Since graduating from Lehigh, Lauren Calabrese has shifted her perspective when it comes to her role on Lehigh’s campus. For Calabrese, however, the one timeless aspect of being at Lehigh is the women’s soccer team.
Calabrese is the assistant head coach of the women’s soccer team and an English professor at Lehigh University.
She is also a mother of two — her sons are Tucker, 3, and Skyler, 4 months. Calabrese has coached soccer at both the club and high school level — she was the girls’ varsity soccer coach and also taught English while at Moravian Academy.
Calabrese received her master’s degree in English and education from Lehigh. She had a teaching fellowship as a graduate student from 2011 to 2013, teaching English 001 and English 002.
When asked to join the Lehigh coaching staff in 2016, Calabrese had just given birth to Tucker and wasn’t looking for a career change. But the opportunity seemed compelling to her in two ways.
Being back at Lehigh seemed to provide motivation — the intellectual curiosity and vibrancy of the community was something she was excited to get back into. Her love for soccer is also what led her to take the job.
“This particular job has provided me with the opportunity to blend both of my critical interests,” Calabrese said.
When Calabrese accepted the position with the women’s soccer team, she contacted the faculty she knew in the English department to look for a teaching job. Because the soccer team is out of season during the spring semester, she takes the opportunity to teach during that time of year.
“I’m grateful that the English department has accommodated me and that the athletic department promotes it, as well,” Calabrese said. Calabrese said the balance of academia and athletics in her life mirrors that of a student-athlete.
Graduating as a student-athlete taught Calabrese to manage her time in a way that has allowed her to be successful as both a scholar and a coach. Calabrese likes to provoke thinking and reflection among her players and students. She is always asking questions to challenge her players to think deeply about their relationships with each other and their problem-solving strategies.
Calabrese said being a product of Lehigh’s environment can be incredibly rewarding, but the pressure that accompanies the environment can also be stressful.
Calabrese said she believes students should recognize the hard work they are putting in and give themselves credit for it. She thinks students should use their time at Lehigh to learn how to be confident and balanced — and also to seek out positive relationships that challenge them to grow as a person.
Calabrese also said she passionately believes that self-advocacy, individualism and self-awareness are all incredibly important skill sets to have as a woman navigating the world. She argues it is important to know how to empower oneself and to know how to succeed in a stressful environment.
She never put much thought into how mothers balance parenting and coaching, but she has a few role models within the industry. Sue Troyan, head coach of the Lehigh women’s basketball team, and Caitlin Dallmeyer, head coach of Lehigh’s field hockey team, are two women Calabrese looks up to in the athletic realm.
With their hours, it can be very hard for college coaches, who are mothers, to get up in the morning and take care of kids.
Calabrese’s husband, Kyle Collina, ’06, works full time, but is supportive and helpful, she said. Her parents also live in the area and help out with her children.
In fact, Calabrese has brought both of her sons to away games. The head coach of the women’s soccer team, Eric Lambinus, promotes family first. This something Calabrese greatly appreciates.
“It’s not just about the grind and being successful at the professional level,” Calabrese said. “It’s learning how sometimes, yeah. Tt is kind of messy. And that there is a lot of work on the personal side, as well. It can be done.”
Calabrese said it is rewarding to come back and be a part of the women’s soccer team in a different capacity than when she was a player, and see how the program is developing its student-athletes as people and leaders.
Deferring from Lambinus, who is mostly defensive-minded when it comes to tactics, Calabrese is more offensive-minded. which gives well-rounded mentorship for the players.
Julianna Bonner, ‘23, is on the women’s soccer team and is close with Calabrese. Bonner, a forward, said the team calls Calabrese Coach Cal. The duo talks a lot in game situations and at practice, which has allowed them to develop their relationship.
Bonner said she thinks Calabrese is a huge reason that the team culture is what it is. Bonner described Calabrese as very approachable, relatable, and motivational.
“She’s a huge motivator for me,” Bonner said. “When I am about to step on the field, she is the one that finds me and gives me a high-five or shakes my back, and is like, ‘you got this!’ She’s just such a validator for me going onto the field, which is incredible.”
Calabrese has taught Bonner to move on, not dwell on the moment — to figure out the now and how she can contribute to the game moving forward. Calabrese is the one always motivating her to keep working hard. “She is the voice in my head that I need,” Bonner said.
Although Calabrese has more of a focus on the attacking players, she still makes an effort with every girl on the team.
Kayla Arestivo, ‘20, has loved everything about her experience with the women’s soccer team since the start of her freshman year. Arestivo is an attacking midfielder, and as an offensive player, Calabrese has been Arestivo’s main coach.
Arestivo said Calabrese is great at communicating with all of the girls, teaching and challenging them every day.
“She just had a new baby and she also has a little boy,” Arestivo said. “It’s just awesome how she’s so dedicated and hardworking as a part of our coaching staff. She’s always focused and not distracted when she’s here, which is really impressive.”
For Calabrese, it’s not just a job. She said it’s also a lifestyle, and a way of being.