One practice at a time: Paige Pohopin takes over a giant girls soccer program


courtesy of Tom Ferguson

Paige Pohopin in full focus during the first home game of the season.

by Sammie Hoefs, Managing Editor

#3 turned in her Lancer soccer jersey in 2012. Now she watches from the sidelines, encouraging the next generation of women soccer players. Life has come full circle.

Paige Pohopin is ready to use her past experience to encourage and impact young girls as she stepped up to become the varsity head coach a week before the season started.

Pohopin graduated from a winning soccer team in 2012 and decided to stay close to home. She then graduated from Mount St. Mary’s in 2016. She could not stay away from the program so, she reached out to her former coach, Howard Putterman, who told her about the opening for junior varsity coach. After coaching JV for a few seasons, she interviewed for the head coach position, replacing Howard Putterman and Mark Lastova. 

“Paige always gave 100%. I never had to worry about her effort or her ability to do what we asked of her. When she came to me after college wanting to help out with coaching, it was one of the easiest decisions of my career. I knew that as a coach she would be a wonderful role model for the girls and will always represent Linganore soccer in her best light,” said Putterman.

She was most nervous about was being a young female coach following head coach, Howard Puttermern who clearly had age as well as more experience. He had a huge reputation for guiding the Lancers to a State Championship title.

Mark Lastova, new assistant coach, also has years of high school and club experience. She had to put that fear behind her and use their knowledge to her advantage. With steady input form Lastova, Pohopin can shape the future of girls soccer. 

“It is nice to see a Linagnore alum come back to help the program she was once a part of. It’s helpful that the girls have someone they can relate to a little more, as well as someone they can go to for guidance,” said Lastova.

Solidly into the season, Pohopin’s work with both JV and varsity makes it easier to connect and relate to the older girls. She also feels the practices are more tactical and the maturity level is much higher. She believes she can teach these athletes to grow on and off the field.

She knows that every athlete is individually different and all respond to different coaching methods. She can gain their trust and better understand what each athlete needs in order to grow. 

After a tough few loses early in the season, Pohopin responded appropriately. Improvement takes time. She did not use anger to motivate the girls after a loss, but encouragement to help the girls grow. She creates practice plans that can help improve what the team needs to work on, rather than yelling about what went wrong. 

“She does not get mad, but instead pushes us to want to get better after a loss. She is always proud of how we continue to fight and continues to push us at every practice,” said senior captain, Taylor Ferguson.

Due to an ACL injury that sidelined her college career, she now uses her knowledge to help young girls not take what they love for granted. Going into college, Pohopin was told she could never play contact sports again. She was absolutely devastated, so she clung to lifting. After two years of hard work and dedication, she hoped to be cleared for college soccer. She was a “stubborn teen” and found a doctor who cleared her for college soccer. 

Pohopin called the Mount St. Mary’s head coach and he gave her a shot. During the winter season, she proved she belonged there by beating the entire team in fitness tests. 

During the first scrimmage, Pohopin took one step into defending another player and suddenly felt a pop radiating through her body. 

“Your knee is completely torn and you are going to need surgery,” the doctor said, and Pohopin knew her second chance had ended.

“I chose to be a coach because it was the next best thing to playing, there is no greater excitement than the passion you have for the game being transferred to your athletes,” said Pohopin. 

The advice she can give these girls is to never take the sport you love for granted. If something gets in the way, like an injury, don’t ever give up. Lose the mentality that you’ll get hurt again: you cannot be scared.

Pohopin hopes that she gains respect from the girls to lead them in the right direction. She wants to set an example by being honest and true, so the girls will want to follow in her footsteps. 

Pohopin wants to see success.  She said, “My safe answer is a winning season. My real answer is making it to the state championship. I believe in these girls more than any coach can say. I’ve watched every single one of these girls both struggle and succeed over the years and with it only being early on in the season, they are getting better each game.” 

The one thing she wants these girls to take from their high school experience is not the wins and losses, but all the memories they make. High school soccer teaches you discipline, perseverance and teamwork. All qualities that will help them in the long run and make them look back and be proud of their time in the Linganore Girls Soccer Program.

“My absolute favorite thing about coaching is watching them grow over the years as student athletes. But not only that, they make coaching worthwhile. Being around a group of girls that love the game as much as I do, if not more, is what makes me love what I do,” said Pohopin.