Carrie Taylor has taken everything she learned in Flint and the Midwest with her as begins her time as an assistant coach with SD Loyal SC.
“Flint’s own, Flintstone.” The words of hometown pride from Flint rapper Jon Connor also ring true for SD Loyal SC assistant coach Carrie Taylor. Despite being across the country coaching for San Diego’s USL Championship expansion side, Taylor is still proudly wearing her Flint, Michigan roots on the West Coast.
To fully appreciate Taylor’s journey to becoming a groundbreaking female coach in the second division of US men’s soccer, it’s important to go back to her childhood in Vehicle City. She got her start playing sports, coaching, and refereeing at the Greater Flint Olympian and CANUSA Games. “Back when I grew up, you played summer sports (baseball, soccer, basketball, golf, hockey, and others) for your school, whether that was elementary, middle school, or high school,” Taylor explained. “At the end of the summer season, they would pick an all-star team. One year, that all-star team would go to Canada and stay with Canadian families. Then the next year, the Canadian team would come to Flint. It was this international competition with Hamilton, Ontario which is a four-hour bus drive away.”
“I grew up playing in that and that’s when I fell in love with soccer. I started coaching an under-10 co-ed team when I was 15 in that summer program.”
She talked about the overall impact that it has on her hometown. “There’s a lot of good athletes that come out of Flint and it’s because of those summer sports programs. They were very influential and a good way to keep kids out of trouble,” she said.
The program is still going, but it has downsized as the population in Flint decreased and the school district stopped funding it. Now, she said, it’s run by some die-hards, who must fundraise, that have been around since she was participating. Taylor has not forgotten about the impact it had on her life and soccer journey.
“Four or five years ago, they asked me to be a speaker at the opening ceremony for that program. And I was like, who me? I went back and was the speaker and over the next few years, I did free soccer clinics in Flint,” Carrie said. “But, I was thinking that I wasn’t sure I could get back every summer. I wanted to make sure there would always be a piece of me in Flint. I’m single with no children and I was thinking about what I could do to leave a legacy. That sounds cliche and cheesy, but in my heart, it’s true.”
After winning the Marie Manley scholarship herself as a teenager, she decided her legacy can be the Carrie Taylor scholarship. “I don’t want to be conceited, but it’s something I want to put in my name,” she said. It will be awarded to a graduating high school female senior that has played any sport in the Flint Olympian CANUSA Games for at least two years of their high school career. The scholarship winner will also have to carry a 3.0 GPA and participate in community service. Carrie is working on fundraising to a total of $50,000 and make it a renewable scholarship. (You can donate to the scholarship fund HERE.)
Despite soccer not being a varsity sport at the University of Michigan, she decided to become a Wolverine after her CANUSA Games career and graduation from the now-closed Flint Central High School. She said that after going to the University of Michigan football games with her dad growing up, she knew she would go to Michigan if she got good enough grades. “No offense to Michigan State because I always root for them when they’re not playing UM,” she added. “As a junior or senior, I was wondering if I wanted to play soccer or if I was good enough. I researched about their club team. I was always focused on academics and was ready to give up my dream of playing, but the club experience ended up being so amazing. It was so organized and I still keep in touch with a lot of the women I played with on the club team. We did a ski trip in January. They’re talking about coming to an SD Loyal game at some point.”
She recalled, “We fundraised our own money, hired our own coach, scheduled our own practices. We played like 30 games a season because we could control our own schedule against other club teams.” They played club teams from schools like Penn State and Illinois and went to the club championships in two of the four years while always pushing for women’s soccer to become a varsity sport. “They announced in January of 1994 that it would be going varsity. A couple of the women from the club team tried out and I was like I am making this team. I delayed my graduation and cut down on my credits so I could graduate in December and participate on that first varsity team. There’s something special about being the first to do something,” Taylor said.
After leaving UM, she would go on to spend more time in the Midwest in some other soccer roles including coaching men’s and women’s soccer at Mount St. Joseph, assistant coaching at Xavier University, and teaching/coaching in high school. She discussed those roles in an excellent interview on the Finest City Football Podcast with my friend Dike Anyiwo. “Now that I’ve lived in other places, there’s nothing like the Midwestern work ethic and mentality. It’s hard to explain unless you’re from there or lived there,” she said. “There’s something special about learning to endure and grind through the seasons and the socio-economical struggle in Flint.”
“I love Michigan and the Midwest. My heart is there, but I definitely wanted to get some better weather.”
It wasn’t only the weather that led her to the SD Loyal coaching staff, but it was also the drive that she learned growing up in the Midwest. “I’ve always been one to take risks. One of my favorite quotes is this Sheryl Sandberg quote: ‘If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on.’ That’s how I feel about my past experiences coaching,” she said. “Always being open to a new experience and just going for it. The road of coaches is tough. I could have stayed at Mount St. Joseph and I really believe that,” she said as she reflected on a handwritten congratulatory note she recently received from the school president. “I could’ve been content there, but my personality is always to take that risk. It might be challenging and maybe nobody’s done it before, let’s do it. Let’s see what we can do. We tried to get MLS here the past few years and Landon was committed to bringing professional soccer to San Diego. When this opportunity came around, he asked if I was ready and I said let’s get on that rocket ship.”
While it’s largely her work ethic that reflects her hometown, she also keeps Flint alive across the country with one of the city’s most famous songs, the late MC Breed’s “Ain’t No Future In Yo’ Frontin”, on her playlist. She said that classic hit from Breed and the DFC may need to be on her pre-match playlist this season to motivate her to motivate the squad. With her success at every level and scholarship project, there’s definitely a bright future for Flint native Carrie Taylor.