Q&A with Kat Sipes: Program Manager
Program Manager Kat Sipes started her relationship with Soccer Without Borders as a volunteer during her time as an undergraduate at Towson University, where she played Division I soccer. A Baltimore native and one of our longest-tenured team members, Kat joined SWB Maryland full-time in 2014 and has coached virtually every age group and gender at SWB.
As part of our commitment to Equity, Soccer Without Borders has prioritized providing pathways to leadership for staff members, giving them access to program operations and opportunities for professional growth. We asked Kat to reflect upon her role as a program manager this past year and how she has grown into the position and the opportunities it affords.
You’ve been with SWB since 2014. How have you seen the organization grow during the past seven years? Since I started with SWB, even as a volunteer, it has grown in so many ways. Just the number of staff has gone from maybe two full time plus volunteers all the way to 11 full time staff and countless volunteer support. Our program structure has really grown to include dependable Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (ME&L) structures in place for continuous learning, safeguarding policies that keep everyone safe and accountable, and a thriving program model that incorporates our learning pillars and values as an organization. The program manager position is relatively new, what has it been like for you to have more access to the logistical and program leadership aspects of SWB? I have loved the opportunity to have continued growth within SWB. Starting as an academic volunteer, I never knew the different roles and positions I would have access and insight to. This past year, getting to grow in this role has been eye-opening and allowed me to feel more well-rounded in terms of professional growth. I am excited to continue my work with high school girls while supporting other coaches to start and grow programs into thriving sites.
What’s something that has surprised you or that you enjoyed learning from a professional development standpoint? I’m surprised I was ok with stepping away from the field a little bit! Being on the ground every day for so many years was what I thought I was going to do as long as possible. But it has been helpful to scale back to twice a week, being able to focus on supervising others, supporting their programs, event planning, more partner connections, learning about the budget, and being a part of the hiring process more. So much about the logistical side of things and ME&L has helped me see the “why” behind certain structures and overall I feel like I am growing by learning from it.
What’s something you look forward to doing more of as a program manager? I look forward to continuing to create a team environment (player and staff) where people feel comfortable to grow and step outside their comfort zone. I am excited to see others take on new roles and be in leadership positions and be a person they can go to to brainstorm or problem solve. Having so much experience with being a leader with programs, I’m happy to share the successes and failures from what I’ve learned.
You’ve been a big part of our Girls in the Game work. As a coach and professional, can you reflect upon being a female role model for our participants? I love it so much! I started tutoring all boys, while I also loved that, so much more has clicked and felt more from the heart coaching girls. Growing our program here has been fun, challenging, and motivating. I have coached a core group of girls since elementary school or middle school, and now they are leaders on the high school team where they welcome and support newer girls — I just have to give a lot of credit to them. I never knew how much being a female role model and coach would mean to the participants I coach, but have quickly learned that it is sometimes the only thing that gets them to the field. I am always really excited to be on the field with them and see them grow as leaders and just people. They’re amazing and have so much potential.