By MARTY JAMES
Randi Simmons has been involved with soccer going back to her days at Maplewood-Richmond Heights High School in Maplewood, Missouri, where as a center and defensive midfielder, she was a three-year team captain and played on teams that won two league championships. A top offensive player, the 2011 graduate set school records for career goals (29), career points, single game and single season goals.
A three-time recipient of the Blue Devils' Offensive Player of the Year award and a multi-sport athlete growing up, Simmons took the next step in her career, playing college soccer at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, an NCAA Division I program, from 2009-2012 as a midfielder, appearing in 72 matches. She was the team captain and voted as the hardest working player by her teammates as a senior.
Simmons, a St. Louis native, served as a volunteer assistant coach for Johnson County Community College, located in Overland Park, Kansas, in 2013.
She was a coach for girls teams in the under-9, under-10 and under-11 age groups for the Brookside Soccer Club of Kansas City, Missouri, from 2011-13.
Simmons worked as an intern in media relations and communications for Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer in 2013.
She was with the National Soccer Coaches Association of America in 2013 and 2014 as a media and communications intern.
Simmons was an assistant coach for the Chico State women's soccer team in 2014 and 2015. The NCAA-Division II Wildcats went 12-5-2 and placed second in the California Collegiate Athletic Association both years.
After two seasons at Chico State, Simmons took the job as the assistant coach for the Washington University women's soccer team in St. Louis in 2016. Washington University beat Messiah College, 5-4 in a shootout in the finals of the 2016 NCAA Division III National Championships at Kerr Stadium in Salem, Virginia. Washington completed the season with a 19-2-3 record.
"You can't start your career at a better place with more of a mentor, than with Kim Sutton, the head coach at Chico," said Simmons. "She's the real deal and that's why I took the job. I loved it, as we had had a lot of success there.
"But I knew I had to keep growing and the opportunity came up to go back to St. Louis and coach at Washington University. A lot of my family went to Washington University. It's a mile away from my house, where I grew up. I can't pass that up. It's a very successful department there with a lot of expectations, an amazing culture. You're striving for greatness and excellence in everything you do at Washington University. I can't speak more highly about that school and that program.
"After the season ended, I just realized that I need to keep growing and keep challenging myself. I missed California, as soon as I left it. Luckily, the job at Napa Valley College was open."
Simmons took over as the Napa Valley College head women's soccer coach in March of 2017. She is building a program – a program where the players are committed, as they are involved year-round with their training.
"That's part of what I try to give these girls here, are those lifelong connections and bonds that I got from my college experience. That's the ultimate thing," said Simmons.
"I was a multi-sport athlete all my life and I played club soccer growing up in St. Louis. I was just always going, going, going. In high school, I had no idea what I was going to do. College was not on my radar whatsoever. I honestly can relate to a lot to the students that we get at this level, at the junior college. I went to college because I got recruited to go and because I had coaches saying you should be going to college and you should be playing in college. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity."
Simmons graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2013 with a degree in business administration. She got her master's from the University of Washington in 2017 in education.
"One of the things I always tell the girls is that you don't come to Napa Valley College to go play in a World Cup. You come here to unlock that next phase of your life and reach a higher level in life," said Simmons. "And so if the soccer program can help you do that and make you a more well-rounded individual, to have that better college experience, and if that's going to help you be more successful, then that's the key. Soccer is just the vehicle for us to do that."
Simmons is very proud to lead the program at Napa Valley College, a member of the Bay Valley Conference.
"We do a lot of character skills development, a lot of things just to try to empower them as people using soccer as that vehicle. It's a lot more than just talking X's and O's. It's women's issues, it's your health," said Simmons. "You're not just on a team, you're stepping into a program."
Playing rock-solid defense for the Storm, each and every day, is key, said Simmons.
"As a coach, my team will always have a very organized defensive presence. No. 1, you cannot be competitive without being solid defensively. And I learned that when I was at Chico. It just makes you competitive right away," explained Simmons.
Summer trip to the World Cup
Simmons traveled to France for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, which was won by the United States in a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in the championship match in July.
Simmons, joined by her family and friends, was on hand for matches that the U.S. played against France, England and the Netherlands. She also saw the Netherlands-Sweden match.
There were 52 matches played in nine cities in France.
"We're super fans," said Simmons. "It couldn't have turned out any better. It was really inspirational."
* Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association, Associated Press Sports Editors, and California Prep Sports Media Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016.