Basma ready to lead Women’s Soccer

Basma ready to lead Women’s Soccer

Ryan Spitza

Being a coach at the collegiate level can be a well-paying job. Head coaches at public universities can make anything from $30,000 to over $100,000 at larger schools. Making good money to coach 18-22 year old college kids in a friendly game, simple enough, right?

That wasn’t always the case for Sonia Basma.

Basma is the new head coach of the Northern Michigan Women’s Soccer Team. Hired in December 2016, the NMU Athletic Department chose a candidate with a decorated soccer resume.

Before coming to coach the Wildcats, Basma was the head coach at Nichols College for two years. She’s a two-time college All-American, playing her college career at Montgomery University and American International College, where she won a national championship under then-head coach Matthew Johnson. She also played semi-pro soccer in the Women’s Premier Soccer League.

Basma is a native of Sierra Leone, a small country of roughly 6.5 million people on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in Western Africa.

Due to political unrest in Sierra Leone, Basma and her family fled to the United States in the early 2000s looking for a new beginning. It wasn’t until then that she discovered the game of soccer. “I started playing soccer immediately. Throughout middle school and high school, then I played all four years of college,” Basma said. “Immediately after that I started getting into the coaching world.”

“It’s been really a privilege to be in this country and to be here now and start a new life,” Basma said. “I’m thankful for it and certainly don’t take anything for granted.”

It didn’t take long for Basma to warm up to Northern. She commented on the hiring process and her first interaction with Director of Athletics Forrest Karr.

“I talked to [Karr] over a video call and he seemed like an awesome guy,” Basma said. “He made you feel comfortable and made the decision for me to come here very easy. I wanted to be under his leadership.” Basma has quickly gained a liking to the city of Marquette, commenting on the people, lifestyle and local scenery.

“I’ve been getting acclimated for sure,” Basma said. “The people have been awesome here. Everyone seems so welcoming. That was the biggest catch for me.

“There’s so much to do here. I have yet to get out and do too much because I’ve been so busy but I think the city is beautiful.”

Why did Basma want to come to NMU exactly? Located in an secluded area we call the Upper Peninsula, it’s not every coach’s ideal job or recruit’s ideal place to play collegiate soccer. Basma saw it differently though.

“I think there’s this huge misconception because it’s so isolated,” Basma said. “The pictures you see and the videos you see online, it doesn’t really do this place justice. I always talk to my recruits and try to explain how great it is here. It’s always good for me when I get them on campus because they get to see it and actually live it.”

Basma comes from a family of four. Her father still lives in Sierra Leone while her mother and younger brother currently reside in Maryland where her brother attends college.

“My father is an amazing guy for me,” Basma said. “He’s always been that type of person that’s been supportive of me and keeping me in the game. I’ve learned so much from him.”

Basma added her mother is one of the strongest women that she knows. Her mother currently travels between Maryland and Sierra Leone.

“With everything that we’ve been through, I look up to them and think the best parts of them kind of formed me into this brand new and different individual,” Basma said. “They try to be the best people they can be.”

Aside from playing and coaching, Basma enjoys watching soccer as well. Basma said she likes to watch the Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga and international competition. She also noted that Cristiano Ronaldo is her favorite player.

“A lot of people will say he’s arrogant, he’s this, he’s that… but for me the one thing I love about him is that he’s extremely talented yes… But he just has the athleticism that you can’t really find in a lot of players,” Basma said. “He’s always been someone that I’ve looked up to.”

While Basma is a soccer enthusiast, it wasn’t her first sport.

“I was actually going to go to school for basketball,” Basma said. “Growing up between the two, I always thought ‘I don’t know which one I’m going to go with.’ At some points I leaned toward basketball more but thankfully I stuck with soccer.”

Other activities Basma enjoys are weight lifting, hiking and being outdoors. Aside from soccer Basma enjoys watching “Law & Order” and the movie “Blood Diamond.”

“‘Blood Diamond’ is sort of the story of my life,” Basma said. “It was actually pictured on my street where I grew up so if you want a taste of what Sierra Leone was like, there you go.”

After a whirlwind life of moving countries, deciding between two sports and going on to coach at the collegiate level, Basma has landed here at NMU to take charge of a program that hasn’t had much success in recent years.

The Wildcat Women’s Soccer Team hasn’t had a winning season since 2011 when it went 10-6-3 overall. Since 2011, the Wildcats have posted a record of 27-53-8 which equals a win percentage of just 0.338 over the last five seasons.

Basma is up to the challenge however, and doesn’t worry about the past.

“You have to start fresh because all really good programs don’t start as really good programs,” Basma said. “For us it’s about doing the little things and the hardest things off the field to really piece this program together.”

Basma said the team is really warming up to her and improving each and every day during its off-season practices.

“The winning portion will come,” Basma said. “I don’t see any reason why this team can’t be one of the top teams in the conference.”

When asked why she is the best person to lead the program, Basma responded with optimism.

“If there was one word that really sticks out when you think about why I’m here, I would say it’s my confidence,” Basma said. “I’m not shy to sit here and tell you we’re going to do well because we already are.

“I have strong leadership and I believe in what I do. You need to have confidence in yourself and what you’re going to do regardless if you have support around you or not. That’s my mentality.”