Bev Priestman can finally focus on football with fewer distractions off the field

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Coach Bev Priestman says she has “unfinished business” with the Olympic champion Canadian women’s soccer team.

And with a recently signed contract to stay until the 2027 FIFA Women’s World Cup, that mission is clear.

Priestman, 37, who took over at the Canadian team on November 1, 2020, was initially appointed “for the next quadrennial period” and was working on a rolling contract with no end date. She now has a new deal defined.

“On paper, I was always going to be here until 2027. But I think it sends a message to the players, to the organization,” she said in an interview.

Priestman sees better days ahead for Canada Soccer, which still needs to fill the general secretary and men’s coach positions and finally resolve the ongoing labor dispute with its players.

But she acknowledges that the path to getting there has sometimes been strewn with pitfalls.

“If I had talked to you this time last year, it would have been a totally different conversation,” she said.

However, in recent months, she says distractions off the field have diminished.

“If you look at the end of the year, it’s no surprise that things have improved on the pitch. Because that’s what I could spend my time on. We finished the year the way I would like to see Canada Soccer continue to evolve. forward, which is an investment in the women’s team, great planning off the field where I’m not looking at (the) budget left, right and center.”

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Work “what it should look like”

She said at the end of the year that her feeling was “this is what work was like when I first took office and this is what it must feel like to move forward.” Before”.

“It was a crucial part because I could just focus on what I felt good at. At the beginning of the year, it was nothing like that. Instead, I spend my time worrying about things that no other head coach has had in the world. And like I said, there’s a correlation between what we did on the field and what I had to do off it.

Canada has won five out of six since its disappointing performance at last summer’s FIFA World Cup in Australia, which saw it exit after the group stage. Priestman’s team, which was 7-5-1 in 2023, has conceded just two goals since the World Cup and recorded three straight clean sheets.

It was an encouraging end to a difficult year.

“Really stressful times off the field. And probably things that people don’t even realize,” she said. “But at the end of the day, I wanted to commit to the team, to my staff, so we could all put our heads down and build.”

When asked if she had received any other job offers, Priestman said, “There have always been whispers or people wanting to talk to you.

“What I will say is that I have never fully participated in an interview process. I think I have always been transparent with Canada Soccer about it. A few things were brought up, but at the end of “I made my intentions clear, which was to settle this contract and make it clear to everyone that I’m here to stay.”

“Close the door to other things”

Her existing contract included a renegotiation clause, which she chose to activate before this summer’s Paris Olympics “to close the door on something else.”

“For me and my family, we love Canada, I love this team,” Priestman said. “And I feel like there’s some unfinished business.”

The family is based on the west coast.

His wife, Emma Humphries, is director of women’s soccer development for the Vancouver Whitecaps and coach of the Canadian women’s under-17 team, whose play begins Friday at the CONCACAF U-17 Women’s Championship in Toluca, Mexico. Their young son Jack is due to start his first year of school in September.

Next, the Canadians, ranked 10th in the world rankings, will compete in the CONCACAF Gold Cup in February and the SheBelieves Cup in April, both in the United States. Canada will open the defense of its Olympic title at the end of July in France.

Priestman has a 28-9-10 record in 47 games in charge of Canada and was nominated for FIFA’s Best Women’s Coach in 2021 and 2022. She succeeded Kenneth Heiner-Moller after his return to his Native Denmark.

Priestman spent five years with Canada Soccer in various coaching roles before returning in June 2018 to her native England, where she served as coach of the England women’s under-18 team and as the team’s assistant coach senior English women.

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