Wright On: Poulsen’s passion the gifts that keeps giving

  • UH-Hilo photo
    An endowment fund for the former Vulcans striker and emotional leader Lindsey Poulsen is being arranged through the school, along with a GoFundMe account that has the potential to transform the program into something above and beyond what it has ever been.

There was a time not so long ago when Lindsey Poulsen was a beacon of inspiration for the women’s soccer program at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, and those times are about to return in a big way.

An endowment fund for the former Vulcans’ striker and emotional leader is being arranged through the school, along with a GoFundMe account that has the potential to transform the program into something above and beyond what it has ever been.

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“It seemed like the best thing we could do,” Tom Poulsen said of the passing of his daughter, who died earlier this year after complications with medications in her struggle with ovarian cancer. “This way, what she meant to the school might be able to help the program going forward and that’s the kind of thing she would have wanted to do.”

Poulsen, working with former Vulcans’ coach Marc Miranda, started off the endowment by contributing $25,000, enough money to afford an annual $1,000 scholarship derived from the interest on the account, but that’s just the start.

“We need to kick that up,” Miranda said, “we can do better than that, though you could hardly ask for more than what Tom has done. Our goal, or my goal, anyway, is to get the fund up to about $250,000.

“Think of that and what it would do,” he said. “If we had that much money and a good interest rate, we could possibly fund four full-ride scholarships a year for women’s soccer. That would be a game changer, for sure.”

In the guidelines for the endowment, Poulsen said recipients must maintain a grade point average of no less than 3.0, whether coming out of high school, or while at UHH. Ostensibly, the endowment could contribute to a current women’s soccer player with financial difficulties.

As always, the devil is in the details and one hopes that while the endowment is “targeted” for women’s soccer, that there will be language in the contract that won’t allow for someone within the university to place it in a general fund that could divert money into other areas. It can’t be a grab bag for administrators to go to when they are short of funds somewhere else.

But the overarching goal, and its namesake, is the stuff of a higher order. This is for the growth of women’s soccer at a school in serious need of financial help.

Lance Thompson was named soccer director for both men’s and women’s teams in 2013, serving as coach for both squads, where the school had previously employed coaches for each team.

The memory of his arrival still stands out for Thompson.

“I distinctly remember some things about accepting the job,” he said in a telephone interview last week, “and one of them was that I was still in Lake Elsinore (Calif.), getting ready to make the move and I got a call from someone named Lindsey Poulsen who wanted to ask if she might have an opportunity to try out for the team.

“I had never had that happen, and it’s still never happened again since then,” Thompson said. “I don’t recall the exact conversation word-for-word but I asked why she wasn’t currently on the team and I remember there had been some kind of injury, but I was left with the feeling that maybe she wasn’t seeing eye-to-eye with the coach.

“I made some calls about her and got only good reviews, so I went to the (athletic) department and the word I got back was, ‘It’s your call.’.

“That’s all I needed,” Thompson said. “I called her back and said, ‘I look forward to seeing you out there.”

It was the best decision Thompson made for that team, and, in retrospect, it was the best decision he made for the future of women’s soccer at UHH.

In his first practice, Thompson arranged some challenging drills designed to see how aggressively the players attacked conditioning. One of them was a two-mile run in less than 12 minutes and he recalls Poulsen breezing through, “probably in about 10 minutes,” finishing far ahead of everyone else, then returning to run with some of the players who were struggling to keep up.

“She was encouraging them, telling them they could do it,” Thompson said. “I had never seen anything quite like that. She was the epitome of the player who made everyone else around her better, but — soccer people will understand this — she could also be your worst teammate, while still being your best teammate.

“What I mean is the level of intensity she brought to practice every single day,” he said. “We would have these one-on-one drills and she would challenge people in them, she would demand more out of them in every drill, more than anyone else, including me, the coach. She was the demanding one, she drove that team.”

Thompson said he was “shocked” that Poulsen was on the team, her skill set was an upgrade over other players, but her passion was incomparable.

“She had good skills, obviously,” Miranda said, “but more than that, she was what I call a ‘will’ player, her will to succeed drove here, drove the entire team.

“Her determination was amazing to see. She would come onto a ball at midfield, drive toward the goal, fighting two or three defenders and it wasn’t that she was so great that she could just dribble through all of them it was more just a determined effort, she would use her body to protect the ball, she would drive past people and then maybe a shot would go wide or get blocked or something. It would be moments later, the goalie would kick it out to midfield and Lindsey would have it again, somehow and it would start all over.

“She didn’t score beautiful goals, she scored tough goals,” Miranda said. “She would muscle it in, it might carom off a defender, maybe it hit the post and went in.

“She was unforgettable and every single person on that team drew energy from her.”

And now, with the endowment in the final stages of preparation, Lindsey Poulsen might well transform women’s soccer at UHH.

Miranda is contacting every player he knew from the program who knew Lindsey, asking for a donation of some kind.

“I don’t care if it’s a dollar,” he said, “I just want people who know her or know about her to get involved. If we could give out money for four scholarships a year at some point in the future? What would that do?”

That would make the Vulcans’ women’s soccer team a perennial challenger for a conference championship and a berth in the national playoffs, it would be something no team at the school has ever been able to accomplish.

It would not ease the pain of her parents and friends.

“There is no closure,” said her father. “You don’t move on, the pain doesn’t end and never will. But the recognition of who she was and what she did can be carried on forever.”

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For a glimpse at her life and her impact, go to You Tube and search Lindsey UHH Soccer Video.

Questions? Suggestions? Know someone doing big things? Contact Bart at barttribuneherald@gmail.com