With the curtain on Molly Chiodo’s time at Muhlenberg rapidly coming to a close she saw an opportunity open up and decided to jump on it. When former assistant soccer coach Anna-Kate Depaolo took a job at Washington and Lee, the Muhlenberg women’s soccer staff was already short-staffed. Not the biggest issue for a team who is not in season, but a void nonetheless.
Chiodo thought, why not.
“I knew that there would be some sort of break in the system. I decided I wasn’t done with the team just yet and took the challenge to fill Depaolo’s shoes. So I sent in my resume to Big L, mostly as a joke, and interviewed for the job.”
Filling in Depaolo’s shoes – or cleats – is a tough task according to Chiodo, but a task she thought her skillset played into quite nicely. “Tattie was easy-going and very approachable as a coach and closer to us in age, which allowed us to connect to her authority with comfort,” she said. For that reason, Chiodo joked, “I was a shoe in.”
“Big L” is the only way Chiodo refers to the Mules Head Women’s Soccer Coach Leslie Benintend.
“If I’m speaking my truth, Coach Benintend and I had very mixed feelings about each other when I first came to Muhlenberg,” explained Chiodo . “I came [to Muhlenberg] very outgoing and sometimes a little too silly at moments that were meant to be serious.”
The nickname is one of those silly moments, yet a funny story the two look back on and laugh about. “Big L came out accidentally during practice my senior year and then it stuck. She now refers to me as Big M, and we are the ‘Big’ duo as coaches currently,” said Chiodo. “My relationship with Coach Benintend has grown so much over the past four years. She has seen me mature on and off the field which has allowed us to grow fond of each other,” she added.
“I think playing soccer in college, especially at Muhlenberg, was unlike any other soccer experience I have had before. I have made so many life-long friends from this team” – Molly Chiodo ’18
Chiodo expressed her appreciation for Benintend allowing her to be as involved as she has become as an assistant coach, even if it is only for the 14 practices the team has in the spring semester. “She allows me to really share my opinions based on how we used to play previous years, to now as an outsider looking at the team from a different perspective.”
The “Big Duo” now communicate daily regarding practice plans, ideas for drills and ways to bring a competitive nature to the team’s spring practices. Chiodo does have a few favorite parts of practice, sort of. “I also do a lot of ball chasing which is so fun,” she explained sarcastically. However, she was quick to admit “I also get thrown into drills occasionally if we are low on numbers, which brings back the good ol’ days when I played with my teammates.”
The connection Chiodo has with her former teammates and current players is the real reason that she wanted to stay so connected with the program only weeks away from graduating. “I think playing soccer in college, especially at Muhlenberg, was unlike any other soccer experience I have had before. I have made so many life-long friends from this team.”
Thinking about Chiodo’s future, she doesn’t necessarily see herself as a career coach, a move some Muhlenberg alumni have decided to participate in with their alma mater. Rather, she can see herself in the same role that her father had coaching staffs of teams she played on growing up. “He was the assistant assistant coach. He stepped in when we needed guidance, but it didn’t require as much responsibility as the head coach’s role was. He was the more relaxed coach that gave you nothing but compliments and was head of chasing balls.”