The women’s soccer season drew to a close last just over a week ago, with the team posting six wins for the year. But one of those victories held special meaning for head coach Tiffany Crooks.
In September, shortly into her 10th season coaching at Case Western Reserve, she tallied her 77th victory (though she’s now up to 81)—breaking the program record for most wins as a coach.
Crooks has worked to build a sense of family among the nearly 30 women on her team—players to whom Crooks is quick to pass credit when asked about her record-breaking success.
“It’s far more about them,” Crooks said. “It’s really a testament to these student-athletes that we have here and how committed they are to a goal, how committed they are to seeing it through. We’ve been able to attract really talented women soccer players that want high-caliber academics. And they’re the reason. It’s totally about them.”
She explained that the athletes succeed, despite any challenges they face, such as a tough schedule and high demands on each player’s time.
“Where they have to make the most sacrifices is socially,” Crooks said, noting how their intense academic and athletic schedules bring the players together. “That family environment—it’s the piece of the program I’m the most proud of. It’s a strength of our program that other teams can’t mute.”
But anyone who knows Crooks will agree that she is much more than a coach: The yoga instructor and teacher is dedicated to giving back to the campus community.
“They’re my favorite class to teach,” Crooks said, noting that they’re her most enthusiastic and dedicated yoga students.
Leading others—on and off the field—comes naturally to Crooks. Though she originally planned to become a school counselor, she found that the skills that made her a great teacher also made her an excellent coach. And once she began coaching during her first year as a student at Ashland University, Crooks knew she’d found her passion.
“It was the only thing that lit me up,” she said. “Sometimes, things just find you.”
Now, as her team heads into the offseason, Crooks is looking for even more ways to find success next season. Read more about her in this week’s five questions.
1. Who has been your most influential mentor?
Outside of my family, I would say my college coach, Brad Evans, because he was probably the first person who believed in me more than I believed in myself. We’ve kept our relationship ever since, and I graduated in ’02. He came out to a practice this pre-season. We just have a really strong relationship.
2. What was your first job?
My brother and I were [substitutes] on a paper route in the neighborhood, but we also used to mow lawns. My first real job that I collected a real paycheck for was at this family vending business. It was D&E Vending, and I helped count the change that was in the vending machines.
I had a lot of odd jobs. People don’t do that anymore! I had so many jobs that had no relevance to my career. I worked on a factory line; I worked for the city. My brother always used to tell me that the most interesting people don’t know what they want to do when they’re 40.
3. Who is your favorite author?
I read a lot. I’m not sure if I have a favorite author. The Alchemist [by Paulo Coelho] and To Kill a Mockingbird [by Harper Lee] are my favorite books.
4. How do you like to spend your time when you’re away from school and/or work?
The secret to this [university] is that you’ve got to find your places here to make it work. I have this bike I inherited from one of my alums, and that makes me feel like a kid. I rode it over here. I ride it across campus.
But when I’m not here, I’m probably either on my couch, at a yoga studio or with my family doing something outside, probably near the lake. You have to find things here, or you’ll lose your mind. Today is a 10-hour day, but it won’t feel like it. You have to find your places in the midst of it.
5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
Without a doubt, the people. They are really hard working, they’re authentic, they’re genuine, and I think they want the best—and they’re willing to work for it. That’s the biggest thing.