Role Model: Sarah Scott Gillis, For The Love of Soccer

Lawyer/coach inspires a new generation. Sarah Scott Gillis has been kickin’ it up a notch as a role model since she first began coaching soccer. Not only does she encourage the members of a soccer team to do the best they can, she also baby-sits for friends and maintains her own level of athleticism at a fever pitch. Coaching is such a major part of her life that she plans her work calendar and personal time around the game schedules. “It’s all worth it to me. It’s an important part of my life. Looking back, I wish that I’d had female role models other than just my mother and teachers, so I hope I’m doing that for these girls,” says the 27-year-old. Even during the years Scott Gillis was in law school at the University of Denver, she worked her class schedule around the soccer team. “There were days I’d be running from class to get to soccer, and there were times I’d not take a certain class because it would interfere with coaching,” she says. “From August until November 1 and then March through May, I can’t go away because the soccer team has games. But it’s so worth it to me.” Recently married to a guy she met at — what else, a soccer game — when she was a middle-school student, Scott Gillis is a natural role model, one who views coaching as a significant piece in the game of life. She elaborates, “I hadn’t thought of myself as a role model, just someone who wants to see the girls get into the rough and tough of soccer. I see the girls who are OK with rough and tough and the girls who are into makeup. They see it is OK to get tough on the soccer field. I want them to be strong and confident. I tell them it’s not only about winning, but at the end of the game, they should have left everything they’ve got to give back on the field.”

But Scott Gillis also tells them that giving their all and being strong and confident is not just about being on the field. She says, “You also need to apply yourself in other places. They see me as their friend, and they’ll talk about boys and school. I try to provide age-appropriate advice. They’re growing into their own. I see them change — physically and in their personalities, too.” Baby-sitting is what led Scott Gillis to her avocation of coaching a team of girls from the Denver area. When the girls, who are now 11, were just 6 years old, the mother of a girl she baby-sat for asked her to help out with the soccer team. She progressed from coaching once a week to several times a week. “I’ve brought them from swarming the ball like magnets to a higher level of soccer,” she says. Sarah Scott GillisHealy Smart Parks, the mother of children whom Scott Gillis baby-sits, says this about her: “Sarah has been baby-sitting for us for six years and has really become a member of our family. She is an amazing role model for both of our kids. She is creative and thoughtful, and they both look forward to the time they get to spend with her. We feel so lucky to have her in our lives. Now if we could just get her to give up that law career to baby-sit more!” Scott Gillis says she has “always done baby-sitting and vacation Bible school.” After graduating from Denver Christian High School, she attended Colorado State University, receiving her degree in 2003. Her first major in college was early childhood education, and she has been a nanny “forever.” In a story that says a lot about going full circle, she talks about how she played high school soccer with the daughter of the judge for whom she now works. Scott Gillis says she told her husband she spends more time with 11-year-olds and a 3-year-old child she baby-sits than she does with people her own age.

rolemodel2A soccer player on a co-ed team in high school, she met her husband, Rob, when they were 15-year-olds and playing on an indoor team. Now she plays soccer in an all-women’s league with a friend from high school. Injuries have been a part of the game she has played. She recently injured a wrist when she fell over backward while moving a soccer goal. Fifteen 11-year-olds swarmed over her and asked if she were OK. Adults came to help and used a shin guard to stabilize the wrist. She was taken to the hospital and had a plate and seven screws put in her wrist. She has also had two knee surgeries, the first while she was attending college in San Diego. The second surgery occurred after a “rather large man in an indoor soccer game” kicked her. At that point, her mother said, “All right, when is enough enough?” Still, her parents are supportive of her work with the soccer team and attend some of the games. Scott Gillis says her dad is the key to her competitive spirit, and her mom is the key to her heart. “I don’t think I’d be the strong, confident person I am without both my parents,” the 5-foot 9-inch woman says. That competitive spirit extends to golf, skiing, running and fly-fishing, all of which she enjoys with her husband. It was in December 2007 that Rob and Sarah became engaged. She says, “At the minimum it was the most magical day of my life.” Of Scottish heritage, both Sarah and Rob’s fathers wore kilts in the wedding. Bagpipes played, and at the end of the wedding, they took off in a helicopter.

2007 was a whirlwind year for Scott Gillis, who graduated from law school at the University of Denver in May, took the bar exam in July, learned in October she had passed the bar, went in for surgery on her shattered wrist the day following notification of the successful bar exam and then began working for a law firm. Since then, she has begun employment as a law clerk with Judge McGahey in Denver District Court, where she works on civil cases, personal injury cases, criminal cases and a host of others. “It runs the gamut,” she says. The position allows her to meet from 10 to 15 attorneys daily and have a range of interactions that make every day a learning experience. Sarah Scott GillisScott Gillis says she hopes to have children, possibly within the next two years. She also plans to continue coaching. “As long as the girls will have me, I’ll keep coaching them,” she comments. Soccer is a good outlet for them, she believes. “As middle school girls, they go through a lot of changes, and their bodies change, too. I reassure them they are strong, smart and pretty, and I encourage them to be leaders in a positive way,” she says.

One of the challenges of coaching teams is that once in a while she runs into a coach who is not into good sportsmanship. She explains, “We’ve had some situations where coaches have not been appropriate. Kids are so impressionable. We’ve taught the girls to play with good sportsmanship.” As an example, Scott Gillis will pull players off her team if the other team is playing short-handed. She also teaches the girls not to play down to a poor level of sportsmanship. The team plays in the Fusion league in Denver and travels to Longmont, Arvada and other cities for games. At the end of the season they often celebrate with a gathering. Typically, the girls present her with flowers. “They say nice things about me, and every single time I cry,” the committed soccer coach says. It’s no small surprise they say wonderful things about her. She gives them the gift of caring about them as individuals, as young women, as athletes and as potential leaders in their communities. They are truly fortunate.

Photography by KIRA HORVATH

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