Lieberman brings lofty goals to USD
Noah Hilton | Sports Editor | The USD Vista
New head coach sets sights on creating daily improvements for women’s soccer program
It starts with a boombox at practice, something that new women’s soccer coach Louise Lieberman introduced on her first day at the University of San Diego.
“I love music,” Lieberman said. “It lightens the mood and motivates you to pick up the energy in whatever you’re doing in that moment.”
The decibel-fueled decision speaks to the primary appeal of Lieberman as she begins her first season at USD — she never seems to be at a loss for fearless enthusiasm.
Enter Lieberman’s office, however, and one gets a picture of the discipline that has driven the new head coach to her current position. The small room on the left side of the school’s Sports Center is minimally furnished, a nod to the fact that Lieberman has been on campus for just a few short months. On the desk sits a computer and a stack of papers, waiting to be put to use as the Lady Toreros prepare for their next match.
Only when the individual and the surroundings are taken together does one get a full view of Lieberman’s temperament. She is a demanding perfectionist who thrives on preparation, bundled in an enthusiasm for her job and sport that is effortless and ever-present.
The origins of her energy are easy to spot, a product of a love for sports and activity that was fostered from an early age.
“I started to play soccer and tennis growing up and knew I loved sports,” Lieberman said. “Once I got into high school, I realized how much I loved figuring out tactics of the game, and that’s when the coaching spark began. I need things to be moving, so I liked the fast pace of it.”
Lieberman soon settled on coaching, leading the men’s team at her old high school while pursuing a degree in sociology at UCLA.
“I was a female in charge of a boys’ team, which you don’t really see too much,” Lieberman said. “My co-coach believed in what I was doing, though, even as I was coaching boys who were double my size. It ended up being really fun.”
That role began an ongoing career in coaching that has taken her through the professional and collegiate ranks, first with the Los Angeles Rampage, then as an assistant for the nationally ranked UCLA women’s soccer team. During eight years at UCLA, she helped lead the program to seven NCAA tournament appearances, including the school’s first national championship in the sport in 2013.
Those experiences allowed her to expand her knowledge and reputation under the leadership of some of the brightest minds in the game, including Amanda Cromwell, the current head coach of the Bruins, and Jill Ellis, the head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team.
“I was plenty fortunate to be under the tutelage of some influential coaches in such positive and life-changing ways,” Lieberman said. “Someone’s coaching philosophy is built from their very first coach all the way through, and that ends up being a pretty large span of people that influence them. It was extremely valuable to me because of what we were doing together at such a high level.”
Prior to this season, USD hired Lieberman, who decided to leave a national powerhouse at UCLA to begin her own head coaching career.
“It felt like the perfect and right decision to leave when it happened,” Lieberman said. “This place is extraordinary, and I truly believe that monumental things can happen here because of the academics, the city, and being able to work with people like [athletic director] Bill McGillis.”
Lieberman added that she believes the seasons she spent at UCLA were instrumental in her path toward becoming a Torero.
“The administration here believes in my experience,” Lieberman said. “They believe in who I am and what I can bring to the table at USD and how that can all combine with the attributes of this program.”
Lieberman admitted that there have been adjustments involved in getting accustomed to life as the leader of a collegiate soccer program.
“The biggest difference is that you make all the decisions,” Lieberman said. “You have the help of the staff and their influence and suggestions, but at the end of the day the final call is mine. I’ve been the head of many things in my life, and I’m familiar with this feeling and comfortable with it, but in this position specifically, that’s the biggest difference.”
While some may see that sort of authority as an opening for a high-profile misstep, Lieberman said she is not afraid of any setbacks that may come with learning a new position.
“I’m perfectly comfortable with looking in the mirror and seeing how I can improve,” Lieberman said. “I love having the final say. With that comes pressure and responsibility, but that’s not something to be feared. I’m okay with identifying my faults so that I can build on them.”
This season, the Lady Toreros have been no strangers to setbacks, beginning the season with a 3-8 record on the backs of several close finishes that didn’t go the Toreros’ way. Lieberman, however, sees no cause for concern.
“I believe we are better than our record,” Lieberman said. “It’s important that [the team] knows that, and we continue to try to help them see that. If a few things go differently in a matter of minutes, things look completely different.”
However, the season hasn’t been without its highlights already, including Lieberman’s first career win in an early-September victory over the University of Denver.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Lieberman said. “It’s so difficult though, because I know my job is measured on wins and losses, but my definition of success goes deeper than simply winning or losing. That’s not a popular opinion, but I’m all about maximizing each other and doing our very best as a team. If we do that, those losses will eventually turn into wins.”
Despite the challenging start to her career, Lieberman remains unabashedly optimistic about the future of women’s soccer at USD, even forgetting the word ‘decline’ in her assessment of the program’s direction.
“We have some wonderful recruits coming in here, people who want to be a Torero and want to be a part of everything we’re doing,” Lieberman said. “To me, the future of this program only looks like an incline. We’re about creating a foundation of excellence. I think to some extent it’s already happening, and the future’s extremely bright.”
Lieberman admits that her drive to help the program reach another level has largely prevented her from enjoying the environment she now calls home.
“I love exercising and being outdoors, and San Diego is the perfect place for that,” Lieberman said. “During the season though, I can be a bit of a workaholic, and it’s only in the offseason that I try to find balance. I work hard because I love it though. It’s not work if you enjoy what you’re doing.”
Ultimately, it seems that Lieberman has every ingredient the Toreros might need as they search for the perfect recipe for sustained success.
It could be her tradition of excellence at the highest levels. It could be a renewed commitment to a higher standard.
Then again, it could be as simple as a boombox.