DEL MAR, Calif — Dawn Lee says she has lost a step or two since she played sweeper for University of San Diego High School in the late 1980’s and UCSD in the early 90’s.
But what she has lost in speed, she has gained in coaching ability – leading the Cathedral Catholic Dons’ girls soccer team to 10 Western League titles and eight San Diego Section titles in 15 seasons.
“It was nothing that I aspired to do at first, but I was playing and needed a part-time job so that’s what I did,” Lee said as her team practiced for the San Diego Section playoffs. “The more I started doing it, the more I started realizing that this was my passion and then I got a teaching job and everything was perfect.”
Lee played for her dad, Butch, and then joined him as an assistant coach. In 1998, she took over the team when Butch died of brain cancer. Butch led the Dons to eight straight section titles and taught his daughter the finer points of coaching.
“One of the things I always said was he had a really good knack for getting the best out of every player,” Lee said. “Whether they were in the starting 11 or the 18th player. He made it a fun atmosphere, and I’ve tried to do that, and I think that’s something I really took from him.”
This season, the Dons won 23 of their 27 regular season games with 16 shutouts and earned the top seed in Division III. They won their playoff opener over El Capitan last Friday (another shutout) and have visions on advancing to the Southern California regional championship, which they last won in 2008.
Lee, who also works as a Cathedral Catholic P.E. teacher, pool supervisor, head lifeguard, co-director of alumni and is currently training to run the rock-n-roll half-marathon on the day before her 42nd birthday, provides an example that’s tough to match.
“She is probably the most inspirational person I know,” said senior captain Kelly Bieraugal. “Before every single game she is handing us inspirational notes. She just does so much for us, it’s incredible. She’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had.”
And one of the best coaches in San Diego Section History – right next to her dad