Written by Taylor Prichard, Sports Information
Photo by Canada Soccer; Coach Tania Singfield (middle) of Carleton's women's soccer with U-17 Canada national team members Marissa Zucchetto (left) and Lysianne Proulx (right) in Grenada.
For seven seasons, Ravens women’s soccer goalkeeping coach Tania Singfield has been an invaluable member of the team’s personnel department, providing wisdom and guidance to the individuals who have worn the gloves in Carleton’s last line of defence.
This past winter, Singfield accepted the goalkeeping coach position with the Canadian U-17 women’s national team. In March, Singfield travelled with Canada to the CONCACAF U-17 Women’s Championship in Grenada, where the team aimed to qualify for the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan scheduled for later this year.
The team began well, much to the delight of Singfield, who observed from the bench as Canada opened the tournament with two consecutive shutouts. Following a 2-1 group stage finish, which included wins against Guatemala and host Grenada, Canada was overmatched by the United States in the semi-final, setting up a third-place showdown with Haiti for a chance to claim the final qualifying spot at the Women’s World Cup.
“We were expected to finish higher, so unfortunately we had to take the longer way around,” described Singfield, a former goaltender with the Canadian Senior Women’s national team in 1990s. “We faced Haiti, which was a team of athletes and one very fast and talented player upfront; the rest of the time they were on idle in the back.”
The Reds were tied with the Haitians 0-0 at the intermission, but following a passionate pep talk from coach Beverly Priestman, Canada exploded for four goals in the second to win the game and the World Cup qualifying spot with a 4-2 final.
“We had to dig like never before and reach deep to understand who we really were as players and as individuals – the true passion had to come out and take over” relived Singfield. “The speech at halftime was not about X’s and O’s, but downright heart and purpose.”
With the victory, Canada’s streak of being the only team in CONCACAF history to qualify for every FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup was kept alive.
“It was a very emotional ride,” expressed Singfield, who will be looking forward to joining the Canadian coaching staff and players in Jordan this September at the World Cup. “The girls pulled themselves together and overcame something they have never faced before, and as a result, we won and accomplished the opportunity to go to the World Cup!”
Singfield has been a expert in the field of soccer goaltending since making her unexpected Canadian national team debut at Detroit’s Pontiac Silver Dome in 1993, when the Canadians took on a star-studded USA squad featuring women’s soccer pioneers Michelle Akers and Mia Hamm.
With the team conceding a goal early in the game and facing a 1-0 deficit in front of a boisterous pro-American crowd, a freak accident to the Canada’s starting netminder forced Singfield – the team’s backup – onto the pitch and into the direct path of a lethal Stars and Stripes attack.
“The coach looked down the bench and I was eating my sunflower seeds because I never thought I would be going in. The mindset of the coach was that I had many years ahead of me before I would see the pitch,” a reminiscent Singfield recalled. “I was shocked and so was (the coach)! Charmaine Hooper (a Canadian women’s soccer pioneer) came off the pitch, grabbed my hand and dragged me onto the field – I was terrified!”
Despite allowing two goals in relief of the hurt first-choice tender to go along with a 3-0 loss to the United States that day, Singfield said that it was one of the best scorelines that Canada could have hoped for against the powerhouse US team during that era.
“I am very proud of that moment, not because of the scoreline, but because of the impact it made on my career as a player and how it contributed to my mindset as a coach and teacher of the game,” reflected Singfield, who represented Canada at the 1995 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Sweden.
Since hanging up her soccer cleats and moving into a coaching role, Tania has remained very involved in the game of soccer. Since 1998, the former uOttawa Gee-Gees player and CIS national champion (1996), has been providing training to youth players at her Ottawa-based goalkeeper development school, Golden Gloves Academy.
“I’ve logged well over 36,000 hours of coaching and I have never felt the need to stop. I cherish the opportunity to teach and to share my knowledge, but most importantly, to help kids learn how to build their confidence and understanding in not just the game of soccer, but also in the game of life.”
Singfield has enjoyed the ride throughout her coaching career, and truly relishes the experience of working with youth.
“From a selfish perspective, it keeps me young!” said a gleeful Singfield. “Having the opportunity to plant the seed early in an individual’s development is the ultimate privilege for any true teacher of the game. You literally have a blank canvas and it’s yours to create. The kids have an open mind to absolutely everything. They want to learn, they want to explore, and they love to play!”
With a spring and summer of training ahead, an eighth season with the Carleton Ravens approaching in August, and a trip to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in the not-so-distant future, Tania Singfield certainly has plenty of action to look to forward to in 2016.