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Ex-women’s soccer star works behind scenes for US Soccer

Molly Downtain with Under-20 Women's National Team
Molly Downtain (back row, third from right) working the Under-20 Women's Youth United States National team in the Under-20 World Cup which took place during August 2014. Photo courtesy of Molly Downtain.

Molly Downtain, a former captain of the 2011 Chico State women’s soccer team, is coordinating logistics for the United States Soccer Federation’s National under-14 – 21 age teams, after finding a passion for the “behind the scenes” of sports.

Chico State coach Kim Sutton saw that Downtain would be successful because she had such great leadership and she was driven.

“Molly was one of the best leaders I have ever coached,” Sutton said. “She was a big part of that 2011 final four team.”

Before coming to work as the national team’s coordinator in December 2013, she was the volunteer assistant coach and Director of Operations for the Soccer teams at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

At this job, Downtain found out that she just didn’t want to be a coach but found a niche in the operations side of the game. She excelled at the behind-the-scenes things that most fans don’t think about, like booking flights and hotels.

“The coach out there, Janet Rayfield, was an amazing mentor so I made the decision to pay for my own graduate school and be a volunteer assistant coach,” Downtain said. “While I was doing some coaching, I also did some director of operational stuff for the team and had a great time doing that.”

In preparation for the next season, Downtain was in charge of travel accommodations for University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, including hotels, meals and other accomodations.

“At the end of that second season, I sat down with Janet and was really open with her,” Downtain said. “(I) said ‘I don’t want to be a coach, I thought I wanted to be one since I was 12 years old and now that I am actually doing it I don’t care for it.’ And she was like ‘I think you’re doing great with operations and I think that is something you should persue more.'”

Downtain then met with her advisor at the school, who suggested she try something new.

This led to Downtain contacting Rayfield about a job with the United States Soccer Federation. Rayfield coached for the US women’s national team two cycles ago, so she put in a good word.

Not only is Downtain having an impact on a variety of teams with the United States Youth National teams, she is also still having a postitive effect in Chico.

Senior goalie Brianna Furner knows first hand how great a leader Downtain was because she played behind her in goal during that 2011 season, when the team reached the NCAA Final Four.

“She was the best leader by inspiring everyone and making sure we were playing to the best of our abilities,” Furner said. “Her passion for the sport and for our team was contagious.”

Sutton even went as far as saying Downtain was such a leader for others that she sometimes forgot to worry about herself.

“She would do so much of the leading on that team it was hard for her sometimes,” Sutton said. “I would have to remind her that she needs to take care of herself too.”

Downtain helped Furner grow as a player early in her career while she was starting as a freshman.

“To this day, I reflect back to that 2011 season with her and it still makes me work that much harder to still make her proud,” Furner said. “After that season, I knew she would go on and do some type of coaching or anything to stay close to the game.”

Chance Keenan can be reached at [email protected] or @chancelikelance on Twitter.

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