The Collegian
Wednesday, February 01, 2023

On women's soccer team, father becomes coach

Coach Peter Albright with his daughter, first-year student and member of the varsity women's soccer team Allie Albright.
Coach Peter Albright with his daughter, first-year student and member of the varsity women's soccer team Allie Albright.

When freshman Allie Albright started thinking about where she would play soccer in college, the one school she ruled out immediately was the University of Richmond.

She said she hadn't wanted to play for her father, Peter Albright, who has been Richmond's women's soccer coach since the program's inception in 1996. Karen Albright, Allie's mom, had coached her in track and cross country in high school and had taught her honors pre-calculus class, but Peter had never coached his children.

Karen said she had quietly encouraged Allie to go to Richmond, but wanted Allie to make her own decision. Meanwhile, Peter took Allie to visit other schools.

"At the start of the recruiting process," Allie said, "he told me upfront: 'As the coach at the University of Richmond, I would like you to play for my team. But as your father, I'll take you anywhere you want to look.'"

When Allie looked at Richmond, she remembered the games she had attended as the coach's daughter, the players who had babysat her and the birthday dinners she'd had at Richmond's dining hall, she said. But when she visited other schools, she ran into other problems.

Peter said one school wouldn't give her much playing time, another couldn't give her a scholarship and a third didn't have the academics she wanted. Allie compared every school to Richmond, she said, because that was what she knew best.

A number of her teammates from high school and club teams - seniors Carter Blair and Kristin Runey and sophomores Kris Lescalleet, Kat Russell and Lindsay Wicher - were already on the team. She talked about Richmond with her friends, but said she had refused to talk about it with her parents.

Karen noticed a change after Allie went on her official visit to Richmond, and said she thought Allie had started to see that Richmond could be more than just her dad's school. It could be her school too. One day when Peter came home, Allie told him she had decided to play for him.

She and her dad have had to distance themselves now that they are coach and player. He said that maintaining the integrity of his relationships with the other players was stratospherically important and he couldn't even appear to compromise that.

"I had to say to her: 'You'll have to be better than the other ones to play,'" Peter said. "'You're the coach's kid. You're going to be looked at differently.' She's so competitive. She said: 'That's fine. I wouldn't expect it any other way. Bring it on.'"

Allie said that unlike her teammates, she couldn't call him "coach." She calls him Palbright, a nickname she and her friends began in high school. They have done some things together as father and daughter, but Peter said that when he had to be Allie's coach, she treated him the way all the other players did.

"When she was younger, if I'm sitting in the kitchen, she'd always come sit in my lap and we'd talk," he said. "Now it's like, when we're getting on the bus she just walks right by me - just like everybody else does, they ignore me - and it's awesome and I just laugh."

Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter

Allie agreed that their relationship had changed.

"When he's coaching me I don't see him as my dad," she said. "He'll call me and be like: 'Hey Allie. I miss you. How have you been?' And I'm like, 'I saw you this morning,' but it's not like that at all."

Karen said that she had seen them trying to establish when the father and daughter were talking versus when the coach and athlete were talking, but they weren't always on the same page.

"They were coming back from some bus trip," Karen said, "and he looked back and he saw Allie just being a teammate, laughing and having fun, and I think part of him wanted to go back and be a dad ... but he couldn't cross that line."

Peter said one of his proudest moments had been watching Allie play for the first time at the end of the team's game against Longwood University. The hardest part of coaching Allie, he said, is seeing her in pain - she recently had hip surgery and is redshirting this season while she recovers.

"At one point in September, she sent me a text message," he said. "She said: 'My hip is killing me. I can't sleep. It's really bothering me,'" he said. "I wrote her back and I said, 'Why don't you take tomorrow off?' ... She texts back and she goes: 'I thought I was talking to my dad. My hip is fine. Goodnight.'"

Peter said that when Allie came to training the next day, he could not tell that she was in pain, and he was proud of the way she had conducted herself.

"The 25 other fathers in this program don't get to watch their kids play every day, but I do," he said. "I've seen some growth and some dealing with adversity that as a father makes me very, very proud."

Allie said she had enjoyed getting to know the players - particularly the other goalkeepers, Melissa Pacheco and Andrea Young - on a more personal level, now that they were her teammates instead of her dad's players. The team is 8-6-2 and continues its conference game play at 5 p.m. tomorrow when it plays Duquesne University at Ukrop Park. Allie will be on the sidelines with her father, continuing to develop their relationship as coach and player.

Peter said: "We were in the car this summer and I said, 'It's going to be really strange having you in practice.' I said: 'You know, sometimes I let go a little bit. You may hear me cuss a little bit.' She looks over at me and she goes, 'Dad, I cuss too.' ... We're learning about each other on a different playing field and it's all good."

Contact staff writer Barrett Neale at barrett.neale@richmond.edu

Support independent student media

You can make a tax-deductible donation by clicking the button below, which takes you to our secure PayPal account. The page is set up to receive contributions in whatever amount you designate. We look forward to using the money we raise to further our mission of providing honest and accurate information to students, faculty, staff, alumni and others in the general public.

Donate Now