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Leigh Sears chose to treat this fall for the Hope College women’s soccer team the same as previous seasons, even though so much is different.
The Flying Dutch practice every afternoon, following guidelines from the NCAA and Ottawa County Department of Health. The Saturdays that previously featured game days now have team workouts and special team activities.
In the latest Hope Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast, Sears talks with sports information director Alan Babbitt about her approach to this unprecedented soccer season.
The Flying Dutch are not scheduled to play a game until March 23, 2021 when they host Saint Mary’s College at Van Andel Soccer Stadium. It is the first of eight regular-season matches against MIAA opponents for Hope. A league tournament will conclude the season.
“We have tried to make this fall as much like a normal season as possible,” Sears said. “We decided early on that, without the pressure of the season, starting time and playing time, we would focus on individuals. We set our goals as individual goals as opposed to team goals. How can we get each player better?
“If everybody gets a little better, we’ll be that much better in the spring when it’s time to compete.”
Sears is in her 20th season as Hope’s head women’s soccer coach. She has guided the Flying Dutch to 232-116-32 overall record and six MIAA championships.
Hope finished second in the MIAA standings last season. The Flying Dutch posted a 6-5-6 overall record.
Sears is busy this fall teaching as well. She is an associate professor of kinesiology and specializes in nutrition education.
On top of that, Sears is recovering from a breast cancer diagnosis last March that resulted in surgery and radiation. She also shares on the podcast her story as a breast cancer survivor and how she managed to handle that amid the COVID-19 pandemic.