Former UF coach Becky Burleigh to lead Orlando Pride as an interim

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Former UF soccer coach Becky Burleigh back in the game.

ORLANDO — Former University of Florida coach Becky Burleigh was hired by the Orlando Pride as the interim head coach, the National Women's Soccer League team announced Sunday.

Burleigh, who will lead the Pride for the remainder of the 2021 season following the departure of Marc Skinner on Friday, joins the Pride after 26 seasons at the helm in Gainesville.

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“I’m excited to become a member of the Orlando Pride franchise,” Burleigh said in a release on the team's website. “My hope is to create a seamless transition plan to build on the growth and strides that Marc and the team have made so far this season. Change, despite being difficult, always brings an opportunity for growth. I’m eager to work in partnership with the existing staff and players to make that happen.”

Burleigh, a Tarpon Springs native, spent the previous 26 years as the Gators' head coach. She announcing her retirement from the collegiate game in January. Appointed as the first-ever head coach of the Gators’ program in 1994, Burleigh went on to compile a 513–160–46 career record, including an NCAA Championship, 14 SEC titles and appearances in the NCAA tournament in 22 of 26 seasons. 

The four-time SEC Coach of the Year and 1998 NSCAA/Adidas National Coach of the Year has led a number of the game’s biggest names, including former U.S. WNT stars Abby Wambach and Heather Mitts, as well as current Pride players Erika Tymrak and Meggie Dougherty Howard. 

Prior to joining UF, Burleigh led Berry College to two NAIA Championships over five seasons. 

Alan Kirkup, Burleigh’s former associate head coach at UF, will also join the Pride coaching staff as an interim assistant coach. A player at Manchester United from 1972-76, Kirkup retired from collegiate coaching last season after 15 years with the Gators. In total, Kirkup has spent nearly 30 years on the sideline at various levels of the game.

“In addition to having a distinguished coaching career, Becky is among the most widely-respected leaders in our sport,” Orlando Pride Executive Vice President Amanda Duffy said on the club's website. “Under Becky’s guidance, I’m confident that she will instill a new focus and confidence amongst the team, and strengthen the team’s existing foundation during this unique transition period for our Club. Our goals and expectations for this season remain unchanged, and we look forward to Becky shepherding this team through the remainder of this season to build on its early success.”

Skinner resigned to pursue another coaching position. Pride assistant coach Carl Green also stepped down. Skinner joined the Pride in early 2019 and was 9-23-11 as coach.

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