Denk continues her coaching journey

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Denk took over as the head coach for the girl’s soccer team back in 2020.

Kelly Denk, English and AVID teacher, is finding her way in a new role as the girls head soccer coach. Though the role may be new, soccer has played a part in Denk’s life since she was young. The sport has given her insights into coaching young players and developing their skills.

Denk was the only girl in her grade to make varsity as a freshman at her high school. She recalled how “it really opened [her] eyes to the experience and how important relationships are between teammates. It has made [her] really aware of making sure that those relationships are forming within the players on my own team.”

Though she initially attended University of Wisconsin-Madison, Denk immediately realized she was not ready to let go of her playing days. She attended an open tryout for the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and made the team. There, she met her coach with whom she is still in touch today, and made memories that she reflects on fondly. She earned her teaching degree there and continued on to teach at Homestead, where her story continues.

“Since the moment my playing days ended in college I just loved the game. I love being around it, and so as soon as I got hired at Homestead I asked to be a varsity assistant coach,” Denk said.
Denk explained that she secured her current coaching position when she “expressed an interest in becoming a head coach to our athletic director and principal,” adding that “collaboratively they then made a decision to move me into that role within the girls soccer program.”

As the only female girls soccer head coach in the entire North Shore conference, Denk has important insight into the adversity girls face in sports. “At times it can be an interesting position to be in,” Denk shares. “I think it’s made me reflect on the fact that growing up I too also predominantly had male coaches, so it has opened my eyes to an angle within athletics that I don’t think I was always aware of growing up. Now being in a coaching position and being the only female head coach in the conference, I’ve started to notice that in athletics, there are definitely positions like head coach or even head officials and referees, that are still very male-dominated, even in the girls game.”

Still, Denk does not let her singularity as a female head coach deter her, and that attitude is reflected in her outlook for the season. “Working with this particular group of girls and just watching them compete, watching them enjoy the game, watching them enjoy each other after missing a season: it’s just so exciting. I can’t wait to see the competitiveness and determination that they’re bringing back to Homestead soccer.”

Denk has taken advantage of every opportunity to bring together players to improve and get ready for the season. She feels that her passion for fitness has “always just an element of [her] coaching. For two years now, we’ve been doing indoor winter workouts at 6:15 in the morning; those are just strength and conditioning workouts,” Denk explained. “The WIAA gave our team 15 contact days, so we’ve used some of those morning workouts to also get the balls out to start talking about things like technique and tactics and some of the specific approaches that we’re going to take to our style this year.”

Due to WIAA rules and regulations, Denk could not attend some of the preseason practices, but she appreciates the captains’ role in getting players ready for the season. “They have done a really impressive job of organizing players and putting together some scrimmaging after school,” Denk said.

The new coach’s ultimate goal for the season is for her players to improve. She hopes that from May to June, the growth is significant. “Obviously at times it can be hard to measure improvement quantitatively, but I think that we will be able to sense when we’re moving the ball quickly, when we’re completing passes, and scoring goals. That is a product and an indicator of how well you’re playing,” Denk added, she wants “every single player on the team to feel like not only have they improved as a player, but that they also feel a belonging on the team.”

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