When Rob Ambrose was introduced as the head football coach at Towson University in January 2009, he told a story in his first news conference about how his family helped shape his decision to coach at his alma mater.
The former offensive coordinator at the University of Connecticut, Ambrose missed a few too many of his young daughter Grace's late November birthdays. When she called him out on it, Ambrose explained that as an assistant coach, he doesn't make the rules or set the schedule. So, she simply asked him to get a new job as a head coach so he can make the rules and be home for birthdays more often.
Fortunately for Grace Ambrose, Towson made her wish possible.
"When he came to Towson, I set ground rules," Grace said. "I told him kids had to be allowed to come to work, coaches had to be with kids on their birthdays. That was just really important to me because that's something I didn't get a lot of growing up."
Almost nine years later, Rob will be able to continue making it to birthdays. Grace will become a Tiger next fall as a goalie for the Towson women's soccer team.
"For the longest time, when I was younger, really, I said I would never go to Towson," Grace said. "I think it was in eighth grade, we were actually all sitting at the dinner table. I forgot how it came up, but I said, ‘I think I've decided I want to go to Towson.' And my parents were like, 'Can we have that in writing?'"
It was around that time Grace first stepped foot on a soccer field just as a favor to a friend. In her second year playing the game, she was the starting goalie and junior varsity captain at Towson High School. Just a couple years later, she began to seriously consider playing at the collegiate level.
Grace said the short amount of time she's spent playing soccer has helped keep the game fresh and exciting for her.
"I think, in the beginning of my junior year, I definitely started to feel a lot more involved," Grace said. "The competition was constantly increasing, and I loved it. I think the cool thing about it is a lot of the girls who play soccer started when they were 8, and then they started getting involved in club teams, and they've been playing showcases since they were little. But by now they're all burnt out. They don't have all of this passion and excitement for it."
While the fall months have remained busy for Rob, he has tried to watch as many of Grace's games as possible. The former Towson football player couldn't help but see a bit of himself in Grace.
"She played just out of fun and love for the game, but she's also my kid," Rob said. "So once she starts playing something, she's kind of uber-competitive."
His most vivid memory of his daughter's progression was in a club game against a highly touted opposing team. Rob recalls seeing Grace stop all but one of about 17 shots on goal. On one save, Rob saw his first born come out of goal, sacrificing her body and causing a pile as she stuffed the shot -- leaving her dad and younger brother in awe.
"I turned and looked at my son and said, ‘Your sister is a badass,'" Rob said. "I didn't know what else to say."
As a coach, Rob has recognized the potential Grace possesses to play a Division I sport. Now with his daughter on her way to becoming the next Ambrose at Towson, Rob will be able to see that potential manifested.
"I realized, watching my daughter, she's raw as can be," Rob said. "There's a lot of intangibles, that as a coach you're looking at like, 'She might be able to help a program along the way.' She's behind the curve, for all of the years playing, but she's got a pretty high ceiling depending on what she does with it."
Issue 239: November 2017