Rachel Pitman promoted to associate head coach for women’s soccer


DePaul Athletics

Associate head coach Rachel Pitman, was part of the DePaul women’s soccer team that went to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments in 2013 and 2014.

Even though she’s just been promoted, Rachel Pitman isn’t too worried.

In fact, her new position as the associate head coach of the DePaul women’s soccer team seems like the perfect way for her to continue the momentum that has carried her throughout her career ​​in soccer. 

Born and raised in Bristol, England, Pitman connected with soccer early on.

“When I’m like three years old, I’ve got football kits on,” Pitman said. “Just, constantly, I just had football kits on growing up.”

This was an experience not uncommon on the Isles.

“Our country is mad about football, and I’ve grown up just being surrounded by the game,” she said. “I was surrounded by everything that encompasses football in England.”

Her father, who first introduced her to the sport, was also a huge motivator for her to begin playing, and that drive from him helped her secure a spot on one of the few girls’ teams in her area. However, that motivation did not come without some pressure.

“I don’t think my dad ever turned to me and said, ‘oh, you had a great game,’” she admitted. “You know, he was my biggest critic, but to other people, he was my biggest fan.”

In the car rides home from her matches, her father would be pointing out the ways she could improve. While this may not be some people’s chosen method of inspiration, Pitman took it and turned it into fuel for the fire. 

“My dad is a large part of the success I had,” she said. “I think if it wasn’t for him always kind of being on me a little bit, I would’ve maybe just settled for okay, and I think he really pushed me to be great.”

Their relentless push for her greatness got her all the way to Bristol Center for Excellence after they selected her from trials. From there, she was scouted by the England youth team and helped lead them to the U-17 World Cup Semifinals. 

After this extensive teeth-cutting in England and a two-year stint with Arsenal, Pitman decided to play at a Division I level and enrolled at DePaul. However, the move required some starting from scratch. 

“My freshman year, I think we won three games total,” she said. “It was really tough, and it wasn’t through a lack of effort. … We were right there, but just not enough.”

For some, that would be enough to kill the lifelong momentum that had been pushing her this whole time. Pitman realized this too.

“It would’ve been easy for me, as a freshman, to say, ‘We’ve won like three games here. I’m going to go somewhere else,’ but that’s not what I wanted,” Pitman said. “That’s not what I believed in. I stuck with DePaul because I knew the progress we could make.”

The perseverance and loyalty paid off. In her senior year, they had a 20-match winning streak and won the Big East tournament title. 

Since then, through her time as assistant coach and now associate head coach, she has taken that goal of perseverance with her, and it has only been furthered by her close working relationship with head coach Michele O’Brien.

“I think we have a really good balance,” O’Brien said. “We’re similar enough that we work well together and then we’re different enough that we work well together.”

O’Brien was DePaul’s assistant coach when Pitman started on the team and saw her natural drive long before she ever saw her play. Pitman had been out with an injury when O’Brien visited her during scouting.

“So I kind of took a gamble on her, to be honest, ‘cause I hadn’t seen her play, you know.” O’Brien said. “I just liked her personality. You could tell her demeanor was, she was serious about soccer.”

Her instinct paid off, and she found a devoted and hard-working player, a connection that blossomed into the close coaching dynamic they have today.

“Knowing that I have the loyalty of an associate head coach is something that you really, I mean, you can’t take for granted,” O’Brien said. “The team respects her as much as they would respect me and listen to the same information, and it’s no different.”

When Pitman coaches the team, “she says it in a way that comes across as, you know, critical information, but never like belittling or demeaning,” O’Brien said.

Both Pitman and O’Brien shared the belief that the DePaul team is defined by their “gritty, blue collar mentality,” as O’Brien describes it.

But as Pitman points out, that does not come without effort.

“I think that’s a learned skill and a learned behavior,” Pitman said. “So I think we’ll always try to implement that to our team because that’s the foundation. If you don’t have that, it’s gonna be really hard to kind of do what we wanna do.”

DePaul junior forward Beth Smyth described Pitman as “a very personal coach,” something Smyth learned early after Pitman traveled to her family’s home in Manchester in order to scout Smyth for DePaul. 

Since then, Smyth said Pitman “has helped me grow as a player both on and off pitch.”

Smyth has not felt too bothered by Pitman’s move up to associate head coach, saying that “change is natural.” 

Her focus, and the rest of the team’s, has remained the same.

“The goal is always to win the Big East championship,” Smyth said.