COLUMBIA —On a sunny morning at Walton Stadium, Kristin Andrighetto is in her element.
Fighting for loose balls, looking for open teammates to pass to and hustling up and down the field, Andrighetto plays with a confidence borne from playing soccer most of her life.
Missouri (4-5-2 overall, 2-1-0 Big 12)
at Colorado (5-6-1, 1-2-1)
WHEN: 5 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Prentup Field, Boulder, Colo.
Last year, the scene was the same, but this season Andrighetto isn't playing for the Missouri soccer team. This season, she is its volunteer student coach.
Fresh off her final season with the Tigers, Andrighetto tried out last winter for the Chicago Red Stars, a women’s professional soccer team. But when the team decided not to pick her up, Andrighetto still wanted to find a way to stay connected with soccer.
So Andrighetto approached Missouri coach Bryan Blitz at the end of last school year about becoming a volunteer coach. It didn't take long for Blitz to agree with the idea.
“I said yeah, absolutely,” Blitz said. “As long as you’re committed and come every day we’d love to have you.”
Now, Andrighetto helps assistant coach Todd Shulenberger work with Missouri's defense. She attends every practice and even scrimmages with the Tigers.
“Once the season was over and I stopped playing, I missed it, but this is kind of the perfect balance because I can still play, but I’m not completely on the team, so it’s not so intense for me,” said Andrighetto, a three-time All-Big 12 first team member during her career.
She doesn't travel with the Tigers on road trips and no longer deals with balancing coursework and playing a full season.
“I get up early every morning and I look forward to coming out here,” Andrighetto said. “I get to have fun and help the team get better.”
It works out for both sides.
“Even though she’s not getting playing time, she still pushes our players and makes them better,” Blitz said. “She has a love for the game, a natural passion for the game.”
Andrighetto said going out on the field and working with the Tigers has eased the transition from being a student-athlete to just a student.
“It allows me to keep that passion in me,” Andrighetto said. “I know (my soccer career) has to end soon, but it helps me stay with it until I have to grow up and go into the real world.”
Andrighetto is set to graduate in May with a degree in nutrition and fitness and said she wants to study physical therapy in graduate school. She said her plans led her to become a coach.
“I wanted to get it on my résumé and stay active in athletics even though I’m not a current student-athlete,” Andrighetto said. “When I went on visits to grad schools, a lot of the advisors told me to stay involved, so that kind of pushed me to do it.”
Mostly, though, the desire to play the game remains. After playing with Andrighetto her first three seasons at Missouri, senior forward Alysha Bonnick said she still sees the competitive fire from her former teammate in practice.
“She brings intensity,” Bonnick said. “After four or five years, she’s still amazing.”