Carlyn Baldwin chasing full-time soccer dream

Jennifer Gordon January 26, 2017 42
Carlyn Baldwin is foregoing her last year of eligibility to play professionally in Sweden (Photo By Andrew Bruckse/Tennessee Athletics)

Carlyn Baldwin is foregoing her last year of eligibility to play professionally in Switzerland. (Photo By Andrew Bruckse/Tennessee Athletics)

It’s not too uncommon this time of year to see former college players announce they’ve signed contracts to play in Europe. With the 2017 NWSL draft over, it makes sense for those players who weren’t among the 40 draftees to look for a place to play.

Former Tennessee Volunteer Carlyn Baldwin’s announcement on Monday that she had signed with BSC Young Boys in Switzerland was different though. Baldwin, a 20 year old from Northern Virginia, wasn’t even eligible to enter 2017 NWSL draft as she still had a year of college eligibility remaining. For Baldwin, the decision to forego her senior season at Tennessee centered around her development.

“I mean it was a tough decision but ultimately, I want to play soccer full time,” Baldwin said in a phone interview Tuesday.  “That’s always been my dream as a player to be able to  fully dedicate myself to my development and I explained that to the staff, to my team there (and) they were extremely supportive.”

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About three years prior, the feisty, technical midfielder made another difficult decision about her soccer career that was markedly different than her peers. In the spring of 2014, Baldwin trialed with Olympique Lyon and considered skipping college and going straight to the professional ranks.

After her trial with Lyon, Baldwin spoke with Lindsey Horan, the first U.S. woman to skip college completely, and U.S. Technical Director April Heinrichs about the possibility of going pro. In the end, she felt drawn to Tennessee and made the decision to enroll.

Although injuries sometimes hampered her impact on field for the Volunteers, Baldwin spoke positively about her college experience and credited the Tennessee staff for helping her get fit and avoid having to take a red shirt season.

“College athletics is great, being a student athlete is great, being able to play a sport and get your education at the same time is something really special, but for me, at least at this time, it’s about fully dedicating myself to my development,” Baldwin said. “I know I grew tremendously there from the coaching staff and all players but I just thought it was kind of next step in my career.”

While Baldwin is focused on her development and career as a professional soccer player now, she is planning for the future. When she hangs up her cleats in what she hopes will be a long time from now, she wants to be a coach. To that end, she understands the importance of earning a degree and will take classes periodically online to finish.

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Right now, her scholarly pursuits focused on learning some German, the language her soon-to-be BSG Young Boys teammates speak in Bern. Despite not knowing the language, the midfielder said it wasn’t difficult to communicate with her teammates and staff during her trial.  Her teammates typically took English in school and the head coach Marisa Wunderlin, who was at Lyon when Baldwin trialed there in 2014, speaks English.

Baldwin, who also considered JIF United in Japan, said it was her conversations with Wunderlin that really sold her on coming to Bern.

“When I went over there she just made me feel wanted and that I could not only grow there but help the team there, help her accomplish what she wants the team to do and what she wants to achieve as a coach,” she said. “Then I also felt like she was going to invest a lot in my development so just going there and helping her and then the team they were so welcoming and it just seems like a very good environment to grow as a player.”

As Baldwin seeks growth as a player, in one sense her decision signifies the growth of the women’s game. While Baldwin isn’t concerned with or even sure if she’s the first American to leave college early to play professionally, she understands what her departure for the norm may mean for future players.

“I think for younger kids that maybe want to explore this different path maybe it shows them that there’s different avenues in the game that you can pursue whether that’s spending all 4 years in college, whether that’s not going to college at all, whether that’s going for a little bit and wanting to do something else, she said. “ I think it just shows there are different paths for different people.”

  • rkmid71

    “Although injuries sometimes hampered her impact on field for the Volunteers, Baldwin spoke positively about her college experience and credited the Tennessee staff for helping her get fit and avoid having to take a red shirt season.”

    I wish they would have left out the injury excuse from the story. Could have just said she had a positive experience, wish the results would have been better during her time there for the team and herself and wish the best for her teammates going forward. But that she thought going pro was the right move for her at this time. Tennessee’s record and CB stats during her 3 years. She played a lot of minutes. Not sure what her role was, but seems like not a lot of productivity for a mid. And doesn’t sound like someone nearly taking a red shirt season due to injury. Keep in mind every player on every team gets dinged up during a season.

    2016 11-9-1, 19 games played, 17 games started 10 pts 1,478 minutes (Lost in SEC tournament)
    2015 7-5-6, 16 games played, 15 games started, 2 pts, 1,329 minutes (did not qualify for SEC tournament)
    2014 10-10-2, 21 games played, 20 games started, 4 pts. 1,741 minutes (lost in SEC tournament)

    • #1Fan

      interesting that you post this. My take. Brian Pensky is very good at recruiting. he offers big $$ and he seems to appeal to some of the better players in the country. He always seems to sang one See Kate Cousins. However once they get there the results do not seem to match the pre arrival hype. Funny thing is they all look great in freestyle videos !! Im not saying she is not good, but the stats above are less than one woudl expect. Cousins numbers are similar.

      Yet another example of how soccer isall about what happens on the field, not how many juggles you can do off it.

      • rkmid71

        College soccer should be what separates the wheat from the chaff. How does a player elevate their team, make their teammates better, If Tennessee had been 1-17 or 5-15 or something before she or Cousins got there, I might feel differently. Cousins certainly didn’t get it done with U20s and hasn’t with Tenn. yet either. Still has a lot to prove in my eyes — and it starts with the college team, not with any YNT at this point.

        Btw — I love watching Indie Cowie from UNC freestyle. But I think she realized (even before the ACL) she just wasn’t athletic enough to get it done on the field at that level. World class freestyler though.

        • Steglitz49

          It begs the question how good at Freestyling players like Marta and Miyama were in their prime? Probably awesome.

          • rkmid71

            True. But they were also insanely athletic. Marta in particular is very quick and Miyama can hold her own. I would bet Indie Cowie would be awesome at free kicks, corner kicks — the ball skills are off the charts — it’s the other two things she is short on.

          • Steglitz49

            My point is that like in skiing, people who can, do; those who can’t, freestyle; and those who can’t freestyle, teach tiddlywinks.

          • guest

            Nogueira and Heath freestyle battle are amazing one turns out to be a superstar and the other mediocre at best.

          • Steglitz49

            I would class Tobin as a star. Alex and Marta are a mega-stars. Miyama ought to be one too but maybe not glamorous enough even though her name also starts with an M but I guess you cant have two AMs at the top?

          • rkmid71

            Not everyone who can does. Don’t forget that for the forseeable future the tiddlywinks is the more lucrative option all along for 99.99%. At my daughter’s non Ivy college (she’s a freshman), the median starting salary for a graduate is $59,200 plus benefits I think that’s better than Dartmouth, Yale and Brown.

          • Steglitz49

            Vow! What is her aim? President? Supreme Court? Chairwoman of the Alaskan Cheese Marketing Board?

          • rkmid71

            Among those probably the Cheese Board. She likes a challenge and the outdoors and fresh air. Do they play soccer in Alaska? Maybe she could make the new Vancouver NWSL team and do both jobs.

          • Steglitz49

            Is there no WoSo in Quebec? Montreal or Quebec City? Is WoSo a feature of Englishspeaking Canada?

          • Steglitz49

            To add to your reply since you modified it, Aya Miyama was feared for her freekicks already when she played for LASol. Her Roberto-Carlos-like effort in the Algarve is justly famous.

            Tobin hit such a one in the first NWSL Championship Final but has not quite got the credit for it possibly because she is not as consistent and reliable as Miyama.

            As for corners, Miyama hit the corner from off which Homare Sawa equalized 2-2 in the WC-11 final.

          • rkmid71

            Sometimes I wonder about the tradeoffs of having a freekick or corner specialist on the field that’s weak otherwise You might convert more set pieces while weakening the team in the run of play or defensively. For example, I think of Catalina Usme from Colomiba — I have no recollection of how she was playing otherwise, but on freekicks she was otherworldly in the match versus the USA. Made Solo look like minced meat.

          • DNG

            It might be more acceptable if the team relies on scoring the majority of their goals from set pieces. Some teams that are built to defend and frustrate good teams often take this approach.

          • Steglitz49

            Thank you for reinforcing rkmid71, who “wondered about the tradeoffs of having a freekick or corner specialist on the field that’s weak otherwise”.

            The problem with being forced to defend is how to get up into the opposition’s half to get either a freekick or a corner.
            — I don’t remember Sweden getting many corners or freekicks in threatening positions in Brasilia but they did hit an incisive pass that led to a goal in open play. In extra time, they scored a goal that was disallowed in error.

          • DNG

            They didn’t get many but they did make the most of the ones they got. They were pretty good at turing set pieces into temporary pressure and shots.

          • Steglitz49

            The top players do it in both parks: set pieces and open play. Lisa Dahlkvist springs to mind. Marta is another.

        • #1Fan

          I agree, Unfortunately, for many, this is the definition of a technical player !

          • rkmid71

            She’s like 5’0″ at best. Do we really need to compromise that much to find technical midfielders and defenders? I don’t think so. I guess Dunn is 5’1″ — but she sure as heck proved she could play in both college and with the YNTs. I don’t have Cousins got a shot, but not over and over again if not getting it done in either college or YNTs. Let’s try some others and let Cousins continue to develop in college or with a club. It’s not all about technical — it’s ball skills AND acceleration AND soccer iq. My guess is that it’s mainly the acceleration that’s an issue.

          • Steglitz49

            Good points, well made.

            Ball skills, acceleration and vision (soccer iq, if you prefer).

            Mana Iwabuchi at 5’1″ is the shortest player of the Golden Generation of the Nadeshiko. She may even be the only one that short, though Shinobu Ohno is short too.
            — The average height of Japanese ladies her age is 5’2″ so she is only 1″ below average. There have been a few Japanese players 5’2″ like Aya Miyama and Nahomi Kawasumi but not too many of them.
            — The average height in the US is 5’4″ to 5’5″ depending on which set of statistics you trust.

      • john

        You raise a good point about recruiters versus developers among college coaches. Very few do both well. I think most players don’t think about that enough when picking a school.

        • Steglitz49

          I would have thought that any young lady would pick the college with the best academic standards that she can cope with and feel comfortable with. Margaret Purce is a fine example. There must be other examples.

          • rkmid71

            The algorithm is different for each young lady. It’s not one size fits all. But in my formula, a lot of weight is given to academic standards and value for money. And playing a lot on a solid team with a good coach. I think Purce did just fine – except she probably didn’t expect that nonsense from the men’s team.

          • Steglitz49

            It is bizarre to read about in this day and age.

            If soccer players with their baggy outfits get subjected to that, what of volleyball players with their tight ones? Maybe volleyball leaves nothing to the imagination?

          • mockmook

            I know, so shocking that young men would notice (and then rate some women).

            I wonder if any female has done that — nah, that is just too fantastical to be so…

          • Steglitz49

            They were probably wise not to commit it in writing and send around by e-mail or message boards.

            At the same time there is a lesson here for WoSo. It is WoSo not BaggySo or AmorphousSo. The female of the species and all that.

            If WoSo is just a slower, lumbering form of BroSo, why watch it, let alone pay to watch it? Nobody pays to watch paint dry, do they?

  • Steglitz49

    The caption under the picture says Sweden but she is going to Bern in Switzerland in the text. Pathetic mix-up.

    • Steglitz49

      Now they have corrected it, thank goodness.

  • Rdalford

    Jennifer/EQ thanks for the background info re Baldwin’s decision.
    Hope the experience goes well and helps her woso development as Baldwin wishes. Interesting to note (“head coach Marisa Wunderlin, who was at Lyon when Baldwin trialed there in 2014 …”) that Baldwin’s comfort with coach Wunderlin, who was at OL and is now at BSC Young Boys in Switzerland, was key influence on her choice.

  • john

    Thanks Jennifer for following up on this story!

  • john

    A few thoughts- Baldwin (and Cousins) were typically not given an offensive role with Tennessee. Looking at the UT roster I think Baldwin might have struggled for minutes next season. I watched her for several years here in the DC area and the injuries do seem to have affected her play. Is it significant that 3 seasons on the club that signs her is Swiss versus OL (or a similar level side)? Unfortunately, numbers don’t really measure most soccer playing and the lack of game coverage will likely make it hard to assess how this works out.

    • Steglitz49

      “Better number one in Gaul than number two in Rome”.

      The young lady may be a train-buff or trainspotter. The railways around Bern are famous for being scenic.

      Maybe she has found love in the arms of a Swiss?

    • rkmid71

      I agree about the stats, especially looking at just the offensive assists and goals. But it’s strange two mids like Baldwin and Cousins given their position (I’m assuming they’re both playing CM) and playing significant minutes wouldn’t have more stats than most others on the team — I’m sure Tennessee has the more detailed analysis for the team and individually. The team defensive stats don’t look great either and it’s understandable why they’ve been around a .500 team. Maybe the players aren’t complementing each other well?

      • Steglitz49

        The only strategy at this stage is to watch and see how she does in the Swiss league and cup. Either it works for her or she is found wanting, in which case she can devote herslef to building cuckoo-clocks.

      • mockmook

        I looked at some formations (as presented by ESPN) for Tennessee, and it sure appeared as though Baldwin was used as an attacking mid in a 4-3-3 — though, the usual caveat, published formations are often “lies”

        • Steglitz49

          I thought that was statistics.

        • john

          Isn’t the issue that a formation is the barest bones information? Does she hang back, slide side to side, press up and play off Wilkinson, etc? Is Pensky adjusting the role game to game? Imo the published formation is just as likely to give me a false impression.

          • Steglitz49

            Given how little WoSo players earn, her move to Bern must be salted with something. What, apart from playing soccer, does Carlyn get out of this? WIIFHAFS?

            Stats and formations be damned! Switzerland is an expensive country in which to live. The banks are in Zurich and Basel, the pharma industries in Basel and the palm trees in Ticino.

  • Calci0

    I think it’s a positive, that she has the option to continue on with a career, she enjoys! Maybe she is coached up, and is able to make an impression on the NWSL in a few years. I could think of alot worse than living and playing soccer in Switzerland… Congrats!

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    • Steglitz49

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0e37b9a9146ae430060a45bb31749c1aab9f993e6b0a720c2237deabf1d41252.jpg Indeed. She also can trot along to the Wankdorf Stadium and admire the famous clock, that strikes fear into the hearts of coaches and players alike.