‘I looked at him like a father figure’ - niece of former Wisbech Town goalkeeper Mark Ovendale lands top coaching role in America

PUBLISHED: 09:31 24 June 2020 | UPDATED: 09:31 24 June 2020

Jade Ovendale, niece of former Wisbech Town goalkeeper Mark, has secured a top coaching role in the United States. Picture: ODY RICO

Jade Ovendale, niece of former Wisbech Town goalkeeper Mark, has secured a top coaching role in the United States. Picture: ODY RICO

Archant

The niece of former Wisbech Town goalkeeper Mark Ovendale believes her uncle would have been proud of her after securing a top coaching role in America.

Jade enjoyed a fruitful playing career, and was recognised as one of the leading athletes in her sport. Picture: SUPPLIED/JADE OVENDALEJade enjoyed a fruitful playing career, and was recognised as one of the leading athletes in her sport. Picture: SUPPLIED/JADE OVENDALE

Jade Ovendale from Wisbech moved to the United States in August 2011, when Mark died of cancer aged 37, to take up a soccer scholarship with Northern Oklahoma College (NOC), where she received an associates degree in health, physical education and recreation two years later.

Jade, 28, who played football in the UK before moving across the Atlantic, then went into coaching after completing her bachelor’s degree in physical education in 2015 at the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma (USAO).

After a spell of coaching at NOC, she is now head coach of the women’s soccer team at Hastings College in Nebraska, one of the leading National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics universities in the country, something she could not be prouder of.

“Going to the US was always something I wanted to do and the women’s football pathway was undeveloped in England compared to now, and I wanted to experience something new,” Jade said.

Jade pictured with uncle Mark during her childhood. Picture: SUPPLIED/JADE OVENDALEJade pictured with uncle Mark during her childhood. Picture: SUPPLIED/JADE OVENDALE

“The biggest motive to move to Hastings was that I get to coach the same players throughout their careers for all four years instead of the two and really put my own stamp on the team.

“It is a real honour to be given the opportunity to lead the women’s soccer team.”

During her time in England, Jade played for the likes of Hungate Rovers and Peterborough Azure Ladies, as well as a spell at Norwich City’s centre of excellence while growing up with mum Tracey and brothers Josh, Jordan and Jack.

From kicking a ball in the local park to national recognition and a flourished playing career, without the inspiration from her uncle, the success that the USAO graduate has achieved may never have been possible.

Jade said she looked up to Mark Ovendale (pictured) as her biggest inspiration and looked at him like a father figure. Picture: LUTON TOWN FOOTBALL CLUBJade said she looked up to Mark Ovendale (pictured) as her biggest inspiration and looked at him like a father figure. Picture: LUTON TOWN FOOTBALL CLUB

“He was always humble and had time for a lot of people,” Jade said.

“Some of my favourite memories were when he would join me and my friends in Wisbech Park and play with us.

“We never got to see him as much as we liked because he was busy with football, but whenever he got the opportunity to see me and my family, he always wanted to spend time with us.

“I think he would say if you’re happy, then I’m happy. He was the biggest inspiration for me; I looked at him like a father figure.

“I don’t look at myself being successful. I feel very fortunate I was able to have this journey so far and that I can make a living doing something I love.”

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