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Former East Haven High School soccer player Caitlyn Campbell is back in her hometown as the new head coach for the Joseph Melillo Middle School girls’ soccer team. (Photo courtesy of Caitlyn Campbell )
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Caitlyn Campbell played four seasons of soccer for the Yellowjackets, before graduating from East Haven High School in 2014. After graduating from Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland, Caitlyn has returned home to become the new head coach of the girls’ soccer team at Joseph Melillo Middle School.
“I knew I needed a year break before going back to school, so when I saw the middle-school coaching position was open, I applied for it,” says Caitlyn. “It’s been a dream of mine to start coaching, like my brother Michael did. This is my first time coaching, and I’m happy to be doing it for a team I used to play for.”
Stepping into a coach’s position has come with some challenges for Caitlyn, who’s used to being the one competing on the field during games. However, Caitlyn is settling into the role quite nicely, while making as big an impact as she can at practice.
“For me, it was kind of a struggle, because I couldn’t get out there and show them how to do something,” Caitlyn says. “If you join along in mini games or drills, I think it makes the girls feel better. It shows them that they can be like a coach. So, staying involved in practice is the most important thing for me. They get to see my ability, but also gain knowledge from me.”
Yellowjackets’ Athletic Director Anthony Verderame is excited to see his fellow East Haven graduate taking the reins of the girls’ soccer team at the middle school. Verderame says that Caitlyn has been all systems go from the moment she joined the program.
“Coach Campbell has absolutely hit the ground running from the first day she was hired. She has worked in complete harmony with our varsity and youth programs,” says Verderame. “We are beyond proud of her and the manner in which she is mentoring our girls.”
While Caitlyn was typically a center midfielder, she saw time at multiple positions on the field during her playing days. Now, Caitlyn is looking to use what she learned to help East Haven’s middle-schoolers improve their games.
“I played everywhere except for goalkeeper, so that’s why I think I’m able to do this job. I can teach every position on the field,” Caitlyn says. “I’m happy just to teach the sport that I love. I’ve always played and had a passion for it. It’s a great sport to learn and have fun.”
Since Caitlyn had the chance to patrol all ends of the pitch, she wants to provide that same opportunity to her athletes on the middle-school squad.
“I’m trying to do that with my players to see how their ability is. As a player, I knew I could play anywhere, even if I didn’t like to play a certain position. It gave me more confidence,” says Caitlyn. “Being versatile gives you a better understanding of the game. That was my biggest thing and the main thing I want my players to understand about soccer.”
Caitlyn didn’t continue playing soccer when attended she college. However, she stayed sharp by competing in a recreational summer league run by John Gildersleeve in East Haven.
“I took a four-year break and only played when I came home for the summer in the women’s league,” says Caitlyn. “Coming home, I was always excited to play, because it brought back memories and my love for the game. I still have a passion for it.”
Caitlyn feels that her experience playing soccer across several levels in town can prove beneficial for her team. Caitlyn learned a lot about the sport from the coaches she played for and wants to pass on as much knowledge as possible to her athletes.
“I think it gives them more confidence playing for someone who developed in the same system,” says Caitlyn. “I think the amazing coaches and teachers I had helped me develop my knowledge for the game. As a coach, I think that’s the most important thing to have.”
One of Caitlyn’s ultimate goals is to attend The Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. However, right now, Caitlyn is focused on succeeding in her new role as the head coach of the Joseph Melillo girls’ soccer squad.
“My main priority is with this soccer team,” says Caitlyn. “I love getting out there every day and coaching these girls, because I can tell they want to learn. When they are out there and happy at practice, that makes me want to work harder for them.”
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