Coach’s Corner: Louisville’s Karen Ferguson-Dayes

Coach’s Corner: Louisville’s Karen Ferguson-Dayes

(Credit: Louisville Athletics)

Louisville Orthopaedic Clinic is proud to sponsor the weekly “Coach’s Corner”, featuring a high school coach from women’s athletics in the local community. Since 1974 the Louisville Orthopaedic Clinic has served the local area for orthopaedic problems and musculosketal issues. The sports medicine program has team physicians for local high schools which provide sports physicals and urgent care for athletes. Click here for details on SPORTS INJURY URGENT CARE.

This week’s “Coach’s Corner” feature is Karen Ferguson-Dayes. She is the head coach of the University of Louisville’s women’s soccer team. If there is a coach you’d like to read about, email suggestions to ashli@louisvillewomensports.com.

Karen Ferguson-Dayes - Head Coach Headshots Photo by: Michelle Hutchins | Louisville Athletics

(Credit: Michelle Hutchins, Louisville Athletics)

1) What is your history with athletics in your personal life?

I grew up in New York on Long Island with two sisters and we were all involved in sports, especially soccer.  I was lucky to grow up in a town that had many opportunities for young girls to play sports, and, specifically, my youth soccer team was really competitive. My club team won a national championship and many of the players on our team went on to play at very good colleges.  My younger sister and I were very competitive growing up playing soccer. She went on to play soccer at St. Bonaventure University and I played at the University of Connecticut.

 2) How did you obtain your current coaching position?

Before I accepted the job at Louisville, I was the assistant women’s soccer coach at UCONN, my alma mater. We had just come off a very successful year in the Big East Conference and also advanced pretty deep into the NCAA tournament. Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich invited me to interview for the position and I knew once I stepped foot on campus, I wanted Louisville to be my new home.

3) Who do you look up to?

My parents – especially now that I am married and my husband and I have a seven-year old son named Brandon. I see firsthand the sacrifices you make for your children and I have gained a much deeper appreciation for all that they have done for me and continue to do for me.  My father has been deceased for 10 years now but still guides many of the decisions I make today because he has had such a profound impact on me as a person.

4) What are two primary goals you have for your team this season?  

This season we are entering our third year in the Atlantic Coast Conference, regarded as the premier women’s college soccer conference. Our goals this year are to advance to the ACC Tournament and to advance to the NCAA Tournament.  We know that if we accomplish those goals, then we are competing and beating some of the best teams in the country.

5) What is the hardest part of coaching for you?  

The hardest part of coaching women’s college athletes is the motivation factor.  Most of these players grow up their entire lives working very hard to play soccer at the highest level in college.  Once they arrive at a place like Louisville, they can feel as if their goal is attained and they can sometimes get complacent.  Finding new ways to motivate them to do all the small things that lead to being a champion can be difficult.  Our staff tries to instill in them that a commitment to the process of living every day like a champion will lead to the results they yearn for.  At this age, college athletes struggle with what they want right now versus what they want in the long term.

6) What qualities do you hope to instill in your players that they can take with them to their families, careers, and society?

I hope to instill in my players that above all else their character is the most important quality you possess and can absolutely control every day with the choices you make.  You have a choice every morning to choose the attitude you will live with.  If they are respectful, hard working, disciplined, thankful, and selfless as players and leaders in my program, they will grow up to continue to have those values as adults and long after their soccer careers are over.

7) How do you motivate your best athletes to work even harder?

With our premier athletes, we try to instill a work ethic and discipline in them that will help them grow as leaders.  This helps them stay on track in all aspects of their lives while at Louisville because they know a good leader does the right things ALL of the time – not just some of the time.  This type of attention to detail creates great habits in these high-level players and helps them demand more from themselves and their teammates so, in turn, they get better but our entire program also gets better. We provide the same environment for every player in our program; those that are truly champions reach their potential and have great careers because they hold themselves to a very high standard every single day in every aspect of their life.

Karen Ferguson-Dayes - Head Coach, Rade Tanaskovic - Assistant Coach

Ferguson-Dayes, right, with Louisville assistant coach Rade Tanaskovic (Credit: Louisville Athletics)

8) What is one mistake you’ve made in your coaching career, and what did you learn from it?

I have made MANY mistakes in my coaching career and I always try to reflect on the good and bad decisions to help me grow and be a better coach! Many years ago we were winning against a top-10 team on the road and our goalkeeper made a mental mistake that led to our opponents game winning goal.  After the game I regretted saying what I said to her and to this day I am VERY careful about the words I use when my emotions are still running high.

9) How do you handle criticism from parents, athletic director, the media, and others?  

In the coaching profession, everyone has an opinion and I try to remember that coaching is a unique career because we all watch and enjoy sports, so feel as though we have all of the answers. It is very easy for someone at home to watch a football or basketball game and question why a coach or player made a certain decision.  I try to remember that most of the people that criticize me do not fully understand what college coaching is all about. They have not attended one of my training sessions and have not spent any time with myself and my staff.  I know and trust what myself and my staff are doing with our program, and I know what will help us be successful. While I try to learn from any criticism we receive, I also know not to take it personally.

10) What is the greatest philosophy you live by?

Every day the only thing that you are in full control of is your attitude! Choose a positive attitude every day and it will help you see the world as a much more positive place to live in.  I also am a firm believer in showing gratitude every day as well. Every night, before my son goes to bed, we say our prayers and we talk about what we are grateful and thankful for. I think being thankful and appreciative is a very important quality that sometimes we lose sight of because of the hectic lives we all live.

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