If you ask Joan Seivold, she will tell you she never meant to break records and push limits. That doesn’t mean she’s not competitive. Unexpectedly, she nearly got Blake School back to the Minnesota State High School Tournament for the 3rd year in a row because of her experience, care for players and competitiveness. The thing is, Joan is not the girls’ soccer coach at The Blake School. She’s the boys’ soccer coach and only the 3rd woman to coach a boys’ varsity team in Minnesota.
For 41 years The Blake School had the same boys’ soccer coach, Charlie Seel. He was there before the legendary Buzz Lagos started coaching at St. Paul Academy (SPA). In the process, Seel became one of the most winning high school coaches in the US. He created a dynasty very similar to SPA’s and his record can be found as a .681 at the NSCAA’s high school coaching record.
Seel retired last year after winning the Minnesota State High School Boys 1A Soccer Championship in 2008. His team lost in the final in 2007. He announced his retirement immediately after winning the State Championship.
The athletic director at The Blake School had a big job and a big question. How do you replace a coaching legend like Charlie Seel? The question may have been daunting at first, but after time it became a no-brainer according to Blake Athletic Director Jim Lindsay.
If you read her resume and it was J. Seivold, not Joan, and you substituted Jack, Jerry or Joe, and you saw somebody that had been an All-American at the University of North Carolina and they had won two NCAA Division I Championships, you would ask where did you find this person? She had played at the highest level with the US National Team and had also taken her teams to the State Championships numerous times in North Carolina.
The Blake School Athletic Director Jim Lindsay
“If you read her resume and it was J. Seivold, not Joan, and you substituted Jack, Jerry or Joe, and you saw somebody that had been an All-American at the University of North Carolina and they had won two NCAA Division I Championships, you would ask where did you find this person,” stated Lindsay. “She had played at the highest level with the US National Team and had also taken her teams to the State Championships numerous times in North Carolina.”
Seivold, who is also the assistant athletic director at Blake, said she first struggled over whether to apply for the coaching position because she was the assistant AD. But the more she thought about it the more she realized she would be a good candidate. She explained that she had coached the junior high boys team at Blake and has two boys of her own, both very good athletes in their own right. “Because of my own sons, there was a lot of psychology with the boys that I understand,” said Seivold. “I don’t know anyone who enjoys learning that doesn’t want a new challenge. I finally decided I could bring something to the table that would be of value to the team based on my experiences. So I definitely felt I was qualified, but I also saw it as an intriguing challenge.”
What were those experiences Seivold had to offer? To start, she played 2 years at the University of North Carolina and was an All-American for both of those years under another legendary coach, Anson Dorrance. Her UNC team won the NSCAA D-1 Championships both years she attended.
While at UNC she played next to the April Heinrichs. Heinrichs set scoring records at UNC but Seivold was nipping at her heels the 2 years she attended. Heinrichs was named the Intercollegiate Soccer Association of America National Player of the Year in 1984 for her 23 goals and 13 assists on the season. However, that same season and playing next to Henrichs, Joan Dunlap-Seivold was second on the squad with a total of 21 goals to go along with 13 assists of her own.
Heinrichs went on to play for and coach the US Women’s National team but Seivold played for the very first National Team herself. In fact, Seivold says she has the record for scoring the very first goal ever for the Women’s National team against Canada and it just happened to be in Minnesota. “I read that after I moved to Minnesota and I thought wow, how crazy life is,” said Seivold.
Seivold made her way to Minnesota several years ago. She lived in North Carolina and raised a family there but moved for her husband’s work several years ago. She’s originally a Seattle, Washington native, a hotbed for soccer in the US, which is where she learned the game.
Not only does Seivold hold the record for scoring the first goal for the US Women’s National team, she says she also holds a record that hasn’t been broken to this day, not even by Mia Hamm. “I hold the record for most consecutive goals for the National Team,” said a rather proud Seivold. “That was another thing I discovered just recently. Almost every game I played in for the National Team I scored.”
Lindsay said he wasn’t trying to create a stir, he was just looking for the best person for the job and Seivold was it. “Gender really didn’t play into it. We weren’t trying to go out and break the glass ceiling to hire our next coach. We were looking to find the person in the best position to continue an extraordinarily rich tradition of soccer at Blake, said the athletic director.
Seivold said she didn’t give too much thought to the shoes she would be filling because it would be counterproductive. “One of the strengths that Charlie (Seel) had, he cared about those kids,” stated Seivold. “To me you don’t need the knowledge and experience that I have to be a quality coach. The one critical piece is you have to care about the kids. You’ll never get as much out of anyone if they don’t know you care about them. That also goes into my coaching philosophy which is, they have to care about each other. They will never play as hard for each other if they don’t.”
Seivold took her team to a 12-0-2 season and headed into the 3A sections undefeated and seeded #2 in her section and ranked #5 in the state for boys Class 1A. Her team won their first game 8-0 against Minneapolis North and was heading into the 2nd round of the sections against #7 seeded Holy Angels Stars. However, the Stars had other plans for Blake and defeated them 3-1, ending a fine season that was above everyone’s expectations according to Lindsay.
“Charlie (Seel) had been to the State Tournament 2 consecutive times,” explained Lindsay. “Over that 2-year period we graduated the core of that team that had been together 3 or 4 years. Heading into this season I think everyone thought it would be a rebuilding year and there were a lot of question marks. Joan has done an extraordinary job. She plays a very high tempo game and I’ve had officials after a game say, this is a very technically sound team – they’re very organized and play well positionally. Which to me is a tribute to the coaching.”
Lindsay said even the players and their parents soon realized her abilities. “She has very quickly gained the confidence and respect of most everyone in the Blake soccer community,” said Lindsay. “She’s done an extraordinary job in sustaining what has always been a very strong program. It was beyond everyone’s expectation that the team went undefeated all year until the sectional loss.”
“We weren’t so young,” said Seivold. “But we were young in terms of experience. We only had three players that had started for the team previously and seven that had played varsity, so we were definitely inexperienced. We had baseball pitchers and basketball players come out. We just had a bunch of guys who were athletic and enjoyed hanging out together. I wished I’d been able to get at some of them a few years before because they just needed a little more time to develop as soccer people. But they gave their all! If you get that sort of group together that cares about each other and is willing to work hard you can be in any game.”