The road to the top is filled with many twists and turns — and even a few stops.
For Freya Coombe, the first-year head coach of the Sky Blue Football Club in the National Women’s Soccer League, one of those stops just happened to be at Greens Farms Academy.
Coombe was the GFA girls varsity soccer coach in 2017. She admits she wishes she had a longer run as the Dragons leader on the pitch, but destiny sent her down a different path.
“I really enjoyed my time at GFA and I was really sad to leave,” Coombe said after a recent Sky Blue practice. “I just couldn’t do the job I needed to do splitting my time between my job in New York and GFA. But I loved having that opportunity.”
Coombe arrived at GFA while working at the Connecticut-based Everton America Football Club.
She joined the staff of the New York Football Club, and while that move took her away from GFA, it provided a springboard to the future.
While working to better herself as a coach, Coombe visited the Sky Blue Football Club to watch a practice.
“They had just fired their coaching staff and were a bit short-handed,” Coombe said. “I ended up making a few pointers and helping out with something and they reached out and asked me to help coach another session.”
Within days of her trip to “observe” a practice, Coombe found herself on a plane to Portland, Oregon to help coach the Sky Blue in their match against the Portland Thorns.
“It was crazy,” Coombe said. “I came in to observe and by Saturday, I’m coaching in front of 19,000 people. It’s a bit of a difference. It was incredible to be in that atmosphere.”
Coombe had to return to her job in New York, though and left the Sky Blue for the real world again.
“I had to go back for our summer camps and help five-year-olds go to the bathroom,” she said jokingly.
Until her new world came calling again.
The Sky Blue general manager called Coombe and asked her to return to the organization, based out Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.
Soon after, Coombe was named head coach.
“We are thrilled to continue the work we began with Freya this past season as this club continues to progress and push forward,” Sky Blue General Manager Alyse LaHue said in a press release after Coombe was named coach. “She is the embodiment of the culture we’re striving to develop, and I’m excited to have her back as we build a new future for Sky Blue.”
Three years ago, Coombe was coaching this year’s GFA seniors when they were freshmen.
Sofia Segalla, a senior co-captain for the Dragons, actually started playing for Coombe when she was ten-years-old with Everton, soon after the coach arrived in the United States from her native England.
“I feel like I kind of went up the ranks with her,” said Segalla, noting that she and Coombe also arrived at GFA the same fall. “And to know she’s coaching some of the best soccer players in the world is pretty crazy. She’s always been a huge inspiration for me, not just as a coach.”
Annika White, a senior co-captain credits Coombe with reigniting her love for soccer.
“This sounds kind of sappy, but she’s the coach who made me fall back in love with the game,” White said. “I was going to quit before I had her, and she really built my confidence back up.”
Now, she’s coaching Team USA soccer legends like Carly Lloyd and Mallory Pugh, amongst many other top female players in the country.
“It’s pretty crazy to be telling (Carli Lloyd) what to do,” Coombe said with a laugh. “But really you’re not telling them what to do. It’s more of a co-op work environment. They get to have a lot of input in it. But the level of detail and speed of the game is so much faster and the complexity of the tactics is a lot, but it’s really fun.
Coombe, who also had coached high school soccer at Wilton, had often seen herself maybe someday becoming a college coach. The professional game was never a goal for her, at least not until she got closer to it.
“It’s been crazy, to be fair,” Coombe admitted. “It was really unexpected to come here. It happened in just a couple of weeks and that’s not everybody’s story. I was fortunate and it was all about timing.”
Everybody has a unique road — and a unique story — to get to the top. Freya Coombe’s just happened to include a special year here at GFA.
And the Dragons have never forgotten her.