Chapman revels in player-coach role for MU soccer

Monday, December 1, 2008 | 2:12 p.m. CST; updated 7:34 p.m. CST, Monday, December 1, 2008

COLUMBIA – Amy Edwards could tell Candace Chapman’s future a long time ago. The only question was when Chapman would be ready for it.

“When she was done playing, she always wanted to be a coach,” said Edwards, associate head soccer coach at Missouri. “During a summer camp, Chappy was coaching from the start to the end of the game. She was the best player-coach at those camps.”

The pair met when Edwards was recruiting Chapman to play at Notre Dame. Their relationship started oddly.

"Her parents wanted to meet me, so I went to see a game," Edwards said. "She (Chapman) was driving, and I was following her. She pulled up to this huge house, and I got out of my car and started walking toward it. She just takes off. It wasn't her house."

Chapman, 25, has rejoined Edwards by becoming a volunteer coach on the Missouri soccer team. She is balancing her desired future in coaching Division I soccer and her wish to play in the Women’s Professional Soccer league, which debuts in April 2009.

The WPS has drafted its teams but will have a combine for potential players Dec. 11-14. The opportunity for Chapman, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, to join the WPS is limited because the WPS allows teams five foreign-born players.

“We were talking about it for a couple of months,” Chapman said of becoming a coach at MU. “I didn’t want to commit, but just get experience. Amy said, ‘If you want to volunteer, I can ask Bryan (Blitz, MU's head soccer coach.).'"

Edwards realizes how beneficial Chapman has been.

“She’s provided a new voice and an ear to the players,” Edwards said. “She’s still learning, but when she says something, it’s pretty good. And she’s a role model for our players. She brings a lot of outside experience in.”

Chapman played in the 2008 Olympics for Canada and scored the country's first goal. She was also part of Notre Dame’s national championship team in 2004.

“In national youth events in Canada, she was up front,” said Edwards, who left Notre Dame the year before its national championship. “We needed an outside defender, so we converted her.”

Chapman worked closely with the defensive unit this season. MU features a three-back system, which gave the Tigers offense a better numbers advantage. This placed an emphasis on quality defensive play.

“She’s pulled me aside and helped me with such little things,” senior defender Kat Tarr said. “The biggest thing we’ve worked on is just being a simple player. She taught me you don’t have to beat 75 people. All you have to do is make a good pass and make good decisions.”

And those are still two of Chapman’s key skills, Tarr said. Chapman sometimes inserts herself into practice and competes against players she was coaching minutes before.

Her hybrid role can be seen in how the Missouri players treat her.

"I think Chappy being around our age and having played at such a high level really helped us connect with her," said Tarr, who expects to participate in the WPS combine. "When she talks, everyone listens, so she's like a coach. But you could go up to her after practice and joke with her."

And her role as a volunteer also helped her improve as a player.

“I think you analyze things more (as a coach),” Chapman said. “When you play, you just go out there. You see a lot more by watching, like positioning and passing. Maybe when I play again and something’s going wrong, I can step back and see some way to solve the problem.”

That Chapman wanted to continue playing should come as no surprise, considering everything she has gone through.

Chapman tore her left anterior cruciate ligament in her final practice before the Women's World Cup in 2003. Two years later, she suffered a microfracture in her right kneecap.

"Who knows?" Chapman said. "I'm going to play for as long as I can. I was never a person to give up."

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