The plan was to play basketball in college.
At least that is what Yasmina Carvalho thought after years of practice, lessons, games and traveling from her hometown in Brockton. It was a moment her senior year of high school that would help define her future.
Carvalho, the women’s soccer coach at Bridgewater State, got her soccer career started as many do at a young age…her parents put her in a league. She would play travel ball and continue in middle and high school. After years of playing basketball and soccer, she discovered a love for the game that outweighed all the time and effort she put into basketball.
When she began to consider which college to attend it was between Bridgewater State, Husson and Springfield. Between the strong teaching program, the affordability and the advice from her teachers at Brockton High School, she knew Bridgewater State was the next step in her education.
While becoming a college student can be daunting for some when they first leave home, the pressure of being a student and an athlete was one Carvalho had been preparing for many years.
“I was always a strong student academically, so I knew the repetitiveness of going to class, doing my homework and then having soccer would remain the same,” said Carvalho “When you make the team, you automatically know you have at least 24 other people to count on. You know they are there for you. It is a lot easier to make new friends and explore college with people that you trust. It made the transition to college a lot easier.”
It didn’t take long for Carvalho to find success in college. She was named to the MASCAC All-Conference team in 2007, 2008 and 2009 while helping the team win the MASCAC regular season title in 2008 and reach the tournament title game twice in her career.
Although she may have helped her team achieve success on the pitch, it was the bus ride home after those wins that created the most memories.
“My favorite memories were the bus rides home after a win,” Carvalho said. “We knew we did it, we won and now we get to enjoy each other’s company. We get to move on to the next game and it was with a positive result. Those are the moments you don’t realize are the best until after you graduate. Whenever you win a big game, you get those chills up and down your arm. That feeling doesn’t go away as a coach but as a player, it is a lot more intense because you know you worked hard for it and your teammates had your back.”
Following graduation from Bridgewater State in 2010, Carvalho went on to coach two seasons as an assistant for Division II Stonehill College and then moved to UMass Boston for a season before the job of a lifetime opened at her alma mater.
“When I was first offered the head coaching job at Bridgewater, I asked are you sure,” Carvalho said. “I was only 24 at the time, but my mentors told me to go for it. You might get it, or you might not, but you will get the interview experience. I got off the phone and immediately cried then it hit me that I am going to be responsible for an entire program that did so much for me. The first person I called was my former coach, Andrea Ziegler O’Connor, to tell her. It is easier to coach and have passion for a team you spent four years playing for with your blood, sweat and tears.”
Since she began coaching at Bridgewater State in 2014, the Bears have made it to the MASCAC Tournament semifinals three times and the tournament championship once. For her efforts during the 2016 season, she was named the Champion’s Choice Coach of the Year. She has coached 14 student-athletes to All-Conference honors, including MASCAC Player of the Year Lauren DeSousa in 2016.
For Carvalho, there are many parallels between her full-time job as a physical education teacher and her role as a head coach. Both require her to help her students see the importance of teamwork and confidence as those are two qualities they must have for their future careers. She also stresses the importance of communication whether it is between two students, with their coach or a future boss.
Many coaches have a mantra that they live by while they are coaching. If you asked Carvalho to define her coaching philosophy, it can be easily summed up in one word.
“I base all my coaching around respect,” Carvalho said. “If you have the respect for your coaches, teammates and your school, no one will ever feel they can disrespect you. If there is something I have done to make them feel disrespected, I want them to feel comfortable telling me. If you have respect within your team and coaching staff, everything else just follows.”
Although it hasn’t been long since Carvalho was a student-athlete herself, the relationships and memories are still as vivid as if they happened yesterday. If she had to give one piece of advice to the MASCAC student-athletes, it would be to take in every minute of it.
“Enjoy it while it lasts,” Carvalho said. “There is no other feeling like playing for a collegiate soccer team especially in Division III. That feeling of scoring or stopping a goal when you are playing is amazing. Take in every moment while you possibly can.”