Competitive fires still burn for Ont. soccer coach Michele Houchen
Michele Houchen has never been effective from the sidelines.
Whether playing soccer or coaching the game she loves, the 43-year-old Houchen is all about being in your face. When she's on the field, performing her role as a striker, Houchen doesn't shy away from taking on her younger competition and crashing the penalty box.
Houchen, who is an insurance broker, brings the same intensity to the field when she coaches. When she tells one of her players to drop and give her 25 for cursing, she hits the grass and counts down every single pushup with them.
Houchen's killer instinct and work ethic have earned her two appearances with Canada's national soccer team, led her to three national championships, and a gold medal at the World Master's Championships.
Houchen secured her place in Oakville sports history when was inducted into the Oakville Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.
Houchen, the first black female to be inducted into the hall, started playing soccer when she was 15 in her hometown of Scarborough, Ont. She's been living and breathing the game ever since.
While Houchen's honours and awards are impressive and well deserved, what is most fascinating about this woman is her ability to pass on her love for the game and inspire others.
For 30 years, she has put her time, energy, blood, sweat and tears into making the Oakville Soccer Club the best it can be — both on and off the pitch.
She's one of a handful of female coaches in the province to have earned a Provincial B-Level coaching licence from the Ontario Soccer Association and continues to apply and pass along her knowledge of the game to players and coaches.
Three years ago, she publicly announced she was packing it in, retiring from competitive play. But she just couldn't do it.
Those that have played, coached, or trained with Houchen know the reason why. It's what she calls the fire in her belly. It's that will and determination that helped her recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament that same year.
Now she has her sights set on the World Master's Games taking place in the fall in Sydney, Australia. Houchen has recently joined the Burlington Twist, a World Master's Games Championship hopeful team. She and her teammates have been busy raising the $100,000 they'll need to bring home the gold (Houchen's second).
Times are tough financially, but there's nothing Houchen likes more than a challenge. When she's not working, training, or playing, she and her teammates concentrate on fundraising.
Their efforts include: a 2009 team calendar, a World Cup themed indoor soccer tournament, and a golf tournament scheduled for July 11.
Houchen has described soccer as being a strong force in her life and it is clear that will be the case for years to come.