After a successful playing career at the University of California-Berkeley, Lesle Gallimore became an assistant coach at her alma mater. She spent several seasons coaching at Cal and then San Diego State before she took over at the University of Washington in 1994.
Gallimore is now starting her 21st season as head coach for the women’s soccer team at Washington, where she was twice named NSCAA West Region Coach of the Year in 1994 and 2000. Outside of her successful college career, Gallimore also has experience with several youth national teams, most recently assisting with the U-23 Women’s National Team camps in Seattle in June and July.
Gallimore is well-regarded throughout the Pacific Northwest and the country for her dedication to the sport and more specifically the success of female athletes and coaches. She is known for her social media presence to promote soccer and as a commentator for Seattle Reign FC of the National Women’s Soccer League. Gallimore started as a National Instructor for U.S. Soccer in 2011 and is highly respected in the coaching community as a leader for female coaches everywhere.
After a successful playing career, you transitioned to coaching in the late 1980s. How did you first get involved in coaching, and was that a difficult
transition from playing to coaching?
Lesle Gallimore: “I coached summer camps through high school and college, and then became an assistant coach right out of school at my alma mater, University of California-Berkeley. It was a great opportunity for me to be at a place I loved while starting my coaching career and continuing to play at the highest level I could. I was an assistant for four seasons at Cal under three different head coaches. These circumstances gave me a lot of hands-on experience running a college program in a short period of time.
“I transitioned from playing to coaching very gradually. I was extremely fortunate to play at a decent level into my 30s and even early-40s. I learned a lot along the way about the difference between being a teammate and being a coach and how to separate the two. It wasn’t easy, but each year I learned more and more about what that meant.”
As head coach for a Division I college team, what do you focus on in selecting and developing your coaching and support staff?
LG: “I have tried to put people around me that are loyal, competent and bring a specific skill set that compliments what I try to do as a head coach. These skills could be their coaching ability on the field, their leadership style or their coaching experience. It is great to have coaches and people that give the team the best chance of being successful. In my opinion, different voices and styles can benefit players as long as they are complimentary to the head coach’s philosophy and vision.
“My associate head coach, and also a U.S. Soccer national instructor and youth national team coach, Amy Griffin, has been at the University of Washington for 19 of my 21 years. She and I have tried to add coaches to our staff that are eager to learn and eager to grow into bigger and better roles in their own programs. We feel like we have been successful and effective mentors in that way.”
During your time at UW, you won Pac-10 Coach of the Year in 2000, made it to the NCAA tournament 12 times – twice advancing to the quarterfinals, and
have become the winningest coach in program history. What do these honors and achievements mean to you?
LG: “At the end of the day, the accomplishments, honors and achievements are flattering; they are a small sign that I’ve been an effective coach at the University of Washington. For me, though, intercollegiate athletics have a lot more to do with what you’re doing right now. Keeping on top of cutting edge techniques in my sport, making sure I am able to change and adapt to the needs of today’s athlete and all the while staying true to my philosophy and who I am is most important to me. The things that will always stay with me when it is all said and done will be the relationships I’ve made, the positive effect I’ve had on players and who they have become well after their playing careers.”
During your time at Washington, you coached two players who went on to play for the U.S. WNT (Hope Solo and Tina Ellertson-Frimpong) and four players
who now play in the NWSL. How does it feel to see your former players succeed at the highest level?
LG: “I am nothing but proud of all of our players who continue to play at a high level after college. It is not easy to be a professional or National Team player; it is even more difficult to be female and to achieve these goals. For all of them, I am so proud to have played even a small part in their successes.”
You are very active on Twitter (@CoachGallimore). How important is it for coaches in the modern era
to utilize social media to their advantage?
LG: “I catch quite a bit of grief for my active ‘Twittering;’ however, I think it’s important for a few different reasons. I try to use it as a way to promote our program at UW and connect and inform potential recruits and fans of our team. I use it to promote our overall athletic program, teams, athletes and coaches at UW. I use it to grow the game overall, specifically to promote and encourage female coaches and athletes to excel. I try to support U.S. Soccer, the EPL, Seattle Sounders FC and MLS, Seattle Reign FC and the NWSL and any other soccer handles that I feel help grow the game. Most importantly, I try to stay positive and keep a good message. Sometimes I can get a little tongue-in-cheek, but overall I think people that follow me enjoy my messages. If not, I hope they unfollow me.”
In addition to your position at Washington, you’ve also done some broadcasting work as the analyst for Seattle Reign FC of the NWSL. How did you get
involved in that? Is that something you see yourself doing more of in the future?
LG: “I was asked early on by Seattle Reign FC if I would like to do it. It’s pro bono work and I thought that since I know most of the players in the league and can speak personally about them to add ‘color’ to the commentary that it would be fun. My play-by-play partner, Tom Glasgow, really makes it work. He’s the best professional in the league doing games and he makes it easy for me to play off him. I’ll do commentary whenever anyone asks; I think it’s another way to educate and grow the game that I love.”
In 2012 you traveled to Morocco with the Empowering Women and Girls through Sports Initiative program on behalf of the US State Department. Can you
tell us about that experience?
LG: “That was one of the top five soccer experiences of my life. It was great working with former U.S. WNT players Marian (Dalmy) Dougherty and Angela Hucles and being able to get to know them better. Additionally, it was truly an empowering experience not only for the candidates who attended, but also for me, and I’m sure for Angela and Marian.
“The program was designed to get women players who are at the end of their playing careers to stay involved with the game through coaching. The young Moroccan girls don’t have many female coaches as role models. Working with adult women and young girls on the field through coaching education was truly one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. I can’t wait to go on another Envoy trip.”
You spent time in camp recently with the U-23 WNT. What did you learn from that event?
LG: “I was honored to be asked to work with the U-23 WNT in its June and July camps this year. I was able to work alongside three coaches that I have the utmost respect for in Amy Griffin, Janet Rayfield and Steve Swanson. Amy has been involved with U.S. Youth National Teams for quite some time now; she was a part of the U-20 World Cup Championship in 2012. I had so much firsthand knowledge via Amy about the process they went through with that cycle of players that is was fun for me to be there with them during these two camps. Their efficiency and communication with the players is first rate. Amy, Janet and Steve, along with April Heinrichs, demonstrate a true commitment to professionalism. They all showed me ways that other coaches put their teams in a position to succeed, develop, and enjoy the game in a high level environment. It was an invaluable experience for me and one for which I am extremely grateful.”
You have been very involved in women’s soccer at all levels in this country. How do you think women’s soccer has evolved in the last decade and where
do you think it is headed?
LG: “It has grown in so many ways that it’s difficult for me to do it justice without writing an entirely different article. U.S women’s soccer set the bar for the rest of the world and the world took note. It is apparent that it’s no longer a foregone conclusion that the U.S. women will be the best in the world at every major event. This part is the most exciting for me to watch and be a part of. How can we evaluate and develop in order to put U.S. women’s soccer at the top of the podium on a more regular basis?
“The youth soccer explosion has been unbelievable in this country. With that said, and it’s probably true of all youth sports in America, the value placed on winning at all costs at the younger ages has somewhat thwarted our technical and tactical development. This is why I love being involved in coaching education, particularly with a great leader like Dave Chesler. We need to spread the word to coaches across America that there are ‘Best Practices’ for youth development and that there are fundamentals steps that need to be taken early in a player’s life that far outweigh how many tournaments they win.”
How did you first get involved with instructing U.S. Soccer coaching courses?
LG: “Dave Chesler brought me on to the full U.S. Soccer staff a few years back. It has been a remarkable experience for me to be around not only the staff, which is made up of truly elite coaching educators, but also the candidates that I instruct and teach. We really learn a lot about ourselves as soccer educators and people from each individual course.”
Can you provide your thoughts on coaching education and the development of coaches in the U.S.?
LG: “I think the people that know Dave Chesler understand what a tireless worker he is and know that what he has been doing to revamp the education programs within U.S. Soccer is truly remarkable. He has been systematic, thorough and steady in his approach. He has traveled the world seeking out information on coaching education around the globe. The point that I agree on the most with Dave Chesler is that when it comes to coaching education, getting the licenses in a hurry is not what is best for coaches. Coaching education is a process of learning, testing, and most importantly, practicing the craft. This is the direction that the coaching schools are going in and, I believe, should go in. It’s more work for everyone, but it’s smarter and more beneficial in developing top-notch coaches for every level of the game in the U.S.”
What advice do you have for those who are looking to make a career in coaching?
LG: “My advice is to never stop learning about the game and new ways to teach it. Always put the players first. Surround yourself by great people and make sure that you stay true to who you are. Even when things don’t go your way, have integrity and be honest. Lastly: coach for the right reasons.”