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WOMEN IN SPORT: Dara Ramirez continues to boost Valley soccer community


WOLFVILLE - It might surprise some that soccer wasn’t Dara Ramirez’s top choice growing up.

 “Soccer is my sport, but growing up in Hantsport, everybody played everything,” she says. “At a younger age, if I had to choose, it probably would have been basketball.”

Ramirez, who has been a significant member of the Valley soccer community for decades, encourages the young athletes she coaches and mentors to try a variety of sports.

“I'm a big advocate of kids playing multiple sports and developing their athletic potential,” she says.

“These days, young people are trying to specialize too early in life, which often leads to 'over-use' injuries. It's important to have multi-sport athletes.”

Regardless of the sports they choose, she says the most important thing is that kids are passionate about whatever activity they're doing.

“If you're passionate, you will fulfill your potential,” she says.

Read more of the Women in Sport series here.

Action at Acadia

After graduating from high school in 1987, Ramirez, then Dara Moore, was recruited by head coach Laura Sanders to play soccer at Acadia. She joined the Axettes “at the start of a great run,” she says.

“We won conference championships all five years I was there,” Ramirez said.

Acadia hosted CIS nationals in 1989 and, while the Axettes didn't win that year on their home field, they did win the national title the following year at UBC.

“Those were amazing years,” Ramirez recalls. “The structure of the national tournament was changing and evolving. My first year, it was a four-team tournament. The year we won, it was played over two weekends.”

Acadia played the semifinal at home and then travelled to B.C. the next weekend for the final.

Ramirez's first university coaching job was in 1991, when she assisted Sanders at Acadia. She then moved on to Dalhousie, where she assisted Neil Turnbull for three years, during which time the team won three straight AUS titles.

“Neil and Laura were good friends. He told Laura he was looking for an assistant coach who wanted to make coaching their career, and Laura recommended me.”

Coaching career

Ramirez has won national championships as a player, as an assistant coach and as a head coach. 

After graduating with an education degree, Ramirez pursued teaching as a career, but “always hoped to make a life for myself somewhere in soccer.”

In 1996-1997, she attended the National Coaching Institute in Victoria, B.C. Back then, she says, the institute selected one person from each sport.

“I applied, I had Neil's support, and I was chosen for soccer. There were 10 of us, from different sports. We worked through the curriculum to obtain our Level 4 certification,” she explains.

When she graduated from NCI, the timing was just right.

“Neil had taken a position with a D-1 team in the U.S., and he recommended me to take over for him at Dal. It was hard to leave Acadia, but I wanted to become a coach. It turned out to be a really important step in my development.”

Ramirez remained at Dal for three seasons, winning three more AUS championships and another national title in 1999. Counting her years as head coach at Dal and as an assistant, the team had a record of 92-3-4.

 “A lot of pieces have to fit together to have that kind of success – potential among your players, great leadership and team chemistry. The chemistry we had when I played at Acadia was tremendous. I see some of that same kind of chemistry at Acadia now.”

Learning from the best

Ramirez says she has had great mentors over the years, including Sanders, Turnbull and Stephen Hart, technical director for Soccer Nova Scotia, who went on to be head coach of the men's national team.

“They were all fabulous role models,” Ramirez said.

Another stroke of fortune brought her to Acadia as head coach in 2000. She left Dal when her first child was born, just as Sanders gave up coaching Acadia soccer to concentrate on women’s basketball.

Passion for the game

Ramirez spent eight seasons as Acadia's head coach, leaving in 2009 to take a teaching position in Iraq to be near her husband Juan, who is from Colombia, was forced to leave Canada in 2006 and has not been permitted to return. His immigration status remains in limbo.

While in Iraq, Ramirez started a women’s soccer program at the university where she was teaching, served as head coach and led the women’s varsity sport program.

Dara and Juan have four children, two sons and two daughters. After selling the family soccer store in 2012, Dara now works for the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board in educational support.

 “It's a part-time position,” she says, adding, “I spend the rest of my time coaching.”

She also serves as vice-president of Valley District Soccer and coaches minor soccer, including her daughter Melina’s U-11 Tier 1 girls' team, which clinched the Capital League title this past summer.

 “I officiated for 10 years, really intensely, but I found I couldn't play all the time, coach all the time and officiate all the time,” Ramirez said. She was one of the first female Level 1 soccer officials in Nova Scotia.

 “Sometimes,” she says, “when you're really passionate about something, you're passionate about everything about it. Because I had such great mentors, I started coaching very young – about 14, when I coached my first U-10 team. Now, I find myself coaching the kids of some of those players.”

Ramirez says she had a bit of a spark of interest in coaching at a young age.

“At Acadia, Laura gave me the opportunity to do camps, because I was local and I was keen. The passion was always there, and I had strong mentors at key points in my life.”

Ramirez remains one of a select group of female builders of the sport of soccer in Nova Scotia – a list that also includes Cindy Tye and Angela Morrison.

“It says a lot that Cindy, Angela and I all came out of the same era at Acadia, and that all of us were coached and mentored by Laura Sanders.”

 “Soccer is my sport, but growing up in Hantsport, everybody played everything,” she says. “At a younger age, if I had to choose, it probably would have been basketball.”

Ramirez, who has been a significant member of the Valley soccer community for decades, encourages the young athletes she coaches and mentors to try a variety of sports.

“I'm a big advocate of kids playing multiple sports and developing their athletic potential,” she says.

“These days, young people are trying to specialize too early in life, which often leads to 'over-use' injuries. It's important to have multi-sport athletes.”

Regardless of the sports they choose, she says the most important thing is that kids are passionate about whatever activity they're doing.

“If you're passionate, you will fulfill your potential,” she says.

Read more of the Women in Sport series here.

Action at Acadia

After graduating from high school in 1987, Ramirez, then Dara Moore, was recruited by head coach Laura Sanders to play soccer at Acadia. She joined the Axettes “at the start of a great run,” she says.

“We won conference championships all five years I was there,” Ramirez said.

Acadia hosted CIS nationals in 1989 and, while the Axettes didn't win that year on their home field, they did win the national title the following year at UBC.

“Those were amazing years,” Ramirez recalls. “The structure of the national tournament was changing and evolving. My first year, it was a four-team tournament. The year we won, it was played over two weekends.”

Acadia played the semifinal at home and then travelled to B.C. the next weekend for the final.

Ramirez's first university coaching job was in 1991, when she assisted Sanders at Acadia. She then moved on to Dalhousie, where she assisted Neil Turnbull for three years, during which time the team won three straight AUS titles.

“Neil and Laura were good friends. He told Laura he was looking for an assistant coach who wanted to make coaching their career, and Laura recommended me.”

Coaching career

Ramirez has won national championships as a player, as an assistant coach and as a head coach. 

After graduating with an education degree, Ramirez pursued teaching as a career, but “always hoped to make a life for myself somewhere in soccer.”

In 1996-1997, she attended the National Coaching Institute in Victoria, B.C. Back then, she says, the institute selected one person from each sport.

“I applied, I had Neil's support, and I was chosen for soccer. There were 10 of us, from different sports. We worked through the curriculum to obtain our Level 4 certification,” she explains.

When she graduated from NCI, the timing was just right.

“Neil had taken a position with a D-1 team in the U.S., and he recommended me to take over for him at Dal. It was hard to leave Acadia, but I wanted to become a coach. It turned out to be a really important step in my development.”

Ramirez remained at Dal for three seasons, winning three more AUS championships and another national title in 1999. Counting her years as head coach at Dal and as an assistant, the team had a record of 92-3-4.

 “A lot of pieces have to fit together to have that kind of success – potential among your players, great leadership and team chemistry. The chemistry we had when I played at Acadia was tremendous. I see some of that same kind of chemistry at Acadia now.”

Learning from the best

Ramirez says she has had great mentors over the years, including Sanders, Turnbull and Stephen Hart, technical director for Soccer Nova Scotia, who went on to be head coach of the men's national team.

“They were all fabulous role models,” Ramirez said.

Another stroke of fortune brought her to Acadia as head coach in 2000. She left Dal when her first child was born, just as Sanders gave up coaching Acadia soccer to concentrate on women’s basketball.

Passion for the game

Ramirez spent eight seasons as Acadia's head coach, leaving in 2009 to take a teaching position in Iraq to be near her husband Juan, who is from Colombia, was forced to leave Canada in 2006 and has not been permitted to return. His immigration status remains in limbo.

While in Iraq, Ramirez started a women’s soccer program at the university where she was teaching, served as head coach and led the women’s varsity sport program.

Dara and Juan have four children, two sons and two daughters. After selling the family soccer store in 2012, Dara now works for the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board in educational support.

 “It's a part-time position,” she says, adding, “I spend the rest of my time coaching.”

She also serves as vice-president of Valley District Soccer and coaches minor soccer, including her daughter Melina’s U-11 Tier 1 girls' team, which clinched the Capital League title this past summer.

 “I officiated for 10 years, really intensely, but I found I couldn't play all the time, coach all the time and officiate all the time,” Ramirez said. She was one of the first female Level 1 soccer officials in Nova Scotia.

 “Sometimes,” she says, “when you're really passionate about something, you're passionate about everything about it. Because I had such great mentors, I started coaching very young – about 14, when I coached my first U-10 team. Now, I find myself coaching the kids of some of those players.”

Ramirez says she had a bit of a spark of interest in coaching at a young age.

“At Acadia, Laura gave me the opportunity to do camps, because I was local and I was keen. The passion was always there, and I had strong mentors at key points in my life.”

Ramirez remains one of a select group of female builders of the sport of soccer in Nova Scotia – a list that also includes Cindy Tye and Angela Morrison.

“It says a lot that Cindy, Angela and I all came out of the same era at Acadia, and that all of us were coached and mentored by Laura Sanders.”

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