In the high school diocesan sports ranks, women typically coach girls’ teams, while men can be seen coaching both girls’ and boys’ teams. Rarely though does a woman coach a boys’ team — especially at an all-boys school.
Yet at Cathedral Prep and Seminary, Elmhurst, one coach is blazing a trail for all female coaches.
Yaliz Campos is the new head varsity soccer coach at Cathedral Prep. Her appointment prior to this season marked the first time in school history that the boys’ soccer team had a woman coach.
Despite this unique opportunity, Campos said she hasn’t thought much about the historic nature of her position. She’s solely focused on soccer and providing a memorable experience for her student-athletes.
“I didn’t see it as much of a difference,” Campos said. “I’m just the next coach to coach these boys. I hope that being the first, we can see many more not just at Cathedral Prep but in all of the CHSAA and PSAL.
“You’re a coach. It doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man. If you believe that you can do it, then you can.”
Campos’ passion for soccer began while growing up in Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish, Sunset Park. She starred as a four-year defender on the soccer team at High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology, Bay Ridge, where she helped guide the team to the 2012 Public Schools Athletic League championship as a sophomore. She then played one year of soccer at Brooklyn College, Midwood. In her only season, the team won the 2014 CUNY championship.
In addition to coaching the Crusaders, Campos works as a community program organizer for the nonprofit Asphalt Green in which she coordinates free community soccer and after-school programs for low-income families throughout the city.
“Back in high school, we used to say that soccer is life,” she said. “And now it really is. It’s 24/7.”
Campos, a member of the diocesan Jornada Movement, found out about Cathedral Prep’s coaching vacancy through a fellow Jornadista. She also knew the school’s Rector-President Father James Kuroly through the movement, so she had a familiarity with Cathedral Prep and knew it was an all-boys school, which certainly did not stop her from applying.
“The boys are amazing,” Campos said. “They’re super respectful, very disciplined, and fun to work with. It reminds me of when I was in high school playing…seeing their passion and being a family on and off the field.”
Campos brings a unique coaching style to the Crusaders’ sideline. She incorporates recreational games that both improve her players’ conditioning while also creating an important competitive spirit. The student-athletes have already taken well to this new approach.
“They’re Crusaders, so I tell them they need to charge into the field like a Crusader,” she said. “They saw that I was different, and they’ve embraced it.”
Man or woman aside, Campos’ soccer acumen speaks for itself. Not only has she played competitive soccer at both the high school and college levels, but she also won championships at each stage. Even just the experience of balancing high school academics with playing a sport goes a long way in guiding her student-athletes.
The Crusaders have been knocking on the door of a championship for the past few seasons. Campos said the team has been communicating and moving the ball well this season while thriving under pressure. She brings lots of energy to the sidelines and makes sure to keep her players’ spirits up no matter the game situation.
Someday, a woman coaching a boys’ sports team won’t even be news. All future female coaches of boys’ teams will have Campos and other pioneers to thank for paving the way to live out their coaching passion.
Campos said she is grateful for the opportunity and especially thankful for the support from Cathedral Prep’s administration. Her hope for the season is to make the Cathedral Prep community feel proud of its soccer team.
Win, lose or draw, she’s already made everyone proud, simply by defying societal norms and passing along her passion for soccer to her players.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at email@example.com.