As a longtime neighbor of Towson University, Katherine Vettori often found her mind wandering as she would jog through campus. She noticed all the construction and improvements being made and thought Towson would be a pretty cool place to work.
Those daydreams became reality Jan. 3 when Towson athletic director Tim Leonard named Vettori the sixth head coach of the university's women's soccer program.
For Vettori, a former conference coach of the year in her previous stint as a collegiate head coach at nearby Loyola University, the opportunity is a dream come true.
"I really think that Towson is a hidden gem in the state of Maryland," Vettori said. "When I would do my running loop and see how over the years the campus had changed and evolved, it really has become a beautiful place. After having lived literally across the street from campus for the last 17 years, I really wanted this job."
Vettori previously spent five years at Loyola, but she had been out of college coaching since 2013. The Greyhounds advanced to four Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship games during her tenure, capturing two conference titles and making two NCAA Tournament appearances. She was the 2009 MAAC Coach of the Year, but her contract was not renewed after a difficult 2013 season.
Initially disappointed, Vettori now looks back at that decision as a blessing. With two young daughters at home, she found it difficult to balance the long hours and travel required of a college coach with the responsibilities of being mom.
"When I stopped coaching I was able to make my own schedule for every day," Vettori said. "It was like, 'Oh, wait, now I'm a better mom, a better wife, a better friend.' I did not balance my life well at all before. It was all about work, and there was a lot of time away from my family. I learned a valuable lesson."
Instead of stepping away from soccer, Vettori was able to spend quality time with her family on the soccer field and at home, coaching her daughters at Dumbarton Middle School in Towson.
With her oldest daughter, Remy, now in high school and her youngest, Lucy, in middle school, Vettori felt the time was right to jump back into the college game.
"If this job had come open a year ago, I wouldn't have pursued it," Vettori said. "I wasn't ready. For me to do this again, it had to be a great situation. When the job was offered to me, we went to dinner as a family, and I asked [my husband] Jason and the girls if they were OK with me doing this again, and they all unanimously said that I should do it."
Vettori inherits a team that was 5-11-3 overall and 2-6-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association in 2017 under Greg Paynter, whose contract was not renewed after 11 seasons as the Tigers' head coach. Vettori has spent her first few weeks getting to know team members and assembling her staff and is excited about the support the program receives from the university and athletic administration as well as the resources at her disposal.
"I have two full-time assistant coaches, and there are some exciting things coming up for the program in the future," Vettori said. "The team is fantastic. I'm really excited. It's time to take the program in a different direction. I've been given the resources to do something special here."
The first part of steering the program in a new direction is establishing the culture, something Vettori has put in the hands of her players.
"The most important thing right off the bat is for me to get to know the players," she said. "I want to get to know them as human beings and establish a very strong relationship with each one of them. The first step is to determine what we want our culture to be, and I want to make them part of that process so that they own it and hold each other accountable. If it's their culture, they will do that. I want to be positive with them every single day. Life is too short not to be positive."
After getting to know the team, it will be time for Vettori to hit the recruiting trail. She first needs to see the players who have committed to Towson play, and then will start searching for the players who will make up her first recruiting class.
Fortunately for Vettori, she remained active in the local soccer community during her time away from college coaching. In 2014, she started the Vettori Elite Soccer Academy, which provides individual training, small-group training and team training for area clubs while also handling college placement, managing camps and running youth winter leagues. Vettori also was the director of coaching and player development for the Towson United youth soccer program, helping Towson United grow from seven to 18 teams.
When announcing Vettori as Towson's head coach, Leonard indicated that her local soccer ties would help with recruiting. Vettori agreed and will continue to work with local school and youth programs.
"I think it all really goes hand in hand," she said. "I feel like I pretty much know all the youth soccer players in the area ages 4 and up. There's a U9 player I worked with who was phenomenal. I hope that she had so much fun and remembers working with me so that maybe she will consider coming to Towson after high school."
That would be quite a few years from now. Does that mean that Vettori hopes to stay a while?
"If I can be as successful here, I would like to be a lifer," Vettori said. "I see this as a destination for me. This is my dream job."
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Loyola Athletics