Dahl sisters embrace similar paths

Amanda Dahl transitions from soccer player to coach, sister Caitlin Dahl takes over captain role

Amanda Dahl prepares to kick the ball last season during her senior year. After four years in a jersey, she now serves as an assistant coach for the UND women’s soccer team. File photo.

Amanda Dahl stands on the sidelines, watching her younger sister Caitlin Dahl’s every soccer game.

She knows all too well the intensity and passion that gets left on the field.

After four years in a green and white jersey with a ‘C’ on her shoulder her senior season, recent UND graduate Amanda Dahl has taken on a new perspective as an assistant coach for the North Dakota women’s soccer team. Although she anticipated a position as an air traffic controller after completing her degree, she sees her spot behind the bench as a fresh, exciting challenge.

Her sister Caitlin Dahl, now a junior, took over her sister’s role as captain, gracious for the two years the duo spent together at UND.

But Amanda Dahl still has to resist the urge to run back out where she belonged for so long.

“It’s kind of difficult sometimes, because I get a little too into it watching them play, and I just want to put on a jersey and run out onto the field,” Amanda Dahl said. “But I had to tell myself that I had my four years, and now it’s time to help these girls and hopefully make something great out of this season.”

A decision to play

The Dahl sisters call Seattle, Wash. home, but packing up the car for summer roadtrips to North Dakota to visit family members was a yearly occurrence growing up.

They had both planned to attend UND, but the soccer aspect didn’t become a large part of their college lives until later.

Amanda Dahl’s days on the field began with a second place finish in a recreational tournament in her younger years. She remembered her team being more interested in staring at the sky or picking the grass, but her coach’s teamwork-oriented motivation stuck with her.

On one occasion before she began her collegiate schooling, Amanda Dahl stopped by the field to watch a North Dakota soccer game. Only a week went by before she contacted the coach and had the opportunity to walk on to the team.

The deciding factor?

“I think the higher level of play — the atmosphere,” Amanda Dahl said. “I remember watching Rachael Loomus, one of the forwards, she was just so intense and passionate out there and it was like, ‘Wow, this would be a great experience and a lot of fun playing soccer with people who are just as passionate about it as you are.’”

Caitlin Dahl shared that same passion.

During her senior year of high school, Caitlin Dahl saw her sister’s performance as a motivational factor to follow through.

“I thought I might as well give it a shot, so I tried out,” Cailtlin Dahl said. “I knew going into my last year of high school that I was going to be playing here. So it’s kind of cool that I got this opportunity.”

Not only does she get the opportunity to play alongside her sibling, but also the insight and guidance not every new player realizes from the start.

“Going into my freshman year, she told me what to look out for, just the do’s and don’ts of the team,” Caitlin Dahl said. “So that was nice having the insider’s perspective as a freshman.”

The sisters claim they share much of the same personality traits, though Amanda deems herself more apt to adjust herself to situations while her sister favors more organization.

Sibling rivalry wasn’t much of a factor, but the duo regularly rivaled together to take down the same opponent.

“For the majority of her playing here, we didn’t really play the same position,” Amanda Dahl said. “So it wasn’t too competitive, but I think it actually brought us a little closer. We’re fighting for the same cause now. We’re on the same team, always around each other — just going through all the ups and downs of soccer.”

Leading the team

One thing they do share in common is their leadership abilities.

The captain role is new for Caitlin Dahl, but she’s embracing it with a humble attitude.

“People look up to you, and you try to always be on your best behavior and look out for the team more,” she said. “So it’s definitely an added pressure, but it’s a good one.”

Amanda Dahl still uses her abilities she carried as the time she spent as the team captain, but the dynamic she sees with players takes on a new meaning.

“It definitely takes some getting used to,” Amanda Dahl said. “People look to you for answers, and you always have to be thinking and prepared … And I think being a captain did help me so much, transitioning into coaching, because that’s so much of what coaching is, as well as leadership and having the girls respect you and trying to push them to be better more than what they expected they could be.”

Beyond the numbers

Only one victory sits in North Dakota’s winning column so far this season, but that doesn’t halt its ambition.

A 2-16-1 overall record and 1-8-0 conference record was hard to swallow after the team’s 2013 campaign. This year, a different mindset may prove to be the answer.

“I want us to come together more and be more attacking-minded and get some wins under our belts,” Caitlin Dahl said. “We can see this program setting a record number of wins this year, so it’s just about us continuing to work hard and getting the experience we need to keep getting better.”

Her sister agrees. But looking beyond the numbers, and instead to where it all began, is what she hopes this team will embrace.

“I would love to see us get more than a couple wins,” Amanda Dahl said. “But I want them to come together and really enjoy the game and find the passion that made them start playing in the first place.”

She might not be able to run up and down the field with teammates she spent years collecting goals and memories with, but being a coach and supporter of her younger sister might rank just as high.

“It’s great,” Amanda Dahl said. “I just want her to have the best experience, and if I can help out with that — it’s not only a lot of fun to be there around her — but it’s great to see her excel and grow to be such a better player and leader.

Elizabeth Erickson is the Sports Editor of The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].