COLUMBUS, Ohio – For former Ohio State captain Liv Soares, a career as a coach was always a thought that lived in the back of her mind. Now, three years since her Buckeye career ended, she has taken that thought and made it a reality.
“I always knew in the back of my head that I wanted to get into coaching,” Soares said. “I definitely wanted to stay in athletics and pursued sport industry as my undergraduate degree at Ohio State. So, I knew that was always going to be one of my goals.”
Currently an assistant coach for the Union College women’s hockey team, Soares is the first Ohio State women’s hockey player to coach at the Division I level. While her ascent into the collegiate coaching ranks has been quick, it’s safe to say her coaching career began even before she finished playing at Ohio State.
As a player for the Buckeyes from 2016-20, she found her role on the team transition from one on the ice to one equally as important off it.
“I realized that as your role changes over your college career, you have to find ways to have impacts on teams. As I started to play less and still have a leadership role, I found that I was paying attention more to what the coaches were doing. On the bench if you’re if you’re not in and you’re not getting those shifts, how are you still saying engaged? How are you communicating on the bench? I started to really enjoy that aspect of the game and started to watch it a little bit more. I was paying attention more to how coaches were explaining drills in practice and I was starting to pick up on a little bit more.”
When her playing career ended after the 2019-20 season, Soares remained at Ohio State to earn her master’s degree in sport management. It was during that time that she began seriously considering coaching as a career. Realizing how much she missed the game, she found herself looking for a way back into the sport.
“During my graduate program, I was watching every college hockey game. I wanted to get back into it so bad. I just was drawn to it more than I think I ever was throughout my life, which is odd because you would think I would have felt that way while I was playing. I think watching and just being away from it for a year made me realize how much I wanted to get into coaching.”
In December of 2020, she began connecting and networking with coaches across the country, including her former coach Nadine Muzerall, looking to gain insight and guidance.
“I started reaching out to coaches to ask them about their experience and what coaching is like because as a player you obviously only see one side of it. Muz had a lot of conversations about what recruiting is like and let me see what coaching is really like. We had conversations on how difficult it is and just how as a female in sports it is difficult. She opened my eyes to how much you have to work towards it.”
And it was in Muzerall’s office where what was once a dream for Soares started to develop into actuality.
“Liv would always come in and want to talk hockey with me,” Muzerall said. “Whether that was on video or on the whiteboard, she was always very interested in understanding the game better. She already had a clear understanding of the game and she was a very smart player on paper and on video.”
It wasn’t just her knowledge of the X’s and O’s that gave Soares the potential to be a great coach in Muzerall’s opinion, but her love of the game and leadership skills.
“I knew that her passion and her commitment to hockey and to being great would be a driving force in her becoming a really good coach one day. She may not have had a lot of playing time while here, but she still was our captain because of her leadership. Great coaches understand the game, but will you have people who want to follow you? I think her being a captain, although not receiving a lot of time on ice, spoke volumes of what her players thought of her.”
“Liv leads with her heart. She did all the right things and did them because it was for the betterment of the team, not for her personally. She did a lot of the things away from the ice to make all the players on the team feel welcomed. She did a lot of the grunt work behind the scenes to make our culture feel special and valued.”
Prior to joining the staff at Union, Soares’ first collegiate coaching job came in 2021 as an assistant coach for the Colby College women’s hockey program. Similarly to how she helped lead the Buckeyes to their first NCAA tournament appearance in 2018, she played an important part in the Mules earning their first NCAA Division III tournament berth in 2022.
“I remember sitting watching our selection show in the airport when Ohio State made it to the tournament for the first time and I will never forget that. Then I got to do it on the opposite side as a coach and watch Colby watch their first Selection Show and make it. That day I actually sent that Ohio State video to my team and they watched it. It’s moments like that where it comes full circle that you just appreciate the game so much and the path that it takes you on. I could list so many things that happened over my playing career that have made me into who I am and the coach that I’m becoming.”
As she gets settled into her new role with a new season quickly approaching, Soares is excited for the opportunity at hand.
“Muz has motivated me as you see her career as a coach and how far she’s come in such a short amount of time. It inspires someone like myself, a younger female coach, to do the same thing over time and to grow a program and watch it become something it once wasn’t. I think here at Union I’m excited to do that and grow the program here. Our staff and players are ready to do that. It’s an exciting time to be a part of the program here at Union and with time I believe our story will shift the same way
At the end of the day, while she may be competing against Ohio State, Soares is grateful for the impact that Ohio State had on helping her get to where she is now.
“I still have a lot to learn but I give a lot of credit to Ohio State Athletics all together for the opportunities they provide their student athletes and most definitely all the coaches that I had over time, allowing me to grow my game and then also become a better person outside of it. I’m extremely grateful for just the opportunity Muz gave me not just to be a part of the program but the position she put me in to allow me to grow as an individual.”
“I’m very proud of Liv,” Muzerall said. “This was a goal of hers and she continued to pursue it. That’s important when you want to stay in this in a line of work. There’s high demand, long hours and she committed to it. Now she has her foot in the door of Division I, and that’s the hardest part. She has great future in coaching and it’s because she is doing it for the right reason – she’s doing it for the love of the game.”