head girls soccer coach at Century High School, leading the team to state titles in 2007 and 2011. She also served as assistant women’s soccer coach at the University of Mary from 2009 to 2011 before becoming head coach. In 2016, Sarah was inducted into the University of Mary Athletics Hall of Fame. She says many influenced her to pursue a career in coaching.
“My former high school and college coach, Brock Thompson, pushed me onto the path of coaching education and got me into coaching with him. Levi Evans, the former head coach at University of Mary, was an assistant coach at both my high school and college, and Dave Ripley, basically the founder of soccer in Bismarck, has been a great mentor. They all helped to push me in this direction,” Sarah says, adding Jill Ellis, head coach of the US Women’s National Team, has also been an inspiration
Life as a College Coach
While the official season for women’s college soccer runs August through November, Sarah remains busy year-round. She begins recruiting in December. January through February is the “off-season,” but the team continues to meet for conditioning and skill sessions. March and April mark the spring season, with the team training regularly. Sarah says the summer is the best recruiting time frame, so she is often traveling, while planning for the upcoming season.
“I enjoy the competition, I enjoy mentoring young women, and I enjoy recruiting and getting to travel the world to compete, recruit, and meet families.”
Making an Impact
Sarah says mentoring young women through college is one of the greatest rewards of her career.
“The most rewarding is seeing players graduate and move on in their next path strong, confident young women who go after their dreams.”
She notes the school’s women’s soccer community has become a family to her and the players.
“I love hearing from former players and seeing them come back and share their love for the program and also their experiences. We are one big family, and the family doesn’t stop after you finish your playing eligibility.”
Inspired to still learn more about the game, Sarah says she continues to focus on her education as a coach.
“The game has evolved so much, and I have to as a coach, just as I expect my players to,” she notes. “My advice is to get involved as much as you can. Help promote and grow the game. Get educated through soccer coaching courses.”
Sarah holds a United States Soccer Federation (USSF) “A” license, the highest license in the USA, as well as the USSF goalkeeping license and USSF National youth license. She currently also serves as a head coach in the Region II Olympic Development Program (ODP) and coaches State ODP and club soccer.
“I love coaching, and love what I’m doing. I’m focusing on soaking up as many opportunities as I can in coaching at the highest level I can.”
Sarah is married to University of Mary men’s soccer head coach, Dave Cook, and together they have a one-year-old daughter.
“My husband has been very supportive of my coaching and continuing in this career,” Sarah says. “Regardless of what I do in life, I know I want to always be surrounded by the game. I want to teach my daughter, along with my players, that you go for what you want and desire. Although it may be hard, you always fight for what you want.”
Kylie Blanchard is a local writer and busy mom of three, including a new, very cute baby boy. She played soccer back in the day, too, and was a member of the Hughes Junior High Huskies 9th grade city championship team with Coach Cook.