About 10 months ago, Lehigh men’s basketball was defeated 78-56 by the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and Sophia Wendt was watching as an avid Badgers fan.
Wendt was a senior at Southeastern Louisiana University at the time but thought to herself, “What’s Lehigh University? I’ve never heard of it.”
Soon after, Wendt said she emailed the Lehigh women’s soccer coach, Lauren Calabrese, to introduce herself and apply for the position of graduate assistant.
Wendt said she is extremely passionate about goalkeeping as a former college goalie, herself. But after realizing it wasn’t sustainable for her body to continue playing in her graduate year, she opted for coaching.
Over the summer, Wendt gained coaching experience by working for her old goalkeeping academy, and this fall, Wendt joined the Lehigh women’s soccer coaching staff, specializing in work with goalies. She is also now pursuing a master’s in mental health counseling at Lehigh.
“She transitioned very smoothly,” senior goalie Violette Bonvallet said. “She fits in really well with the team and she just always brings a lot of energy.”
Aside from being a coach and working toward her graduate degree at Lehigh, Wendt also works for a nonprofit organization called Project One Goal which aims to help children in underprivileged communities have an equal opportunity to play soccer and gain positive role models.
Went said Project One Goal is currently based in Jamaica, but they are hoping to expand.
Wendt said she learned about Project One Goal about a year and a half ago through her old goalkeeping coach Jameson Kronser who knows the founder of the organization.
Wendt works on the social media and fundraising aspects of the organization remotely. She said she plans on traveling to Jamaica at some point in the near future to participate in the hands-on coaching aspects of the organization.
She said the program is about more than just soccer.
“It’s also giving life skills and different experiences that these kids can hold on to,” Wendt said. “Through soccer, we’re able to make those connections.”
She said offering an equal opportunity to both boys and girls, as well as developing life skills and creating positive experiences are some of the most important aspects of the job.
At Project One Goal, Wendt works closely with an organization called the Sports Bra Project, which works to provide athletes in need with sports bras in order to participate in any active parts of their lives. She said this experience has been a beneficial addition to her work with Project One Goal.
“I’m not necessarily looking to gain, I would love to give,” Wendt said. “I love this sport so much, so to be able to help and bring a high level of coaching and a high level of sport to different places is unbelievable and so exciting.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Maggie Ousouljoglou said Wendt has already been able to provide crucial guidance to the goalkeepers on the team.
“Some of the values and skills she adds is being very disciplined,” Ousouljoglou said “Making sure we focus on the little details first rather than jumping to more of the bigger ideas. Sticking to the basics and getting those down.”
Wendt said she has been in a difficult predicament because she’s so close in age to the team but is still addressed by them as a coach. Regardless, she said she has felt welcomed to the team.
“She just went through the whole college experience, so she knows exactly what we’re going through,” Bonvallet said. “And that’s been super helpful.”
Looking into the future, Wendt said she would like to continue her work with Project One Goal along with a future job as a mental health counselor.