Maggie Daniel ’07 was an excellent player in her time as a girls’ soccer student-athlete at Country Day. A four-year varsity team member, she was also a part of the 2006 team that won the NCISAA State Championship.
Her contributions to the Country Day soccer program didn’t stop there, though. After graduating from CCDS and earning a degree from the University of Georgia, Daniel returned to her alma mater to teach in the Lower School and coach soccer. Daniel, now an assistant coach for the varsity girls’ soccer team, recently discussed what the soccer program meant to her as a player, and she talked about her experiences returning to the school as a faculty member and coach.
Question: How did playing Country Day girls’ soccer impact you?
Maggie Daniel: One of my earliest memories of Country Day soccer was participating as a camper at the annual “Ian Dennis Soccer Camp” and getting to work with the varsity soccer players. It became a goal of mine to make the varsity team as a freshman, a goal that I achieved many years later. Playing club soccer for Charlotte Soccer Club was fun, but nothing compared to playing for the school that I started attending as a kindergarten student. There was a different level of pride every time I took the field to represent my school and the “CD” on the jersey. I was playing not only for my current teammates, but for the history of this program and to leave my mark on it as best as I could. Some of my fondest memories in Upper School are from when I played soccer. My teammates became family. We fought through some major lows and reached some extreme highs. I grew not only as an athlete, but as an individual, as well.
Coach Dennis and Coach Knox both played large roles in developing me into the person I am today. When I graduated, I still loved following the program. My sister eventually became a member of the varsity team, as well, and I remember how I used to have to surprise her by coming to games. She hated when she knew I would be there, so I could never tell her in advance when I was coming home to visit and watch a game. She even banned me from the NCISAA Semifinal game they played in, though I didn’t listen to her.
Q: How did your experiences as a Country Day student shape how you contribute as a coach and teacher?
MD: The school itself has always been so supportive. I remember having so many conversations about the games with Win Robinson, and he genuinely cared about what we were talking about. I had great teachers at Country Day, and I love how I have gotten to reconnect with quite a few of them now that I teach and coach here. Marsha Newton-Graham, my wonderful advisor in Upper School, is someone that I keep in close touch with today. Clare Walton, my kindergarten teacher, has been someone that I loved working with at the Lower School and have learned a lot from as an adult. I know that even though I am no longer one of their students, I can turn to my former teachers if I need anything and they’ll be there to help.
I continue to have so much pride in representing Country Day and the history of this program when I take the field as a coach. It has given me a lot, and I hope to give back as much as I can in my current role. I love this school and this soccer program a lot, and I truly value the experiences that I have had over the (many) years and look forward to many more in the future.
Q: What are some of your favorite soccer memories from your days as a student?
MD: My sophomore and junior years were filled with so many amazing memories, on and off the field. On the field, no question my favorite memory was when we won the NCISAA State Championship in 2006. We came so close in 2005, losing the State Championship game to Greensboro Day to suffer our only loss of the season, so we felt like we had some unfinished business in 2006. When we started the countdown on the bench to when the clock hit 0:00, it was an incredible feeling of pure elation. We had accomplished out goal and were the NCISAA State Champions. All of the hard work paid off. We also were going to get that coveted “State Champs” jacket that we badly wanted.
Off the field, my favorite memory also took place during my junior year. Coach Dennis organized a team trip to England during Spring Break. It was a time where we really bonded as a team and had an unbelievable experience. We played some tough competition in England, toured Goodison Park (home of Everton FC), took in an English Premier League game, played paint ball, road four-wheelers around the snowy countryside, and were tourists in Liverpool and London. It was hands down one of the best experiences in Upper School and one that I really think helped us build the team chemistry that season.
Q: And now, as a coach, what are some of your favorite Country Day soccer memories?
MD: One of my favorite things about coaching is the relationship side of the job. This side makes up a large portion of my favorite memories. I have loved working with these girls and getting to know them as athletes and as people off the field. The current junior class is a group that I feel pretty close with. I started coaching soccer at CCDS when the Class of 2018 was in 8th grade, and I have grown as a coach each year from then on with them at different levels. There have been many hilarious moments and great conversations over the years that I’ll remember for years to come. There have also been many challenges that they have worked through and overcome on the field, and I love seeing that growth. They helped me fall in love with coaching and watching them grow as a group and as individuals has been such a blessing.
If I had to pick one specific memory, it took place last year for me with one of the members of that Class of 2018. I have recently worked primarily with the goalkeepers and one moment that really sticks out to me happened last season at Providence Day. I had been working with our goalkeeper, Meg Smith, on breakaways. She was pretty new to the position last year, and we were building that part of her skill set from scratch. She worked really, really hard at this skill set, which was not an easy task to learn, especially in a short amount of time. The next game saw her having to put those new skills in action and she did a great job, making multiple breakaway saves. It was awesome to see her hard work pay off and the smile on her face is something I loved to see. She realized that she could do it, despite what she might have thought at one point and she could do it really well. That type of moment, where someone overcomes an obstacle and achieves something new, has always stuck with me and I love when that breakthrough finally happens.
Q: What is it like to be on the same faculty as your mom, Middle School teacher Patti Daniel?
MD: It has been fun to be on the same faculty as my mom. I think one of her favorite parts about it all is that she enjoys embarrassing me whenever possible and telling embarrassing stories to my current and former students. We actually don’t see each other a whole lot. We only cross paths when our grade levels overlap on field trips or when we have full-faculty functions. I do try to pop in to say, “hello,” when I am at the Middle School coaching volleyball. She is also a great resource professionally and is someone I feel like I can bounce ideas off of and get a genuinely honest reply. She started teaching at Country Day when I was older, so I never really saw much of how she was in the classroom. It has allowed me to really see that side of her and how she cares for each student individually far beyond the time they leave her classroom and how she is always thinking of new and creative ways to make her lessons more interesting or fresh. She is also the first person I turn to when I need advice on any crazy outfit for any sort of dress-up day. She’s a great teacher and I’m fortunate to be able to share this with her. It has definitely made our relationship stronger. She has always been my biggest supporter and that continues to this day. I have gained a greater appreciation for how great she is as a teacher while being on the same faculty as her at Country Day and I hope to become even half the teacher that she is.
This spotlight is part of a series highlighting some of the many contributors to the athletics community over Charlotte Country Day School’s 75 years. For more information on Country Day’s year-long celebration, please visit the 75th Anniversary web page.