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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Keren Gudeman: the coach becomes the player

<en Gudeman, the Carleton’s women’s head soccer coach, left Northfield last week and headed west to San Francisco to play in the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL), one of the two main women’s leagues in the United States at the moment. Her team, the San Francisco Nighthawks, is composed of current Division I college players and high-level players who have trickled down into the league after the folding of the professional league a few years ago (she played against Brandi Chastain during tryouts). Gudeman, an active soccer player for years, is the oldest woman on the team. League play begins on May 24 and lasts through the summer before Gudeman returns to coach her Knights.

“I am very excited by this opportunity for many reasons. I better appreciate my athleticism and opportunities to play competitively now that I have coached so many teams and players and am getting older; I feel incredibly lucky,” Gudeman answered when asked what she was looking forward to most. “I find that I learn so much about my coaching by staying active as a player—I am humbled by being asked to do what I ask my players to do.”

Keren Gudeman was named Carleton’s head coach in the spring of 2006. Since the moment she arrived in the fall she turned the women’s soccer program around. She led a team with a record of 3-1-11 in 2005 to the MIAC championships in 2006, the most successful season in Carleton history. That season Gudeman was named MIAC Coach of the Year for her efforts and successes with the Knights.

In the midst of varsity play, coach Gudeman also started up a JV program at Carleton that has grown over the past two years. Last season she led the Knights to a 13-5 finish but the season ended unexpectedly with a loss to crosstown rival St. Olaf.

She recruits at a high level during the offseason, helps coach the women’s track team in the spring, and teaches P.E. courses throughout the entire year—keeping very involved with the students and within the school. Overall, Keren Gudeman has been not only a great addition to the women’s soccer team but also to the Carleton community.

Gudeman’s achievements do not begin or end with Carleton or soccer. She graduated from Harvard in 1998 with a Bachelor’s Degree in anthropology. While attending Harvard, Gudeman played varsity soccer and lacrosse. She helped lead her soccer team to Ivy League titles in 1995, 1996 and 1997 and they advanced to the NCAA Championship quarterfinals in 1997, the Crimson’s best national tournament finish in 15 seasons. Gudeman received two All-Ivy League second team awards and she was also an all-region third team selection. She made the varsity lacrosse team as a freshman after never having played the game and earned All-Ivy first team honors and first team regional All-American recognition in 1998.

Immediately after graduation from Harvard, Gudeman volunteered for AmeriCorps VISTA in Montana for 5 months and then went back to Harvard when she heard that an assistant women’s lacrosse coaching position had opened up. There she discovered that she truly loved soccer best but was not sure if she wanted to pursue a career in coaching: “I found it incredibly exhausting and I wasn’t quite sure what it all meant to me or was about,” she said.

Instead, she decided to pursue a Master’s degree at the University of Chicago where she completed a program in social sciences. At that point, she was still drawn to athletics, “I found that there was a big part of me that felt more like myself outside on a patch of grass than I did sitting around a table in a classroom.” But Gudeman was not ready to give up on academics just yet. She realized she could combine both academics and athletics so she took a job as a teacher and a coach at secondary school in the Chicagoland area. Teaching and coaching seemed to agree with Gudeman.

After being away from her home, the Twin Cities, Gudeman moved back and took a teaching and coaching position at the Saint Paul Academy, which happens to be her alma mater. She taught middle school English and coached girls’ varsity soccer and varsity track. Carleton snatched her up as soon as the coaching position opened and she continues to do great things with the program.

Keren Gudeman never thought of herself and still does not think of herself as an athletics coach. Instead, she thinks of herself as “a mentor who happens to like soccer, track and other active endeavors a whole lot.” When asked what the most satisfying part of her career is, Gudeman replied, “Being a part of a team and the raw physical experience of competition has provided me with lifelong relationships, indelible shared experiences and pathways to being purely in the moment. And I am always learning and being challenged to consider what it means to be a good person in this world.” The Carleton women’s soccer team and presumably the entire Carleton community most definitely agrees that Keren Gudeman is a good person in this world, to say the least.

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