Huskies’ Emily Cope commits to Division I school
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EDWARDS — Battle Mountain soccer’s Emily Cope will be trading the Huskies for the Mustangs and the 4A Western Slope for American Athletic Conference this fall.
Cope signed her national letter of intent on Wednesday, earning a full ticket to play Division I soccer at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, with her father, David, her mother, Kathleen, and younger brother, Casey, in attendance.
And this may cause a bit of a wardrobe adjustment for Dad, who usually wears Battle Mountain black and white with khaki for the gold as the head coach of the school’s soccer teams.
“I felt I was a bit of a traitor, putting on Glenwood or Steamboat colors,” the coach joked about his new red SMU shirt. “I think we better get used to red, white and blue.”
Born to play?
Contrary to public perception, Emily was not juggling a soccer ball in the womb. David’s side of the family obviously carries the soccer gene, but he wasn’t and isn’t an Earl Woods figure, programming a young Tiger to dominate a sport.
“We have two great kids. One of them really took to (soccer) and one didn’t,” Cope said.
Part of the lore of Cope’s family and coaching career happened when Casey, roughly 10, walked up to his father on the sideline during a playoff game and asked his dad for some money to go to the movies. The kid just isn’t into soccer.
Nonetheless, Casey, now a freshman at Battle Mountain, has forged his own path, running cross-country, qualified for the state meet in skiing and is doing the school play. And David and Kathleen are just like any other high school parents, going to his assorted events to root on Casey.
“We were OK with that. We’re OK with our kids doing whatever,” David said. “Emily liked to ski and swim at Eagle-Vail and all those things.”
Yet while Emily is the spitting image of her mom, dad’s soccer gene did affix itself firmly and off she went into the world of soccer.
At micro, Saturday morning soccer practices where the Battle Mountain varsity soccer team kicks it around with tykes from the Vail Valley Soccer club, Emily remembers very big high school players like Allison O’Neill. In a twist of fate, O’Neill, now Bender, is David’s assistant coach, and works with Emily and the current varsity high school team.
“My dad never pushed me or Casey,” Emily said. “I latched on to something I shared with my did. I just enjoyed it, watching games together, playing together. I never thought it was something I had to do. I want to play soccer today. I want to play soccer tomorrow. I wanted to play soccer yesterday. There is nothing else I want to be doing.”
That’s not a boy, David
Most are used to seeing Emily play soccer in the spring, aka high school girls soccer season. And though she has had a superb career for the Huskies, fulfilling her goal of playing soccer at a higher level comes through playing for the Colorado Rush, her club team based on the Front Range.
The Rush has prepared Emily for the prospect of going to a bigger stage at SMU, where every player in that program, her fellow recruits or established teammates, were the best players in their towns or on their high school teams.
With the Rush, you play well or you sit, a rather unthinkable concept for Emily at Battle Mountain, where she’s played since the beginning of her freshman year. A player makes the travel squad or she doesn’t.
“The Rush experience has been very good for me,” Emily said. “It’s a big effort to test your playing ability, driving four hours (round trip) for an hour-and-a-half practice. I’ve loved it enough to keep doing it to keep doing it during the harder moments. It’s an intense level of play, very high. You have to hold yourself to high standard.”
And that helped Emily realize that this is what she wanted to do, and that she had the ability to play Division I soccer.
Club is also the platform for getting the attention of NCAA scouts.
“The recruiting process happens so early with girls,” David said. “I can remember taking Emily to a Regis camp as a U12. When she played really well, my friend down there said, ‘We’ll take her. She’s a really good player.’”
Coach Cope laughed it off initially thinking it somewhat preposterous that U12 soccer was a recruiting stage, but the interest continued.
Emily’s freshman year of high school, she was often downstairs in the Cope home on the phone.
“I assumed she was on the phone with a boy,” David said. “When Kathleen and I were her age, that’s what we were doing. We would ask and Emily would say, ‘That’s So-and-So State or So-and-So College.’”
La Vida Cope
As colleges were looking at Emily, she entered high school and joined a long tradition of athletes playing for a coach who happens to be your parent.
It’s a common situation around the country and locally — Vail Christian’s Kylie and Taylor Alexander have played volleyball for their mom, Cathy Alexander, and pole-vault under the tutelage of Charlie Alexander, aka Dad. The Ramunno boys have played for their father, John, who was the Eagle Valley football coach for ages, and so on.
It’s still difficult personally and publically.
“I don’t think it’s easy to be the coach’s kid,” David said. “There’s no getting away from it. Most kids go home. She comes home and her coach is there. It’s an intense experience. You hear about the practice lineup, the next opponent, and you hear the conversations the coaches are having for 100 miles on a bus. She has to feel like an 18th-year senior.”
And while there are doubtless some who think Emily’s gotten preferential treatment because of her last name, it’s actually the opposite. Things can get a little intense around the Cope dinner table to the point where Kathleen has occasionally declared that area to be a no-soccer zone.
“I would say my four years in high school, I think my dad and I have done a good job,” Emily said. “We’ve definitely had differences of opinion. I think our conversations are pretty balanced.”
Kathleen as household arbiter, by no means, defines her role in this soccer saga. David believes his better half has been instrumental in Emily’s drive to succeed.
“I think she gets from Kathleen a higher executive function,” David said. “Emily is superbly able to organize her life, set goals and achieve them. That’s from her mom. Kathleen runs her business, trains for triathlons and is a certified ski instructor. That’s where Emily gets her ability to prioritize and make things happen.”
Welcome to Big D
SMU ended up a being a case of love at first sight.
“SMU is a beautiful campus,” Emily said. “My first visit there, walking around, my jaw dropped. SMU is going to be big time academically and what I’m hoping for in an athletic department. I was thinking, ‘I can definitely see myself here.’”
Emily made verbal commitment the spring of her sophomore year, but a lot can happen in two years. It’s now official.
Like any 18-year-old nearing graduation, Emily is eager to go off to school and see what the world has to offer.
“I am so excited, but there’s no doubt I’m going to miss home,” Emily said “It’s going to be a very challenging experience. There are going to be times I miss home. But, overall, I can’t wait to be there.”
Before she goes, there is the matter of her final high school season.
“Our goalkeeper and our back four (defenders) return,” Emily said, now sounding much like a coach. “We lost a lot of goal-scoring, but we’re going to have to find a way. We’re trying to win the league for the fourth time in a row, and that’s never happened.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.