June 16th, 2013.
In a defeat for the Boston Breakers, Kate Howarth made her fourth and final appearance of the season. Released at the end of the campaign, Howarth has since plied her trade for the New England Mutiny – scoring 58 goals, 18 of which came in her final, Offensive Player of the Year-winning season.
While she enjoyed her time in New England, the itch to get back to the NWSL was always there.
“I don’t think when I walked away back that I necessarily had a ‘goal’ to get back. I chose to walk away when I did and decided to go make a career for myself while playing soccer as well. But, there was always that feeling when I watched games that ‘I should be out there’ – that was always there. I wondered sometimes if I walked away a little soon. After the season I had two summers ago, I said ‘I need to give myself another shot’. I felt that I had unfinished business.”
Equally as noteworthy is Howarth’s accomplishments off the field – which includes running Canton High School’s girls’ soccer program and EMS department for Norfolk Fire Department, all while playing with the Mutiny. Howarth said this period allowed her to grow, on and off the field.
“My time at Canton led me to reflecting on what I was doing and where I was going in my career,” said Howarth. “I had always drifted towards the things that are team-oriented, and so I got my foot in the door with the fire department and I fell in love with it – so I just ran with it. I went back to paramedic school, got a full-time job and went to the Academy – and it just kind of worked. I still had time to play for the Mutiny, and I – luckily – did both things at a high level.”
But, Howarth decided to finally go all-in on making it back to the league this season. She succeeded – making Orlando’s preseason roster before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. With the Pride participating in the Fall Series, Howarth left her positions in Massachusetts, packed her bags, and drove to Orlando.
For as tough as it was to uproot her life, Howarth is glad she did.
“Once I decided that I was going to try to come back, I was confident about that,” said Howarth. “That was the easy part. It was the other things that were hard – telling the Mutiny, writing the email to Canton, telling my co-workers. However, my co-workers have been incredibly supportive throughout this whole process. They know I’m chasing the dream again, and their support has been so helpful. At the end of the day, I believe made the right decision.”
Two thousand six hundred and fifty three days after her last appearance for the Breakers, Howarth once again hit the field for an NWSL team during Orlando’s three-all draw with North Carolina in September. For Howarth, it’s hard to pinpoint what she felt in the moment but has an overwhelming sense of gratitude about the Fall Series.
“It’s really hard to get opportunities in this league, but it only takes one chance to make your mark. I’m grateful that Mark [Skinner] took the time to see something in me that some other coaches might not have and give me a second chance in the NWSL. I told them from the beginning my whole goal was to be here and try to improve as a player and take opportunities when they’re given to me.”
Howarth, a player who did anything it took to get back to the top level, also brought something extra to the Pride locker-room – experience.
Howarth admits that the person that got cut from the Breakers in 2013 is very different from the person she is today. “I let those things frustrate me and lacked the understanding of it” she says of her rookie season in the NWSL. With a wealth of experience on and off the field in the past seven years, Howarth is becoming the veteran she wishes she had in her rookie season in Boston.
“I look at younger players now and I see them,” says Howarth. “I see their struggle. I was there, and I went through the same thing. I try so hard to explain to them – I don’t waste time on frustration. Listen to what’s being told, and understand it, and then let it go. Take in the information, but don’t let it frustrate you. I emphasize it because I very much did that when I was in their shoes, and it negatively affected me on the field.”