Eversmeyer - Her Game
It's funny how that cliche, being in the right place at the right time, can work out so well.
Just ask Lindsay Eversmeyer.
In February 2005, Eversmeyer, then known as Lindsay Kennedy, attended a St. Louis Steamers game to watch some friends play for the Major Indoor Soccer League team.
Afterwards, she went to a restaurant for a post-game gathering and the 24-year-old was introduced to Steamers owner Michael Hetelson. At the time, the Steamers were averaging around 3,000 fans a game and Hetelson was looking for ways to boost attendance.
Eversmeyer struck up a conversation with Hetelson, who asked her what should thought the team needed to do to put more fannies in the seats at Savvis Center.
To which Eversmeyer replied: "I think you need to put a woman on your team.
Hetelson then asked Eversmeyer whom it could be.
To which she boldly responded: "'Yeah, me.' "
The owner told her that she would need to try out.
That wasn’t a problem since she was competing in a men’s league.
Steamers head coach-player Daryl Doran and an assistant watched the forward play and were impressed. Eversmeyer took part in a Steamers practice to see how she would fare against professional players.
What then transpired seemingly wasn’t an everyday occurrence.
During a Steamer scrimmage, Doran crossed the ball from the corner.
"I came in, touched the ball, and boom into the back of the net," Eversmeyer said.
With her first touch.
"You should have seen everybody. They just stopped and just kind of looked and all quiet and I'm like celebrating by myself and I'm like, 'Oh man, I feel bad,' " she said with a laugh. “Everybody's like [wow]. This woman just scored on us. Half the team was okay with it, and then of course half the team was not okay with it."
Impressed, the Steamers offered Eversmeyer a five-game contract and the long-time St. Louis resident made history by becoming the fourth woman to play pro indoor soccer.
Being able to play with the opposite sex was not anything knew to Eversmeyer as she has competed with males since she was a child.
"I grew up in a neighborhood full of boys," she said in a interview this week. "There were no girls to play with. They were always playing sports. I happened to have the biggest backyard in the entire neighborhood. My trees were lined up perfectly for a baseball field. It was big enough to where we could also play soccer. I also had the only double-driveway where we could play basketball and roller hockey. My house was the arena of all arenas.
"We played a lot of soccer there. I just kept playing and playing and I wanted to compete and be better than the boys all the time. And that's kind of what made me what I am today."
Today, Eversmeyer is so many things, including a wife, mother, and someone who is continuing to make history. We'll get to that in a minute or two.
Eversmeyer, was 5-10 and 130-lbs. during her playing prime, and was so proficient at soccer that she won all sorts of honors, including St. Louis Dispatch player of the year and all-state accolades in Missouri, while setting Alton High School records for goals in a season (47) and career (125). She also excelled at basketball.
"One of things I liked [about soccer] was it was always going. It was nonstop," she said. "It was very hard for me to get into softball or volleyball or those things like that. Soccer and basketball were my favorite sports because they were back and forth and really quick. They were team sports. They were competitive. There was physicality to them."
As a freshman at the University of Kansas in 1998, she collected seven goals and five assists, and was named Big 12 player of the week in only her third week on the team and was chosen to a pair of tournament teams.
Eversmeyer admitted that she was homesick and decided to return home. She continued to fill the net at Harris-Stowe State University, setting school standards for goals in a game (five), season (24) and career (61) and points in a career (144).
She also continued to earn honors, becoming the first HSSU player to be named the American Midwest Conference MVP and was a three-time National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics honorable mention selection.
"I always say; it's not an individual sport," Eversmeyer said. "I had amazing players behind me that were giving me the ball in the right spaces to where I had to tap it in a lot of the time. I was surrounded by good teams. I can't take all the credit for that."
Yet, Eversmeyer understood her role quite well, being the ultimate role player.
"I was a striker," Eversmeyer said. "I was the one that was always scoring goals. I loved the way that this made me feel. I think in a way it became an addiction to me and something that I had to do every single time I had a game. If I didn't, I almost felt like I was having a withdrawal. I can't believe I didn't score this game. My dad would bribe me by going to Denny's or McDonald's. If you score a hat-trick, you can get this. I always was so excited to play and that just motivated me."
Eversmeyer graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree with an emphasis on health care management. She eventually worked at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis as a community health specialist in its autism center.
She worked with parents whose children had been diagnosed with autism, pointing them in the right direction.
"It's hard to get a diagnosis with your child when they have autism, let alone, 'What do we do next?' she said.
As it turned out, Eversmeyer's experience proved to be invaluable when one of her sons was diagnosed with autism.
"I already knew every single thing a parent should do," she said. "It was great. Now he's in the seventh grade. He's in a normal classroom, and he's got good grades and it's great, you know, so it's all good. I think that was a blessing in my life."
Before Eversmeyer got married, she decided to pursue a professional soccer career and tried out with the Washington Freedom of the old Women's United Soccer Association. The league, however, folded. She returned home to play in local leagues.
"I have no options," she said. "Women have no options to play professionally. Of course, I'm depressed. I go home, start playing in a women's indoor league. This was no fun. It's not competitive. There were 40-year-old women on the team, which I'm 43 now so I don't want to knock them, but the pace that I was looking was not there."
She begged some of her male friends and started to play on a men's team.
"I'm successful. I'm doing stuff," she said. "I'm smart. I'm getting in the right spaces. I'm not trying to go against them physically."
Which brings us to February 2005.
Eversmeyer admitted she wasn't trying to make a statement at the time. She just wanted to play soccer at the highest level possible.
"The main reason wasn't like, 'Oh, I want to be a woman to show that I could play on the men's team,' " she said. "When people asked me, 'Why did you try out for the Steamers?' I wanted to say, what are my other options? What are women's other options? It was basically to bring awareness that we didn't have any. We've haven't gotten one and no one is investing in women's soccer and providing outlets for us to be able to do this."
As Lindsay Kennedy, Eversmeyer made her professional debut in a 7-3 loss to the Milwaukee Wave on Feb. 19. She played the final 76 seconds of the MISL match, touching the ball four times. The Steamers made a big deal of her appearance as a season-high 13,798 spectators, the largest crowd in the league the season.
Eversmeyer became the fourth woman to compete in pro indoor soccer, joining Collette Cunningham, Shannon Presley and former U.S. women's international Kristine Lilly.
"I think everybody was nervous to put me in," she said. "We had already pulled our goalkeeper. We were down by four goals."
She wore No. 35, as replica jerseys turned out to be quite popular at the concession stands before and after the contest.
Taking her first steps as a Steamer wasn't Eversmeyer's most memorable moment. The pregame introductions were.
"I came out of the tunnel, and I could hear all the little girls in the stadium," she said. "This is what it's about. This is what we want. I want to be someone that they look up to. I want to be someone that's paving the way or breaking the glass ceiling for them and creating opportunities for them because at that time I was 25. I was like, let's be real it's probably not going happen after this much especially after tearing my ACL, but it was all about them. That was the most special moment for me."
Like Cunningham, Eversmeyer dressed in another locker room. For home games, she dressed in the St. Louis Blues locker room because the National Hockey League team was on strike.
She played five games total, though Eversmeyer wasn't included on the Steamers' post-season roster.
"I got some minutes when we went on the road," she said. "I got on shifts, fast shifts. You're only out there for two minutes max at a time because you're back and forth really quick. I didn't make the playoff roster, which is fine because it's about the team. In the offseason, I tore my ACL and that was it. The turf killed me."
It turned out to be the first of four ACL operations in her career.
But if you thought that Eversmeyer was finished making an impact or history, then think again.
In 2013, she formed Fire & Ice, which competed in the Women's Premier Soccer League. The team captured three conference titles, two regional crowns and a national championship in 2017. Eversmeyer, who won the Heartland Conference coach of the year twice, guided the team to a 70-23-9 mark.
"Oh God, this was my favorite and my most special accomplishment of my life so far," she said. "Like I said, there were no options for women here. I took that, quote, unquote, fame for the Steamers and helped create this team for the women in the area. I could find sponsors. It was just easier to get support for it after what had happened with the Steamers.
"I learned the do's and the don'ts in the first couple years and after that it ran like a well-oiled machine. That 2017 team, I'll tell you the one that won the national championship I would put them up against any NWSL [National Women's Soccer League] team. They were so good. That team was special, very special."
But believe it or not, there are other things in life besides soccer. Things such as family.
"I have a son that's 13 and I did 10 years in the league," Eversmeyer said, adding that she was still the WPSL Central Region associate commissioner. "I just like that I don't have to be on a field all summer long. I want to take vacations with my family, because it's been a decade since I've done that during the summer.
"You can't get time with your family back ever, especially your little ones. I can always start Fire & Ice back up. I had people try to say we'll buy it off for you or let us take it over."
To which Eversmeyer replied, "No, no one's touching it. That thing is special and no one's going treat it like I did. We ended up never having a losing season. I didn't want anybody to touch it."
There was another reason why Eversmeyer decided to put the team on, ahem, ice, after the 2022 season. There was a good reason. She became the new men's head coach at Southwestern Illinois College, a junior college.
Yes, we said men's head coach. Eversmeyer had just completed a five-year tenure as the SWIC women's assist coach, helping the team reach the National Junior College Athletic Association nationals in 2021.
When the men's job became available, Eversmeyer pursued it.
"I had to go through the interview process,” she said. “There were a couple of skeptical people, but I was lucky enough to have a conversation with one of those skeptics."
They asked Eversmeyer what made her think she could coach men.
To which she replied, "Well, what makes a man think he can coach a women's team? I have actually played men's professional soccer whereas I don't think there's a man that's played women's professional soccer. So, I actually am very experienced."
Remember, Eversmeyer grew up playing with guys.
"I'm such a tomboy, so my personality meshes so well with them," she said. "I know how to deal with them. I just kind of have more of that mentality. It just suits me really well."
New York University’s Kim Wyant and the University of Chicago’s Julianne Sitch are believed to be the only other women coaching men’s college soccer teams.
Eversmeyer was hired at the end of July and preseason began in August. She never had an opportunity to recruit her own players. The Blue Storm finished 9-12 last fall.
"Which was actually really good for the team that was handed to me," she said. "This year, I'll have half of my recruits in there. And then after next year, I'll have my full team in there. I think they only won one NJCAA game. I'd say it was a success. Their GPAs [grade-point averages] went up, which was huge too, because that's the biggest thing."
Her soccer season didn't end in the fall. St. Louis City SC supporters can see Eversmeyer on a regular basis at their Major League Soccer home games as a match data analyst. Beforehand, she is on a microphone, talking to the crowd about the team. At halftime, she analyzes the first half.
"It just came out of nowhere," she said.
On Friday, March 31, Eversmeyer will be honored for her achievements in the game as she will be inducted into the St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame. Ceremonies will be held at the Union Station Grand Ballroom in St. Louis.
Eversmeyer remembered when was told of her induction via a phone call.
"My response was the same response that I gave my husband when he asked me to marry him, which was: 'Are you sure? Are you going do this?" she asked.
Needless to say, Eversmeyer said that she was quite honored "because I know there's so many great people out there in the St. Louis soccer community that have done things. It's a huge soccer town. ... I just feel guilty because once again, as I told you, I feel like it's a team effort. I wouldn't be here today without my parents and teammates and coaches and people giving me opportunities."
And of course, her biggest backers - her family.
"Well, my oldest son is a soccer player, but he’s like me in a way we're both like really humble," Eversmeyer said. "He doesn't talk about it a lot. I don't talk about it a lot unless people ask me. Even then I always give credit to everybody else for it. My husband is very proud. He always talks about it because it's his wife doing things in a man's world. Sometimes I have to say 'Hey, honey, shhh! you're embarrassing me.' Mom and dad are typical parents; very, very proud. My stepdad, too. That makes me happy that I've made them proud."
Asked if she was on a mission to make an impact and open doors for females in soccer or sports, Eversmeyer responded, "It's weird when people ask me that question, because I don't feel like I'm doing anything special. I'm not meaning to do it. I'm just doing what I love to do. Does that make sense?
"When people ask, 'Oh, you want to coach the men's team? I say, 'I just love coaching soccer. A job just came available. I'm good with men because I grew up with them. I'm a tomboy. I get it. It's just coaching soccer. That's all I'm doing. I'm not necessarily trying to do all these other things. But I'm happy if it benefits people later on in life. Yes, absolutely other girls, young girls, women, whatever. I'm happy if that helps them out, for sure."
Regardless, it certainly will be interesting to see what other doors Lindsay Eversmeyer will help open in the future for women in the future.
Michael Lewis, the editor of FrontRowSoccer.com, can be followed on Twitter at @SoccerWriter. Lewis can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org His book Alive and Kicking: The incredible, but true story of the Rochester Lancers, recently was published. It can be purchased at https://tinyurl.com/2p8rzhpy.lk. His new book, Still Alive and Kicking: The story of the 21st century Rochester Lancers, will be available soon. The book includes many stories and features about indoor soccer.