Amy Griffin is one of the most decorated women’s soccer coaches in the state of Washington. After 24 years coaching goalies at the University of Washington, she moved on to be executive director of the OL Reign Academy in 2019.
“I left University of Washington and didn’t really know what I wanted, but I knew soccer was the sporting environment I wanted to be a part of,” Griffin said.
Griffin just finished coaching in a tournament down in California with the OL Reign Youth Academy. She was getting work done on the sidelines, but not in the office.
“I was coaching one of eight teams that we have down here. I was on the field coaching supporting other coaches. It looked good on paper, but I didn’t really crush it as far as getting caught up,” she said.
Griffin graduated from Decatur High School in 1984, and found her way to Florida for college soccer at the University of Central Florida. In 1991, she had the opportunity of a lifetime and represented her country in the 1991 Women’s World Cup.
“I am insanely jealous of just being able to walk out in front of paying fans. I would have had a blast. I don’t know if anyone would have watched me play,” she said.
After coaching UW legends like Hope Solo and others from 1995-2019, she sought another path. Working with the youth and building a respectable program at OL Reign Youth Academy is something she takes pride in.
“I develop a curriculum that means if we walk out on the field, we might not have the best players. But you’ll say, ‘That looks like a Reign team,’ just based on how we solve problems and defend together. The principles look the same on every team,” she said.
The skill and passion for the sport of the world here in the Northwest is something Griffin values more than many other things.
“The soccer market here is amazing. There’s a lot of great players and a lot of clubs that want the great players,” she said.
“Some clubs move about in an unhealthy way compared to how I would prefer to navigate this situation with certain kids and their free time,” Griffin said.
When she linked up with the OL Reign organization, that was when she realized that this was the right club for her.
“The Reign was for sure the one that had the things that I valued and they value the same things. A positive environment with a lot of female leaders,” she said.
Out of the 16 members on the Reign Youth Academy staff, only four are male, making it 75% women in the front office. With 18 youth teams, the Reign are one of the smaller soccer clubs in our area. When she arrived at the club, there were only nine, and the growth of the professional OL Reign has helped immensely.
“Being tied to the pros is cool … All of a sudden there is this momentum toward OL Reign, which is cool because it helps the academy and helps people want to learn about us,” she said.
The game has grown immensely over the past couple of years and Griffin has a simple explanation for it.
“If you see it, you will want to try it,” she said. “I’ve been kicking the ball in the backyard my entire life. At first the only thing I could do was the rainbow.”
The rainbow is a move where the player in possession of the ball rolls the ball up their achilles and flicks it over their head to avoid a defender.
“That’s all I saw someone else do,” she said.
But now the game is changing. More exposure for these athletes means more eyes on their skills.
“All girls and boys can see really high level women play,” she said, noting the evidence for this can be seen in crowds at Lumen Field for OL Reign games.
“It used to be only girls and their moms or dads taking their daughters. Now it’s everybody, everybody is coming. That’s why the sport continues to evolve… It’s never stopped growing,” Griffin said.
Growing up in Federal Way allowed Griffin to be herself, and she can’t thank the community and people enough for that.
“I owe just about everything to have a place where a young girl was allowed to play soccer. I’m just now realizing that many girls did not have that opportunity… Being a tomboy where it wasn’t cool in a lot of places. The friends that I had that let me be me was pretty cool,” she said.
Currently the United States is in the knockout stage of the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup and has been making headlines for not getting the results they have been expecting. Griffin has a unique view that most people don’t have based on being on a national team. In 1991, she was on the first ever USA World Cup championship winning team.
“I think they look a little rocky and unpolished …But I’ve said on social media, ‘Until you’ve been there or worn the same pair of cleats, you’ll never know what it’s like.’”
She has faith the national team can turn it around.
“One thing that has been in the DNA of this team is they are not afraid when their butts are in a sling,” Griffin said. “They simply find a way.”
As someone who coaches young girls in sports, Griffin really enjoys the stage that these women are on and showing the younger generation how to play the sport and compares it to USWNT rosters and competitions in the past.
“Those (older players) were a unit. They had a platform for equality, and winning. They had a platform that women can be excellent in their field and not be afraid to brag about it and not apologize for it. That was what everyone was celebrating,” Griffin said.