Married to the game:
Womens soccer coaches juggle management, matrimony
By: Scott Wyant
Some people work from home, but the Sahaydaks bring their family environment to work.
Tiffany Roberts-Sahaydak and her husband Tim Sahaydak are the co-head coaches of the VCU women’s soccer team. With two children under the age of two, they are learning to be parents as they go and using every lesson while coaching.
As Tim puts it, soccer is “way beyond a job for us; it’s just our way of life.”
The Sahaydaks have brought characteristics from their bright playing careers and a family coaching philosophy to the program. These traits have made their transition from juggling soccer balls to juggling their career and family together look easy.
Tim and Tiffany were soccer players at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill when they met at a media training session for freshmen athletes, in what the couple jokingly calls love at first sight.
They were freshmen stars in the making. Tiffany would go on to win four ACC titles, two national championships and an Olympic gold medal with the U.S. national team in 1996. She was also on the most famous team in women’s soccer history, the 1999 World Cup champions.
Tim describes that 1999 squad as the “team that spread the gospel of soccer in this country.” He was not an average player either, making his mark in Major League Soccer (MLS) playing for the Miami Fusion. He also traveled the world playing the game.
Once their playing careers ended, they knew they could not give up the sport that helped shape their lives. The Sahaydaks’ continued passion for the game led them to create their own business, Tiffany Roberts Soccer in California.
Through their business, the couple did everything themselves, from soccer clinics to personal training sessions. They even managed their own website, operating as a duo that resembled soccer’s version of Batman and Robin.
VCU took notice of the business from across the country. When the Sahaydaks were offered the position as co-head coaches for the VCU women’s team, they immediately accepted – even though they had never coached at any level higher than their camps.
They attribute their smooth transition at VCU, even while raising their two young daughters, to their playing experience and their accomplishments on the field and in business.
One thing they have learned throughout the process is the importance of time management.
“As a married couple without kids or even before we were married, you think you don’t have much time,” Tim said. “You don’t realize until you have kids just how little time there is in a day to really get everything done that you want to get done.”
They have had a great deal of help including from babysitters, some of whom are former players. They also rely heavily on help from their assistant coach and former U.S. soccer player, Siri Mullinix, whom they met as freshmen at North Carolina.
Even though they are usually crunched for time, the Sahaydaks make sure to always be there for their players. The coaching staff as a whole aims to create an environment that is a “family away from their family,” Mullinix said.
They believe that the family philosophy they’ve established their program around is the key to their on-field success.
Junior midfielder Heather Hovanesian would agree. “You play harder when you know everyone’s got your back,” she said.
The Sahaydaks, like many other coaches in college athletics, know how important selling your program to recruits is to be successful. Nothing sells a recruit better than feeling like you are a member of a family, rather than a team.
Karla Haislip, the mother of freshman defender Rebecca Haislip, says that the prestigious coaching staff drew them in but also acknowledged that not all great players make great coaches. She was sold, not just on the Sahaydaks, but on the whole organization.
“The entire coaching staff was awesome,” Haislip said.
The players’ parents contribute to the atmosphere, making sure the team has a home-cooked meal at least once every weekend when playing at home.
As Tiffany Roberts-Sahaydak put it, “We literally are a family.”