Ashley Lehr’s biggest soccer challenges not too long ago were against opponents like Depauw and Denison universities.
Now, her most challenging opponents are teams such as Madrid Club de Futbol Femenino B, Club deportivo Avance and Camarma Club de Futbol.
The 2013 Allegheny College graduate has been in Europe since October working as assistant director of international students at EduKick Madrid Football & Education Academy and playing women’s soccer, or futbol, competitively with A.D. Colmenar Viejo just outside the Spanish capital.
“It’s extremely difficult, especially with where she was going, for an American woman to play soccer internationally overseas. For her to get this opportunity is a huge accomplishment,” said Allegheny College head coach Michael Webber, who was Lehr’s coach. “She figured out what she needed to do, and she worked for it.”
The EduKick Madrid Female Football Academy is a yearlong course for competitive female soccer players between the ages of 13 and 18 who want to continue their academic studies in Madrid while also attending a professional soccer academy.
During the day, Lehr’s duties as assistant director include helping participants with their academics, including organization, goal setting, and general understanding of the material. She also acts as a full-time adult monitor for the participants, residing among the players in a private dorm room in the same hallway — similar to a college dorm room, Lehr said.
In addition, Lehr said she also translates player reviews and other football materials from Spanish to English and updates EduKick Madrid social media sites.
Lehr came across the opportunity while searching for “soccer boarding schools in Madrid.” Having graduated from Allegheny College with a dual BA in managerial economics and Spanish, Lehr was looking for an opportunity to combine all of her passions — soccer, Spanish culture and working with young people.
When she saw the opportunity to play in the Madrid area, while helping students in their studies and goal setting, Lehr knew this opportunity was for her — and she hasn’t looked back.
“Working with EduKick Madrid this year has been an inspiring challenge, which has already taught me many new skills,” Lehr said. “Since the student-athletes who attend EduKick Madrid come from very different cultural backgrounds, it is an adjustment for all of them to be surrounded by new people and to be in a new environment. Fortunately, the main reason we are all here is for football, and football is powerful in itself; it unites us and reminds us that we are all here for the same reasons — to play, to improve and to enjoy the game.”
Lehr, the daughter of Lance and Andrea (Scott) Lehr, graduated from Fairview High School in 2009. During her time at Allegheny College, Lehr was a two-time Alden Scholar and a four-year varsity soccer player. As a senior, she was named team captain and received the 1st Team All-Conference Award. In 2011, Lehr received All-Conference honorable mention as North Coast Athletic Conference co-champions, and in 2010 her squad made the first round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament.
“She has a great passion for life, and that helps with any situation,” Webber said. “She loves to play, she loves the game, and she loves building relationships and connecting with other people. That all contributes to her successes both at Allegheny and overseas.”
While she works during the day, Lehr gets to pursue her passion of soccer during evening trainings with the soccer team. The soccer season runs from September to June with games every weekend.
“Playing soccer on a Spanish team has been nothing short of amazing,” she said. “Every time I have soccer practice, it’s like I also have a Spanish lesson. It has been a fantastic way to immerse myself and learn the language like a native.”
But according to Lehr, the name itself isn’t the only thing that differs from the United States’ game. Lehr said that the mindset in general is completely different.
“With regard to soccer, the game is very different. In the U.S., the style of play is very aggressive and very direct, and here in Spain the style is more geared toward maintaining the ball and having individual ball skills,” Lehr said.
Lehr also gets to learn about other cultures all over the world, as well. She said the students within the program are very diverse. This year, they have had students from Algeria, Russia, India, Canada, France, Australia, Libya, Mexico and Romania.
Lehr said she will stay with the EduKick Madrid program through the 2014-2015 academic year. During her stay, she will also study to earn a master’s degree in sports business management.
Lehr’s advice for young women and female athletes: “Find what your passions are, and then figure out a way to apply them to your career and daily life,” she said. “Playing sports teaches you so much, such as discipline, motivation, time management, dedication and responsibility, and if you can continue on with your sport and or work in that department, take advantage of it.”