From the World Cup to Babson: Building a Winning Culture

World Cup USWNT

Americans rallied behind the United States women’s national soccer team on its way to its third World Cup in the last six tournaments.

“It certainly brings you chills,” said Babson women’s soccer head coach Nellie Pineault MBA’03. “It’s a real exciting time for women’s soccer.”

Reflecting on the 2019 World Cup, Babson women’s athletic coaches say the USWNT’s winning culture traces back to companionship established during its run of sustained success.

Playing for Each Other

Pineault has led Babson’s women’s soccer team as its head coach since 2010 and watched much of this year’s World Cup. She said the USWNT is continuing to face stronger competition in succeeding tournaments.

“Winning one World Cup is certainly exciting, to continue the tradition of winning multiple times and sustaining a winning culture is more challenging than what people think,” Pineault said, praising the team’s coaching and recruiting efforts, and how it has accentuated the meaning of playing for each other.

“You have to have a vision in mind,” she added.

Pineault has instilled those values in Babson’s women’s soccer program. During her tenure, the team has twice been a NEWMAC finalist and also has made an NCAA Tournament appearance.

For coaches, the road to success begins during the recruitment process, when athletes are screened not only for their talent, but for their character as well.

Pineault said she seeks athletes who can be a good teammate and a contributing citizen. She also emphasizes being selfless and committed to team goals instead of individual ones.

“We really drive the important concept that it’s a privilege to be part of a team,” Pineault said. “It’s hard work, dedication, and commitment.”

Throughout the tournament, Pineault said the women’s national team acclimated well to opponent’s different systems and styles of play, something that she works to introduce in her own program.

“There’s teams even in our own conference playing a variety of systems and styles, so you need to be adaptable as a team,” Pineault said.

Pineault said the World Cup victory can serve as an inspiration for Babson’s women soccer team.

“They had confidence because of the preparation they put in, and the experience they had,” she said. “They’ve gotten the results because they’ve worked tirelessly behind the scenes over the past year.”

Becoming an Entrepreneurial Athlete

Like Pineault, longtime women’s basketball head coach Judy Blinstrub also has strung together a list of accomplishments during her time at the College. In her 35-year tenure, the women’s basketball team has reached the NCAA tournament 10 times, including three trips to the Sweet 16 and two appearances in the Elite 8.

Blinstrub said the USWNT’s chemistry and camaraderie were paramount to its championship run. But, for her team, she advises them to embrace the entrepreneurial mindset of not fearing to make mistakes, which can help separate yourself from competition.

“One of the most important things is respecting them for what they bring to the table, making them understand to not be afraid of failure,” Blinstrub said. “A school like Babson, that’s the way we live with entrepreneurship. That’s part of the culture you have to have with student-athletes.”

USWNT co-captain Carli Lloyd reportedly did not rule out retirement after the team’s championship victory. If she has indeed played her final match, she could end up starting her own company, according to Michael G. Wilson, guest writer for

“This is a trend: Retired MVPs, including a lot of women MVPs, in almost every sport, are leveraging their talents to become entrepreneurs,” he wrote, citing recent companies launched by sports icons Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, and Lindsey Vonn. “People don’t choose to play sports or start a business because it’s easy. They do it because it’s challenging, and they enjoy healthy competition.”

Featured photo courtesy of Jose Breton/

Posted in Community, Entrepreneurial Leadership

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