“It’s so weird hearing a female voice on the sideline.”
That’s what a soccer official said to Lindsay Schartner, then a Mendham boys soccer assistant coach, not long after she joined the program. Schartner wasn’t sure what he meant.
Other coaches from outside Morris County seemed surprised Schartner was also a boys soccer coach, not the athletic trainer. During her five years on the Minutemen’s sideline alongside Russ Raffay, she’s been asked, “How do the boys respond to you?”
Schartner, petite with her blonde hair pulled into a ponytail, sometimes raises an eyebrow in surprise.
“I don’t think it’s any different,” said Schartner, who became Mendham’s head boys soccer coach this summer.
“The boys, they’re competitive. If you’re going to come in and help them do what they need to do, they don’t care. ‘Are you going to help us win? OK.'”
After being an assistant with the Minutemen girls team for eight years, Schartner was taking a fall off after giving birth to her daughter, Emily. Raffay didn’t have an assistant coach, so leading up to Mendham’s game against Morristown — Schartner’s alma mater — he asked, “Want to coach against your brother?” John Weber was an assistant boys soccer coach for the Colonials.
“He got me out on the field, and I didn’t leave,” Schartner said. “I was there every day after that.”
Not that different
Schartner and Kathy Kremmins were both on Mendham’s sideline during the 2015 championship run. Alyssa Meola, a Morris Knolls alumna, is the Minutemen junior varsity coach under Schartner, just like with Raffay.
“Knowing she was going to take the program made it an easy decision for me,” said Raffay, a Mendham history teacher who stepped away to focus on his work as a deacon at St. Michael’s Church in Netcong.
“She’s part of the culture. She helped establish the culture. Her soccer brain is on a level I’ve never seen before. She can see things quicker than many people on the soccer field. Her brain was always two steps ahead of mine.”
Schartner is believed to be the only female head coach of a boys varsity soccer team in New Jersey, but no local or national statistics were available.
Surina Ranawat is a veteran assistant with Morristown’s boys soccer team. Looking back, Meg Hishmeh coached the Montville ice hockey team in the mid-2010s and Maureen Perriello was Delbarton’s swim coach in the early 2000s.
New Jersey’s true trailblazer is Shelly Darden, the Ewing boys basketball coach for 32 years until retiring after the 2019 season.
Schartner is just the fourth Mendham boys soccer head coach, heading into the program’s 52nd season. The biggest change so far has been managing paperwork.
Schartner was already leading practices and helping Raffay with game strategy. Her voice often echoed over Mendham’s soccer field, as well as his.
“My biggest fear is, I want to make sure I do this well,” Schartner said. “I want to open the door for other women. I don’t want to be the reason people are hesitant or doubtful.”
Mendham athletic director Ned Panfile may be the first convert to gender-neutral coaching. Schartner interviewed with him and Mendham principal Steve Ryan, whose three sons played soccer for Raffay and Schartner.
“I was an old-school guy,” Panfile said. “I had to change my thinking when I saw her coaching with Russ. She was coaching and the boys were listening. What’s the difference? As long as the coach is coaching and the kids are playing, who cares what their gender is?”
Born to coach
A three-sport athlete at Morristown High School, Schartner started on the soccer team for four years under John and Jen Furphey. She also trained with Players Development Academy alongside Heather O’Reilly of East Brunswick, who would go on to win World Cups with the United States women’s national team.
Schartner got her USSF F coaching license at age 13, so she could help out with a younger cousin’s team. Sidelined by a broken back in the spring of her senior year, she coached a third- and fourth-grade team at Morris United.
“She’s competitive, she’s tenacious, but she’s also empathetic,” said Jen Furphey, a Morristown High School English teacher. “A lot of people know how to coach. Very few people know how to tap into a kid and find the best out of him. She’s going to have no problem sliding right in, and trying to maintain the level of competitiveness the boys have had in the past.”
Schartner went on to Virginia Tech, transferring to Providence after a semester. That’s where she met her husband, Mark Schartner, the West Morris boys basketball and golf coach. The couple have two athletic children, 10-year-old Jack and 6-year-old Emily.
In the summer, Mark Schartner coaches Morristown American Little League, while Lindsay does the scheduling. She also plays for the Chester United over-28 women’s team twice weekly, and has almost completed her USSF C license.
The kids have spent plenty of time in the stands watching both parents work and play.
“My son’s like, ‘Hey, mom coaches.’ For my daughter, it’s like, ‘Girls can do whatever,'” said Lindsay Schartner, Mendham’s International Baccalaureate career program coordinator.
“That’s definitely a benefit of all of it that I’m most proud of. It makes mom and dad very equal in that way.”
Jane Havsy is a sports reporter for DailyRecord.com. For full access to live scores, breaking news and analysis, subscribe today.
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