Kelly Kearns' boys - from left to right: Tyler, 10, Camden, 2, and Brady, 5 - are always on hand to support their mom at TSAFC home matches.


Kelly Kearns is a soccer mom, just not in the conventional sense.

Instead of driving her team around in a minivan, she drives her team with a hard-working attitude.

Rather than dispensing orange slices at halftime, Kearns dispenses slicing passes from the backline.

Wearing the captain's armband, the mother of three has helped Tucson Soccer Academy FC bolt out to a 5-0 start in its first season in the Women's Premier Soccer League.

In the process, the former Salpointe High School and Pima College standout is turning this summer into the Indian summer of her soccer career. It even includes her own little personal cheering section.

Donning red T-shirts emblazoned with a giant "14" sandwiched between the words "Team" and "Mommy," Kearns' three boys- Tyler, 10; Brady, 5; and Camden, 2 - can be found sitting in the first couple rows of the grandstand at Kino Sports Complex North Field No. 5 when TSAFC plays its home matches.

"It's been a juggling act," Kearns says of taking care of her children and taking care of business on the field for TSAFC. "It was hard at the beginning, but they all support me. They love coming and watching me play. They always cheer me on. Even my little 2-year-old knows 'Mommy, soccer.'

"It's hard being away from them, but I figure it's eight weeks. It's my last hurrah, I always say. I really miss being out here in the team atmosphere. I didn't realize that until I came back."

The 32-year-old's previous WPSL experience came a decade ago. When Kearns took the field for the now-defunct Sonoran Thunder in 2003, most of her current teammates were in elementary or middle school.

The age difference doesn't seem to bother her much.

"There's a few (that give her a ribbing for her age), but it's all in fun," Kearns said. "I'll bend down and my knees will grind and they'll say, 'It's 'cause you're old' or I'll fall down and say 'I don't want to get up' and they'll say, 'It's 'cause you're old.' It's like a joke now."

No one's laughing at her performance on the field.

"She is above and beyond a leader and role model on this team," TSAFC coach Amy Garelick said. "Thirty-two years old and she's first in fitness every single time. She's the fittest player out here. As a mom come responsibilities, so she's very, very responsible. The girls all love her. They just look up to her.

"She just carries that leadership."

That's nothing new. Kearns, then Kelly Pierce, was also the captain when Salpointe won its second straight state title in 1999. She was one of the Star's All-Southern Arizona selections. Then, she earned All-ACCAC second-team honors later in 1999 while playing her first of two seasons at Pima.

After her time with the Thunder, she kept herself busy by playing in leagues at the local indoor soccer arenas - and, of course, raising three busy boys.

"I don't go to a gym or anything. I just do my own little circuit on my treadmill," Kearns said. "Sometimes, it's hard with the kids. So I just do it at home when they nap or are in school."

For a few more weeks, her boys won't be the only ones heeding her parental guidance.

"I feel like she's the mother of our team," TSAFC forward Justene Kesterson said. "She keeps everybody in place, under her wing. She helps us and pushes us in games and in practice."

Just like any good soccer mom would do.

Up next

• What: Phoenix Del Sol at Tucson Soccer Academy FC

• When: 5:15 p.m., Saturday

• Where: Kino Sports Complex North Field No. 5