When she’s not at practice or games for the Blues soccer program, St. Mary’s head coach Rochelle Hearns is developing, preserving, or in some cases restoring the joy and passion for the game of soccer for young women in Portland through the newly-established Bridge City Soccer Academy (BCSA).
Hearns, Executive Director and Director of Coaching at BCSA, along with her colleagues, opened the doors at Bridge City Soccer in 2019 with the goal of creating a soccer program that is fundamentally different than anything else in the marketplace. “It’s a program just for girls,” she says, “with a focus on player development no matter your current ability or level. And, for Bridge City, player development does not just equal performance on the field. We seek to develop the whole person first, and then the player.”
To bring this commitment to life, Bridge City has established the Soar program, a leadership development and mentoring program for all players. Their aim is to instill self-confidence and self-belief in every girl, encouraging each individual to become a strong leader within their respective environments. Through Soar, players participate in monthly workshops on topics including setting goals, resilience, building confidence and teamwork.
Another critical element that differentiates BCSA is their focus on community impact. Not only are Hearns and her team of coaches committed to keeping the game of soccer accessible to girls in underserved communities, but they encourage their players to make a positive impact in their own communities, as well.
When deciding to leave her previous position as Director of Coaching at Tualatin Hills United Soccer Club, she knew it was a risk to start something new. But, as she talked with friends, colleagues and Portland business people, she discovered a wave of support and many of those colleagues came with her to start Bridge City. The new club was up and running in two short months and they hosted their first tryout in the spring of 2019. When asked how she got it done, Hearns replied “Through the grace of God and a lot of prayer.”
If the numbers are any indication, Bridge City is showing early signs of success. They are currently fielding 13 teams, all girls, ages 9-17, and have even captured their first premier group tournament trophy. While the wins are great, more important is the feedback from the community. “The response has been tremendous” shares Hearns, “I’m consistently being told ‘thank you’ and that this was needed for so long.”
And the end of the day what coach Hearns wants more than anything else is to “let kids play who love the game. The love of the game is as important as winning.” And, when asked about the similarities to her role at St. Mary’s Academy, Hearns confirms that the goals are nearly identical. “Through training and guidance, we will empower young female athletes by teaching and providing them with the necessary tools to make confident and positive decisions on or off the field.”