EDUCATION

‘Everyone’s Little Cheerleader’: Ole Miss Soccer Team is an extended family for one athlete and her daughter

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Sara Coleman and daughter, Parker, with Matt Mott, Ole Miss Soccer coach. Photo by Cece Kizer.

Cece Kizer
Oxford Stories

If you’ve ever been to the Ole Miss soccer stadium, you may have noticed a young, vibrant Rebel shouting for her “mommy” from the stands. That energetic girl would be Parker, Sara Coleman’s daughter.

Imagine trying to be a mom while playing D1 soccer. As a member of the Ole Miss Soccer Team, Coleman is balancing motherhood and athletics.

After discovering she was pregnant in December 2012, Coleman’s life changed. At the time, she had only completed one season of college soccer and had to step away from the game to raise her daughter.

The first call she made, other than to family members, was to Matt Mott, the Ole Miss Soccer head coach.

“My phone rings, and it was Sara,” Mott said, “and she told me she was pregnant. A whole bunch of emotions immediately went through my mind. I was excited for her that she would be having a baby, but also concerned about how it would affect the team.”

After the news set in for both Mott and Coleman, they began to discuss how things were going to work. At first, Coleman said she immediately assumed her soccer career was over, and she was unsure how she would even graduate being a single mother.

“I made it clear to Sara that the most important thing was that she finish her education,” Mott said. “I wanted her to be happy, so I allowed her to decide if she was going to return to the Ole Miss campus.”

Once Parker was born, Coleman decided to return to the sport because she wanted to fulfill her dreams of playing collegiate soccer.

“Nothing was like my team and the coaching staff,” Coleman said. “Nothing was like my Ole Miss family. I knew if I wanted to play soccer, it had to be there, because I knew I wouldn’t be as happy if I went anywhere else.”

Coleman’s teammates and coaches encouraged her to come back and promised to be her support system as she transitioned into a new life as a mother and athlete.

Although Coleman had lots of help, there were still tough challenges. At times, Coleman’s hectic schedule made it difficult for her to finish schoolwork and spend quality time with her daughter and teammates.

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The mother-daughter duo. Photo by Cece Kizer.

“I went through a phase where I questioned if it was worth living my dream while losing time with Parker,” Coleman said.

Coleman relied a lot on family to keep her going through challenging times.

“I don’t live too far from home,” she said, “so my family visited me as much as possible. They were a huge help watching Parker whenever I had practice or had to get homework done. I was forced to grow up fast, but every second has been worth it so far.”

Mott said Coleman’s story has changed the soccer program.

“Their (the athletes) enthusiastic energy and positive attitudes are contagious,” he said. “All the players cannot imagine the team without those two.”

While there were challenges, Coleman said she is forever grateful she decided to raise her daughter with the help of her coaches and teammates.

“Parker loves being around the team, and the team loves being around her,” she said. “My favorite thing is that my teammates would drop anything to get the opportunity to spend time with her. She is a part of the soccer family, and is everyone’s little cheerleader.”

Mott said the team has been supportive from the beginning.

“They understood that this was something she was going to have to go through and something they would have to help out with,” he said.

Coleman’s unique journey through college athletics has taught her many things.

“I’ve learned to roll with the punches and definitely have learned to be more patient,” Coleman said. “Most of all, I have learned to not look at any situation negatively, because no matter what the circumstances, you can change any situation into something positive. I look into my daughter’s eyes and see that.”

Coleman has remained humble and composed as a single mom and athlete, and she has given her daughter a unique childhood. Regardless of the fact that she initially had other plans, Coleman said this unexpected event has been the best thing that has ever happened to her.

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Coleman and her daughter, Parker, running around the Ole Miss soccer field. Photo by Cece Kizer.

Even though Coleman has accomplished her dream on the field, it’s moments off the field that mean the most to her. Those moments involve teammates that little Parker calls “aunts.”

“I don’t think people can understand how much it means to me that they’ve been here to support and help raise my daughter,” she said. “They have made a huge impact on her life, as well as mine, and I cannot thank them enough.”

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