Gig Harbor High School girls soccer coach Stephanie Cox is hanging up her cleats — at least as a professional soccer player.
The 29-year-old defender for the Seattle Reign FC officially announced her retirement from professional soccer on Monday.
Cox made 49 appearances (48 starts) and tallied four assists in two and a half seasons with the Reign. Cox was a key component of Seattle’s defense and helped the team win two straight National Women’s Soccer League shields.
Cox cited wanting to spend more time with her family, especially her 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter Kaylee, as the main reason for walking away from the game now. Cox is also pregnant and is expecting her second child in April.
“We’re really excited,” she said.
The time commitment for the offseason was another factor in the decision.
“It’s a long offseason,” Cox said. “With my family commitments, I’m not able to go overseas and play like a lot of the women. It’s hard to stay motivated and fit on your own. It was good timing for my family.”
Cox was able to come back to professional soccer after Kaylee was born.
“Being a mom, I think it was great after she was born to be able to come back,” Cox said. “I felt really good about that. She told me (Monday morning), ‘Mom, I’m so glad I’m home with you this morning.’ She’s aware of it. In my mind, I wanted to do something else and to still be involved with the game. Coaching has been a good fit.”
Cox said she’ll cherish her time with the Reign.
“It’s been phenomenal,” Cox said. “I can’t speak enough about the pride I have for the club. At the start, it was tough the first year. Laura Harvey is an exceptional coach. The players that she brought in just speak to her caliber as a coach. She really has utilized all the pieces to create something consistently better than everyone else. It was cool to be a part of. I’ll definitely stay connected with the Reign.”
It was a hard decision, Cox said. At 29, she likely could have played for at least a few more seasons — but she felt it was the right time.
“With coaching, you’re more of a leader and a mentor,” she said. “I’ll miss the friendships with my teammates, and being able to pursue something challenging and celebrate with each other. I’ll miss the feeling of striking a ball. It was pretty special being able to be excellent at what you do. I’ve done it for so long, being at the highest level, I’ll miss that.”
Cox also had a successful career with the U.S. Women’s National Team, which she began playing for in 2006. She tallied 89 career caps. She won a gold medal with the USWNT at the 2008 Olympics in China, won a silver medal in the 2011 World Cup and a bronze medal in the 2007 World Cup.
Cox has been co-coaching with longtime boys coach Todd Northstrom this season to manage time conflicts and help her transition into the head coaching role. Now that her playing days are over, Cox will be able to sink her teeth into coaching full time next season and take over the program.
“There’s obviously been some commitment and time conflicts this season,” Cox said. “Energy-wise, it was challenging finishing up my practices and then coaching. It’s the same game, but a different responsibility. I look forward to next year and being fully at the helm and putting my stamp more on things. Without Todd, I wouldn’t have been able to coach this year.”
The Tides have posted a 10-2-1 overall record and a perfect 9-0-0 mark in the Narrows 4A.
“We’ve had tremendous growth since the beginning of the season,” Cox said. “We had a really tough nonleague schedule. We played three really good teams. The way the girls have responded and adapted to the way we want to play, it’s been great to see them be successful and also to not be content.”