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Keplinger Gets High School Job Coaching the Guys

Morgan Keplinger has been named the boys varsity soccer coach at Smiths burg High.

Seeing women coaching boys' and men's athletic teams is still far from common-place in the sporting world.

Yes, there are the well-documented stories in the NBA of Becky Hammon coaching with San Antonio Spurs and Jenny Boucek, the former University of Virginia standout, now working as an assistant coach with the Dallas Mavericks.

Statistics point to the fact that less than four percent of men's college athletics teams are coached by women. The number may be a bit higher in high school sports, but seeing a woman coach boys' teams is still a rare sight.

Former Bridgewater College women's soccer player Morgan Keplinger is taking that step as she was recently named the boys' varsity soccer coach at Smithsburg High School in Maryland. Keplinger is believed to be the first female to head up a male high school program in Washington County.

For the past four seasons, Keplinger has worked as an assistant soccer coach for the girls' team at Williamsport High School. During that time, she has also been teaching health and physical education while working with the track team at Smithsburg.

"I love soccer and I felt like I was ready to be a head coach and lead my own program," said Keplinger of landing the head coaching job at Smithsburg.

Keplinger came to Bridgewater in 2009 as part of head coach Mike Van Horn's first recruiting class.

The Eagles were coming off a losing season in Van Horn's first year as coach of the program. To date, that is the only losing season during Van Horn's tenure as Keplinger's recruiting class laid the foundation for the program's future success.

In her first season at Bridgewater, the Eagles posted a 13-6-1 record. During her four years, the Eagles finished with a 47-26-4 overall record and as seniors, that first recruiting class led Bridgewater to the ODAC championship game for the first time in program history.

Keplinger is entering a similar situation at Smithsburg where the team has experienced limited success in recent years, posting a 5-16-4 record during the past two seasons. While Keplinger will certainly put her own stamp on the program, she will implement several coaching aspects she witnessed while playing for Van Horn.

"Coach Van Horn always made the expectations for the program very clear. He was always very organized and everything we did, whether it was practice, conditioning, off-field activities, whatever, everything we did we did with a purpose. Those are all things that I will follow," Keplinger said.

"Kids today are going to ask questions. They want to know why they are being asked to do things, What's the purpose," Keplinger continued. "We will have a purpose for everything we do. My players will know the expectations for the program, I'm going to be straightforward and I'm going to be honest. With me, everything's going to be cut-and-dried. If you're in, you're going to be all-in. If you do something wrong, there are going to be consequences."

During her four seasons at Bridgewater the program advanced from a team with a losing record to a team playing for a conference championship. The program got better each season. She hopes that will be the case for her high school team moving forward.

"Looking back on my college career, we improved every year. We improved as a team and we improved as individual players," said Keplinger. "As a coach, I think it will be exciting to see how my team moves forward from one season to the next. It's going to be exciting to track the progress of each player, seeing how his game develops from his first year on the team to his final game as a senior.

"The key will be to establish a strong foundation," she continued. "I'm going to set the tone for the program early and I'm going to be upfront about the expectations for the team and for each individual. With a strong foundation, we will be able to move the program forward."

Van Horn believes Keplinger possesses the attributes to be a successful head coach and handle any added pressure that might come due to the fact she's a woman coaching guys.

"She's confident in herself and her abilities," Van Horn. "There may be a little extra scrutiny due to the fact she's a female coaching boys, but she won't left that distract from the vision she has for her program.

"Morgan is a mentally-tough person," Van Horn continued. "As a player, she never took shortcuts. She always put in the work to become better. She had a way of pushing her teammates and expecting the best from them and I think she will be able to do that with the boys she will be coaching."

Looking ahead, Keplinger can't wait until the fall season when she will get her team for the first time.

"I love soccer season," Keplinger said. "I can't wait to meet my players and get things started."