Capturing a gold medal in the Olympics. Establishing the Navy women's soccer team as a Patriot League power. Shaking hands with President Clinton.
That's been the hectic life of Carin Gabarra for the past two years -- where trying to track her down has been almost as difficult as understanding how she fits everything into her schedule.
"If I had to do it all over again, I would," said Gabarra, who is in her fourth year as coach at Navy. "It was tough and probably too much life for many. It's hard to describe, but the whole [Olympic] event is kind of emotional."
Gabarra, 31, the oldest player on the first Olympic gold medal women's soccer team, has a right to be emotional. She is one of the veteran stalwarts of the U.S. team, becoming just one of five Americans in February to compete in 100 international matches.
That's why no one received more satisfaction than Gabarra during the 2-1 Olympic gold medal victory over China before 80,000 fans and the reception with 500 Olympic athletes at the White House in August.
Her commitment and importance to the national team can be seen through her accolades: two-time U.S. Soccer's Female Athlete of the Year and U.S. Olympic Committee Player of the Year (both in 1987 and 1992) and recipient of the Golden Ball, given to the outstanding player of the 1991 FIFA Women's World Championship in China.
However, by playing on the national team, Gabarra had to make several time sacrifices. She had to make several trips over the last two years to practice with the national team in Florida, including missing Navy's entire spring practice.
Besides balancing her two soccer lives, Gabarra had to consider making time for her husband, Jim, the player-coach of the indoor soccer Washington Warthogs. During her training in Florida, Jim would visit her every other week.
"It was tough not seeing her," said Jim Gabarra, who played on the 1988 Olympic men's team. "But if anyone would understand, it would be me. People only hear that she was down in Florida. But training is not all fun. It's a lot of hard work."
Hard work is nothing new to Carin. And she could be soon experiencing some of the rewards of that dedication in building Navy's program.
Since becoming the first women's soccer coach at Navy in 1993, Gabarra has slowly lifted a club team into a leading contender for the Patriot League title.
The Mids are 8-2-1 this season and 3-1 in the league. Navy, which has only lost to Army in the Patriot League, has not lost in its past five games.
Much of the success comes from Gabarra's hands-on coaching style.
"She is definitely laid back, and never yells at us unless we really make a big mistake," said Cori Thornton, a two-time first-team All-Patriot League selection. "We do whatever she asks, no questions. She can back up whatever she tells us [in practice], because we know she can do it."
On the field, Gabarra is known for creating opportunities and specialized in a possession-oriented game. On the sideline, she encourages the same type of game, pushing her players to run set plays while trying to be imaginative with the ball.
"Coaching absolutely helps playing and playing absolutely helps coaching with each giving something to the other," Gabarra said. "There is definitely a respect [from the players] but not solely because I play for the national team. When we have demos, I step right in and show them how to do it. I lead by example."
Pub Date: 10/14/96