March 9, 2009
Newly minted assistant coach and UCLA alum Louise Lieberman is almost hoarse from a hectic schedule of youth soccer coaching over the last eight months. She hasn't even gotten a chance to set up her new office, but made time to talk to Christelle Nahas about being back with the Bruins, her passion for coaching, and her love of Los Angeles.
How does it feel to be back on campus?
Wonderful. I feel like it fits. It feels great, I'm so excited.
Have you watched a lot of games on campus since graduating?
I have -- a lot this last season. I was able to also bring some Rampage teams to come watch, which was great for them.
What have you done with the team so far?
We've trained for a couple weeks now. It was so much fun to be on the field again. The North Athletic Field was my home field, so when we're out there training all these memories come back - happy, happy memories of being on campus. UCLA was an incredible time for me. I was a player then, but now I'm here as a coach and it feels great.
What's the team working on now?
A lot of technical work and a lot of playing. A lot of time with the ball.
You didn't know you'd be working under Jillian Ellis in 1998. You had planned on being Todd Saldaña's undergraduate assistant coach, but that fall he took over the men's program, and Jillian Ellis came in to head the women's program.
It was an incredible experience. It was great to build that relationship with her. Jill came in my fifth year, when I was still studying at UCLA but I was done playing. So I knew her during her whole first year here, which was great for us. We've maintained that friendship for the last 10 years. I've always felt so connected to this school - from the time I started here and ever since I left - so coming here sounded right. Like I said, it just fit.
You were the head coach for the Beverly Hills High School boys' varsity team when you were still a junior here at UCLA.
Yeah. I had these boys who were 16, 17 years old, all taller than me, looking down on me and listening to me. It was great, they completely respected me and did what I said. I believe that if you treat people with respect and are trying to teach them the correct things, they respect you in return. Being a woman coaching a boys' varsity team was challenging, but I loved it.
You also played professionally with the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) in its inaugural season back in 2001.
I only played for a year. I considered trying out somewhere else, but just decided it was time for me to move on and start coaching. But it was an excellent experience for me.
You played with Mia Hamm, Michelle French...
Siri Mullinix, Jen Grub, Amanda Cromwell... it was awesome. Skylar Little played with me here [at UCLA], she was also on the team. Tracey Milburn was with us, we all lived together. It was one of the best times of my life, it was great.
When did you join the LA Rampage Futbol Club?
In 2004. I was offered the Director of Women's Coaching position. The main director ended up leaving a year later, and I got the Director of Coaching position.
You were 28 years old at the time. How did you rise up the ranks so quickly?
I think my personality was something that the president wanted for the person in charge. Since I'd been playing soccer in LA my whole life, I knew so many people. Which is so funny, to look across the field and see coaches that have coached me when I was a kid. So my connections in Los Angeles helped me elevate my position. I had all these good relationships with so many coaches. I could bring in certain people and build the environment that the president was looking for. He went to the board, they evaluated it, and that was it.
And you did it for four years.
Yes. Women's Coaching for one and Director of Coaching for three.
How was it?
It was great. The rewards that I got from coaching kids were phenomenal. To be able to kind of mold and teach a player. It meant so much to me that I could help them in their journey to maybe become a Division I player one day. That gave me a lot of happiness. So coaching youth players was great. But also I liked dealing with parents. I'm a people person. I think communication is the key to everything, and I like to help people understand things.
How was it supervising such a large team of coaches at such a young age?
Luckily, I've had a lot of experience in what I do. I'm young, but I got my first coaching license when I was 20 years old. I've wanted to do this my whole life and I've done, in some cases, more than people who were older than me because I started early.
How do you, as a former student-athlete, keep up your athleticism?
It's funny because right after I finished playing I ran the LA Marathon. I needed something that would challenge me. It was wonderful and I want to do it again. I want to do a couple triathlons. I run every day. I try to maintain some sort of athletic experience every day, no matter what it is.
All of your jobs have been in the LA area. Would you consider leaving?
I was an assistant coach at Cal Poly Pomona, doesn't that count?
That's not far enough.
Well, I played and lived in D.C. for a year. Would I consider it again? Yes. Do I want to? I would rather stay in Los Angeles. My whole family's here, born and raised. I love LA.