FROM PLAYER TO COACH: MICHELE KRZISNIK’S JOURNEY THROUGH THE MICHIGAN HAWKS PROGRAM

When the Michigan Hawks were looking for a new Director of Coaching in 2019, it was an easy choice for them to look internally and select someone who had been a huge part of their sustained success over the years.

Michele Krzisnik literally grew up in the Michigan Hawks program. Before going on to be the captain at the University of Michigan, Krzisnik began her youth playing career with the Hawks. When her playing days ended, Krzisnik rejoined the Hawks as a coach and has helped the club to a great deal of success over the years, including being ECNL National Finalists in 2014 and going to the ECNL Final Four in 2017.

“They brought me back into the club that I grew up in, right after I graduated, and I just started coaching and from there it kind of grew,” Krzisnik said.

Krzisnik is one of the few female Directors of Coaching around the country, but even though she came up in a system where she was around a lot of male coaches, she always knew coaching was an opportunity for her because of the female coaches she had growing up.

“I had a female high school coach, as well as a female club coach, and I also had a female college coach for a period of time,” Krzisnik said. Reflecting on the value of these role models, Krzisnik continued, “I watched them do what they did, and it allowed me to grow an interest in possibly doing it too.”

As she moved from player to coach, the support she had from those around her is what continued to help her grow into the coach she is now. Two of her peers and companions over many of the years, and to this day still, are fellow Hawks coaches Doug Landefeld and Adil Salmoni.

“Two of the people I’m around the most are Doug Landefeld and Adil Salmoni. Those two have been with me throughout my career, always pushing for me to do more. “I’ve always felt like they had great belief in my ability as a coach,” Krzisnik said. 

Coaching youth soccer is a unique profession, with exceptional demands on your time at night and on weekends, something Krzisnik knows well. “Coaching is a lot of time away from home, it’s a lot of time to put into something. So, you really have to love it, and I think they [Landefeld and Salmoni] were always the ones that made me realize what I was giving to other people and how important it was, and that I could do it and I was good enough to do it at a good level. I think it’s important to have those kinds of people around you that push you and make you realize what’s important.”

Surrounding yourself with good people who can also challenge you is one of the things Krzisnik believes anyone who wants to become a coach or grow as a coach needs to focus on.

“I think you do have to be in situations where you are not always super comfortable, where you are willing to be challenged … I think that’s where you find a lot of growth,” Krzisnik said. “Get yourself around a lot of good people who challenge you and make you a better person, but who are also knowledgeable in their craft.”

While she has grown so much as a coach over the years, for Krzisnik, her journey through the Hawks program has been a rewarding one both on and off the field. Watching her players grow up and progress through their own lives has been extremely rewarding to her.

“I get to watch them grow up, so I have the benefit of watching it come full circle,” Krzisnik said. “We say this all the time and I say this all the time to my own coaches within the club, what we do is a little bit about soccer and it’s a lot about life.”

That motto that it’s a little about soccer and a lot about life was evident when hearing Krzisnik talk about her first Michigan Hawks team.

“My first team were all flower girls in my wedding. Most of them are now married and having kids, and so now I’ve had the benefit of going to their weddings, seeing their children, all that good stuff,” Krzisnik said.

“It’s not just about soccer. I think the benefit I have of coaching youth is that I get to see them grow into successful young women. I believe our job is to make them better people, so I think at the end of the day I get to experience the full spectrum.”

From learning the basics of the game, to growing up, going to college, and moving into adult life, coaching youth soccer provides a window to many stages of life. Michele Krzisnik has lived this life as a player, helped young players as a coach, and now as a Director is a role model for other young coaches looking to do the same.