LEESBURG, Va. — It’s not often you see a baby on the sidelines of professional game or practice, but it’s not every day when a coach is a also a new mom.
Washington Spirit Assistant Coach Angela Salem is juggling both of those roles and inspiring her players every day.
Mila Salem Hunt was born on Oct. 28, 2022. She's 7 months old now, and sometimes joins her mom, Salem, at Washington Spirit practice.
“I’m grateful to the Spirit, and to be part of a club that really supports this, helping to make it work," Salem said.
Commonly referred to as "Ang" by her players, Salem played 13 seasons of professional soccer, before coming to the Spirit as a coach last year. Now, a full-time mom, too, her players have one word to describe her: inspirational.
"Ang is so inspiring! Everybody loves Ang, and her baby Mila is so cute. She's just the prime example of an amazing professional and person. We're so lucky to have her at this club," said Spirit midfielder Dorian Bailey.
Spirit goaltender Aubrey Bledsoe echoed those sentiments.
"Seeing her ability to do both, to be a mom and a working professional is really inspirational," Bledsoe said. "I'm always so impressed by Angela and her ability to manage all of those obligations that she has. She's here just as long as anyone else is. She doesn't cut any corners. She gives all her time, attention and focus to supporting us and being the best coach she could be. She's also just a great mom, and we love seeing Mila at the games. It's really an inspiration for all of us because none of us players have children here yet, but in the future I think it would be great to have some more Spirit babies."
Spirit midfielder Andi Sullivan couldn't stop smiling while talking about her coach.
"It's really inspiring for us to be with her everyday, and be with Mila sometimes and see how she does it all," Sullivan said. "She does it in a way that she’s always bringing her best self to us, even though she’s got a million things going on."
Salem was surprised to hear that her players were all inspired by her ability to be a great mom and great coach at the same time.
"Sometimes I feel like I'm just trying to survive some days, but to know that it’s not just helping Mila, but helping the players to know that if they want to be a mom someday, that they can also do that," Salem said.
Spirit head coach Mark Parsons knew Salem as a player and now enjoys having her on his coaching staff.
"Female coaches find it to be very hard, and Ang has taken on those challenges just being a female in a sport that's mainly being dominated by male staff, and she's bossing it! She also did this as a player," Parsons said.
He added, "It’s tough to be a female coach, and it’s tough to be a mom, but Ang is crushing it, and our club is doing a wonderful job led by Michele [Kang] wanting to make sure that women as soccer players and women as coaches and all the other positions have the support they need.”
Kang is the majority owner of the Washington Spirit. She has helped make sure that Salem can coach full time and also be a mom. The club helps with Salem's expenses to fly Mila and another caretaker to away matches this season so that she doesn't have to be away from her baby for too long.
The Spirit's next match is at home on Saturday against Angel City.