TUKWILA — The recovery time for professional athletes seemingly becomes shorter every year.
Stephanie Cox is the latest example of that.
The wife of South Kitsap assistant boys basketball coach Brian Cox signed June 19 with Seattle Reign FC of the National Women’s Soccer League. Cox just gave birth to the couple’s first child, Kaylee, on April 7.
“I definitely had my sights set on getting back for part of this season after her,” she said.
Cox, 27, initially was expected to make her Reign FC debut during Saturday’s 3-1 win against the Chicago Red Stars at Starfire Sports Stadium, but that was pushed back.
“I definitely have a ways to go,” Cox said. “It feels good to get out with the team and [coach Laura Harvey] has been really patient with my progress.”
Cox is not certain when she will play. Reign FC has four home games this month. Whenever her debut comes, Harvey expects Cox to make an impact.
“Steph will bring leadership and top-level experience to our back line,” she said in a news release. “She has demonstrated that she can consistently compete at the highest levels, which should help us significantly strengthen our defense as we move into the second half of the season.”
Cox, who ran with fellow defender Jennifer Ruiz for about 30 minutes following the match against Chicago, spent the fall working as an assistant women’s soccer coach at the University of Puget Sound. She also has a lengthy record of success on the pitch.
A Parade All-American out of Elk Grove High School near Sacramento, Calif., she played soccer at the University of Portland, where she helped the Pilots win the NCAA women’s soccer tournament in 2005 with a 23-0-2 record. That is where the West Coast Conference Defender of the Year met her husband, who pitched for the university’s baseball team.
The couple now lives in Gig Harbor — he works as an investment advisor for Pacific Asset Management in Port Orchard — but soccer has taken her to at least 15 countries around the world. She competed with the United States women’s soccer team during the World Cup and also won a gold medal for the team during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
She was the youngest player on the U.S. team, but her dream of playing in Beijing appeared over when she was not on the final list of players for coach Pia Sundhage’s team five years ago.
“Disappointed doesn’t describe it because a player of that caliber who was involved in the World Cup is not to be involved with the Olympics,” University of Portland coach Garrett Smith said at the time. “It might have been the first team she’s been cut from in her life.”
That changed June 11, 2008, when Cat Whitehill tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee while playing in the Peace Cup in North Korea. Cox, who plays outside back, was given the call to replace Whitehill, a fellow defender. She played well there and was added to Sundhage’s 18-player roster.
Cox, who signed with Reign FC on the same day as former Portland teammate Megan Rapinoe, previously played with the Los Angeles Sol and Boston Breakers of the now-defunct Women’s Soccer League in addition to the Seattle Sounders Women.
She joked that she still has “a couple more miles left in my legs” as one of the older players on Reign FC. That does not mean she anticipates playing for several more years. In the past, Cox was a national spokesperson for National Foster Care Month for Casey Family Programs. Her parents took in foster children while she was growing up and she long has stressed the importance of family.
“I think as long as it’s good for my family,” she said, referring to her future playing soccer. “We’ll see how it goes.”