By Brandon Buechler
If you told a 9-year-old Kristina Cook she’d be playing soccer the following year, she might have laughed at you.
If you said she’d spend her college days on a nationally ranked team in Iowa, she might have called you crazy. Would she believe you if you said at age 28, she’d be coaching Ryerson University’s women’s soccer team?
“I don’t think [I] would’ve,” says Cook, now Ryerson’s assistant coach. “But maybe a few years later [I] would.”
Cook says she began playing soccer later than many varsity athletes, joining her first organized team at age 10. Despite her small stature and late beginnings, Cook says she grew into her athleticism and soon after her soccer career took off.
“I remember as a young kid I wasn’t very athletic. I had friends who were [athletic] and were good at sports,” she says. “I was very jealous of it.”
The Beeton, Ont. native was recruited and spent four years at Graceland University where the nationally-ranked Yellowjackets dominated the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), going undefeated in all four seasons.
“We had some pretty great accomplishments there,” says Cook.
After completing her psychology undergraduate degree and taking sporadic coaching jobs with various clubs, Cook returned to the classroom — in Europe.
“I have a master’s in sports and exercise psychology as well as a master’s in sports diagnostics, which I studied for in Greece and Germany.”
Three degrees and many years later, Cook and Ivan Joseph, director of Ryerson Athletics, are partners managing a young varsity soccer team. Cook says she originally met Joseph while both were studying at Graceland, and it was his reputation and values that drew her to the university, as well as its proximity to her hometown.
That, combined with a convergence of events that left a coaching position vacant, brought Cook to Ryerson in 2014, and with it a near play-off appearance.
“Last year we missed a berth by one point – a tie or a loss,” Cook says. “This year, we’re focused on the process rather than the outcome.
Cook, who describes herself as a demanding, yet fair coach, says she believes those values are what will bring the titles and trophies to Ryerson. As for her personal goals, Cook says the university scene is where she hopes to stay, eventually as a head coach.
“This is where I’m interested in staying, in the university setting,” she says. “I really enjoy the work I do here.”
You can catch Cook on the sidelines Sept. 16 as the women’s soccer team takes on the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Ridgebacks.