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NSCAA Member Lisa Cole Taking on New Challenges as Papua New Guinea U20 Women’s Coach

Posted on Feb 16, 2016 in Membership 0 Comments

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Photo credit: Oceania Football.com

Rarely do great opportunities come in neatly wrapped packages at the exact time you expect them. Sometimes they arrive in your inbox at the very last minute when you aren’t prepared.

That is what happened when the Papua New Guinea’s U20 women’s head coaching position reached longtime NSCAA member, Lisa Cole. “Two friends forwarded me the link, thinking it might be something I would be interested in. The deadline to apply was close and I was traveling without my computer, so I just sent a quick email saying I was interested, a brief bio and I'd follow up with more info if they thought I would be someone they were looking for,” Cole recounted.

A little while later, Cole was in Canada for the FIFA Women’s World Cup and MLS Senior Director of Social Media and current NSCAA President, Amanda Vandervort, made a connection that put Cole on the fast track to filling this position.

“Amanda introduced me to Nicola Demaine (the Oceania Football Confederation’s Women’s Development Officer)  and we were able to meet and talk about the job, the country, and plans. That's when I followed up with a more formal application to the Papua New Guinea FA president.  At that time, conversations started formally with Patrick Jacquemet (FIFA Technical Development Officer, OFC Technical Director). The opportunity was just too unique to pass up.”

Fast forward from mid-summer to November and Cole is packing up her life in the United States and moving halfway across the world to start her new life in Papua New Guinea.

Cole has quite the task on her hands, as Papua New Guinea has been marked to host the 2016 FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup in late 2016. South Africa was originally supposed to host but withdrew during FIFA’s Executive Committee meeting prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

While the task of preparing for and hosting a FIFA tournament within your first year in a new position seems daunting, Cole is looking forward to the challenge. “I'm excited to work with the players, to put a plan in place from now until November that will give us the chance to compete. The expectations seem realistic but we want to play well as hosts,” Cole said.

“I'm also looking forward to putting a plan together that builds on the excitement and resources of hosting, so that the players and programs continue to develop past 2016. One of my assistants, Rachel, is a good coach and with experience could lead the program in the future. Mentoring and being a part of her development is going to be fun as well.”

It won’t be easy. Cole said that proper equipment and resources are an issue, so she and the rest of the staff will need to be creative on how to solve those issues with the support of the government, the Oceania Football Confederation, FIFA and her connections back in the states.

Outside of the job-specific challenges, Cole has to also adjust to a brand new environment and the culture. At the 2016 NSCAA Convention in Baltimore, Cole briefly recapped her then-recent trip to Papua New Guinea, noting the beauty of the country but also the extreme wildlife. As in the cassowary, a flightless bird that grow up to nearly six feet in height.

Culturally, Papua New Guinea has more languages than any other country, with more than 820 indigenous languages but most of those languages have fewer than 1,000 speakers. English is the language of the government and education system, but is not widely spoken. “Communication, as we get more detailed in how we are going to play, will create some challenges.”

Cole has been a member of the NSCAA for 18 years and very active within the Association. She was previously chair of the Women’s Committee (now named the Women’s Membership Group) and currently serves as the Advocacy Council Chair. She is also a member of the NSCAA Coaching Academy, primarily instructing goalkeeping courses. Cole credits her involvement with the NSCAA and the relationships she has fostered with other members for helping her get to this position.

“First, my friendship with Amanda (Vandervort) and then her making a direct connection for me with the OFC last summer helped,” Cole noted. “Then with the Algarve Cup trips over the years and this year’s World Cup trip, I've made connections across the world so that helped. I've been around the international game.”

Recalling her time through her most recent interview process, Cole knows the skills she gained through the NSCAA put her in the position to be ready for this type of opportunity. From organizing people and tasks through her committee work, to educating as an instructor for the NSCAA Coaching Academy, and now creating processes and empowering people through her work with the Advocacy Council. All of it has prepared her for this new adventure.

“I’m still not completely comfortable in all these areas, but the NSCAA has given me opportunities to gain experience, and at times, in areas outside my comfort zone.  It is important that you put yourself around good people, people you can learn from and challenge you.”

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