Always Focused on Goals
Feb. 7, 2007
At the age of only 25, it may seem unfair to sum up Abby Crumpton's life so far. There is no denying the mark this Rochester Hills, Mich., native has left on the University if Michigan, becoming the first Wolverine women's soccer player to garner the Big Ten Player of the Year award while also helping the women's soccer team to its best final national ranking in its first trip to the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals. However, the future holds endless possibilities for this young star who is still growing as a head coach while also looking to continue her soccer career.
Crumpton grew up in a suburb of northwest Detroit and graduated from Rochester Adams High School. She was a two-time MVP, a three-time All-State Dream Team honoree and led her high school squad to the 1999 soccer state championship.
Making the short one-hour drive down to Ann Arbor, Crumpton came to Michigan nervous and a bit unsure of herself. Yet, it didn't take long for her to adjust and people to start taking notice of this 5-foot-6 scorer. Seven games into her freshman season, Crumpton was the team's leading scorer prompting the student paper, The Michigan Daily, to pose a premature question. Was she was going to be the next Amber Berendowsky, who was the first women's soccer All-American at Michigan and littered throughout the Wolverine and Big Ten record books?
"I didn't really know what to expect my freshman year," explained Crumpton. "Because of that fear, the summer leading into my freshman season I trained a lot. I made sure I was prepared to make the transition easier."
In her formable freshman campaign, the hard-working forward shied away from placing long-term goals on her statistics citing "that stuff will just happen on its own." That year, Crumpton scored two goals in the 1999 Big Ten Tournament championship final to lead Michigan to its second title in three years. The Wolverines defeated Penn State, 4-2, to avenge a second-place finish to the Nittany Lions in the conference's regular season. Crumpton finished her freshman campaign with 12 goals and eight assists and her efforts hardly went unnoticed. She was a first-team All-Big Ten and NSCAA All-Great Lakes Region selection as well as being named to Soccer Buzz's Freshman All-America second team.
Perhaps the biggest compliment was an invitation to join the Under-21 U.S. National Team at its camp in Lincoln, Neb., the following spring - an impressive accomplishment in the soccer community, seeing how it is considered an achievement just to be invited. But Crumpton, the first Michigan player ever to be asked, was invited back the following two years. Similar to the National Football League combine, the Under-21 U.S. National team only invites 25-30 elite players to train. Later, Crumpton would earn a spot on the team after graduation and help the squad defend its third straight Nordic Cup in 2002.
"I think there are many times in your career when you spend time doubting yourself but one of my moments of clarity was when I was asked to play with the U-21 U.S. National Team," said Crumpton. "At that point I kind of realized that there may be something to this."
In the next three years, Crumpton would tally 31 more goals and 22 assists to end her career as the school's all-time leading point scorer with 116 points (43 goals and 30 assists). In addition, she helped Michigan to an 11th-place postseason ranking her senior year after advancing to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines, however, were stopped short by the No. 6 seed and defending national champion Santa Clara, 3-1, but the season marked the farthest any other Wolverine squad had advanced in the program's history.
While her junior year was statistically better, it seemed to all accumulate during her senior campaign. That season, it was the first time the senior team captain notched double digits in both goals and assists in her career. She also led the team in scoring with 35 points to receive NSCAA All-America accolades and pick up her third first-team All-Big Ten selection. She tied for a team lead with four game-winning goals and found the back of the net three times on the road against Wisconsin to become only the second Wolverine to record two hat tricks in a career.
What stands out most to Crumpton is the Big Ten Player of Year award she received in 2002 to finalize her college career. The award was the first for the nine-year Wolverine program. Considering the players before her and the highly competitive and talented Big Ten, it was a testament to all her hard work.
If a professional league was around when Crumpton was growing up, its hard to imagine her not having aspirations to play at the next level. Even as she entered her freshman year at Michigan, opportunities like that did not exist for women. However by 2001, a league was established and Crumpton was the Atlanta Beat's 13th pick in the third-ever Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) draft.
Playing along with the likes of Olympic gold medalist Briana Scurry and Cindy Parlow, Crumpton helped the Beat with four goals in her first year. The team reached the playoffs for the third consecutive year before losing to soccer phenom Mia Hamm and the Washington Freedom, 2-1, in overtime. Before she had time to process her first year as a professional, the WUSA suspended operations after the 2003 season and Crumpton had to find figure out what she was going to do next.
Taking a brief hiatus from her soccer career, Crumpton is still making an impact on the field. Just three years after graduating from Michigan, Crumpton has held two head coaching jobs including her present job at Anderson (S.C.) University.
The sports management major fell into coaching after weighing her options and mentoring at a nearby high school during college.
"Going into college I really didn't know what I wanted to do so I took a bunch of different classes," said Crumpton. "At one point I thought I wanted to be an archeologist and major in art history but the only thing I was really passionate about was athletics. My first coaching job was when I was a sophomore in college at Brighton High School. From there I just really enjoyed it and turned it into a career."
After the WUSA folded, Crumpton stayed close to the soccer scene and accepted a head coaching job at the Division III school Pittsburgh-Bradford. There, Crumpton managed all aspects of the women's soccer program helping with athletic department fundraising and the student work-study program.
A year later, Crumpton moved to South Carolina to serve as a volunteer assistant for the women's program at Clemson before landing the head coaching job at Anderson just 20 miles away.
"When the position opened up at Anderson it was like fate because I wanted to stay in the area and I really enjoyed my experience as a head coach in Pennsylvania," said Crumpton. "There is something alluring about having your own program, so I was lucky enough to get the job. It was perfect."
Some may question Crumpton's youth, but what she lacks in years she makes up with experience. With a stacked resume, it's hard to question the 25-year-old.
"Not only do I have the playing experience but the ability to relate to my players and push them to a place they have never been," said Crumpton. "I believe you can bring a Division I atmosphere and training environment into a Division II school and still be successful. I don't think there is any such thing as pushing kids too hard."
Crumpton knows a thing or two about pushing oneself. Although it has been almost three years since her last playing opportunity, she is not yet ready to hang up her cleats and is still open to the possibilities of getting back out on the field. This summer, Crumpton will play for a semi-professional team out of Charlotte, N.C. This time things will be a bit different as she tries to get back to the same high level of play that she will deem acceptable for herself while also balancing a full-time job all with a new perspective of being a coach.
Wherever her soccer career takes her, Crumpton acknowledges that she wants to continue building a successful program at Anderson and someday reach her goal of coaching at a Division I program.
While there is no disputing this star's impressive past, it seems that Crumpton's future looks that much brighter.