Interview with Astrid Baecker￼
From soccer player to head coach: how did she do it?
The University of Regina women’s soccer team made the exciting announcement in January that we have a new head coach, Astrid Baecker. This does not come as a shock, as she was a player for the Cougars in 2001 and eventually became one of the interim co-head coaches during 2021. Baecker was involved with many sports as a child and landed on soccer for her main sport. Eventually, she became a player for the Cougar’s team, and through much experience, dedication, and hard work, became a coach for the team she used to play on. I sat down with Baecker to hear about her inspirations, where she gets her motivation from, and about her general love for the sport.
For Baecker, sports had a special social aspect for her when she was young. “I was a multisport lover my whole life… I loved that I could go out and meet people” she said. Although Baecker loved the social aspect that came with many different sports, she says that soccer is where she felt most at home. She explained to me that her life long friend groups came from those early years of playing soccer.
When asked about her biggest influence and inspiration, I was pleasantly surprised to hear her say that her father takes this role. She explained that when she was a child, sports were not as accessible to women as it is now: “I come from a time where you played with the boys. There were no all-girls teams, and [my dad] basically went around town and got all the girls together and made an all-girls team…that group has been together…since we were between nine and ten years old.” Her dad helped develop teams for women in Regina, and even helped bring the players to play in places like Australia: “he has been a lifelong influence and advocate for…a lot of women players to give them opportunities.”
Since Baecker started as a soccer player for the Cougars, I wanted to know when she decided to switch lanes and become a coach. When asked, she said, “about 10-12 years ago is when I wanted to make coaching a career.” During her time to land this position, she got experience with different kinds of coaching, but needed to decide which age group she wanted to coach. Baecker says, “[finding the path] is the tricky combination of experience plus certification, and I think it is finding that right equation.” She got experience through being a coach at Queen City Soccer. In 2018, she got a full-time coaching role with them. Through her journey, she saw her path become clearer. After becoming a candidate on the Canada Soccer A-license program in 2020, she knew that she wanted to be a head coach, and that she was on the right path to be successful in the position.
I was particularly interested in how Baecker’s perspective has changed as she has grown as an athlete and prepared for this position. She says, “one of the biggest changes is how we view our players, and I think one of the biggest takeaways when you become a coach is that you want to create a player-centered environment, and you want to have individual considerations within a team environment.” As she has spent more time in a leadership position, she views the team less as a whole and more as how players fit into a positional role. Seeing the players as individuals is an important part for her coaching. Baecker explains that the more time she has spent in leadership, the more her views on individual approaches have shifted.
I then asked Baecker how she handles the pressure of the environment that comes with sports. For her, consistency and aligning her words with her vision is crucial to helping keep calm in intense situations: “I really value people’s perspectives, so I really try to incorporate as many perspectives as I can…especially for high stress or high-pressure decisions.” She also emphasizes the importance of keeping calm and having consistency in high-pressure environments: “I try to make sure my athletes know who they are getting…I try to align my vision with who I am, my words, and stay consistent in my approach, and that helps me manage those high-pressure situations.” By having a focus on values and other perspectives, Baecker believes that it aids with staying grounded when in a high stress situation.
When asked about how she keeps her goals, she was very clear. “There is no substitute for hard work,” she said, “there are no special pieces that you can throw together. There is no way around it; you have to do the hard work.” I am sure any athlete, performer, or person who is working on their craft can keep this sentiment in their heart. In modern days, it is common for people to want instant gratification. This is not something you can get in sports: “nothing worth having comes easy,” she says. She also reminds athletes that we need to “trust the process, and be patient.” When looking at goals that are 10 years in the future, it is daunting. Trusting the process is an important part of progressing, as we cannot get instant results for our craft.
Through Baecker’s career from a player at a young age to now being a coach, she has important perspectives to share with us. She shares the importance of having a good support network, especially for women athletes in the field. Baecker also shares the importance of experience and education to reach your goals, especially as an athlete. Through her many years of training and preparation, she has gained perspective on how the team works, and how individual players are. She shares important points on how to maintain perspective in keeping goals, and handling high-pressure situations. The University of Regina is happy to have Baecker as head coach, and we are excited to hear more from her as she grows further in the position.