Shannon Higgins-Cirovski vividly recalls an October day when she coached George Washington's women's soccer team to one of its biggest victories -- still its only win in nine contests against James Madison. On the same day, the Maryland men's soccer team, coached by Shannon's husband, Sasho Cirovski, suffered its only defeat in 12 all-time meetings with Mount St. Mary's.
The Maryland men's loss complicated Shannon's call home.
"When he told me he lost, I was a little reluctant to tell him about my game at first," Shannon said. "But he wanted to know all about it. I asked him why he sounded so cheerful and he said he was sitting on the floor with our daughter Hailey, who was just a baby. He said, `She has no idea I just lost to Mount Saint Mary's.' "
Five years later, family plays an even greater role in both coaches' careers. That's because Sasho -- who has built the second-ranked Terrapins into a top-level men's team -- has been joined by Shannon at Maryland. After coaching the U.S. under-18 national team for one year, Shannon was hired in January to replace Terps women's coach Alan Kirkup, who resigned to coach at Arkansas.
"I don't think of them as being married when they're at work," Maryland Athletic Director Debbie Yow said. "I just think about them being two of the best soccer coaches in the country. . . . I like to tease Sasho by saying that both teams are going to eventually win a national championship, and he needs to be a good sport if Shannon's team gets there first."
Both coaches see immediate and obvious advantages to working at the same school. And two beneficiaries are Hailey, 5, and the couple's other daughter, Karli, 3.
"It was . . . crucial for my family for me to get to a situation where I could be around as much as possible," said Shannon, who went 69-59-11 as George Washington's women's coach from 1991 to 1997. "Hailey and Karli are an absolute handful -- they have our personality -- and although the college game does take you away from home, it does so on a shorter duration than the national team. I missed the girls dreadfully when I was away."
The couple often refer to each other as "teammates" or "partners" in coaching as well as marriage. For example, last fall Shannon supported Sasho's plan to shift from three defenders to four midway through the season. That switch helped the Terrapins peak at tournament time, and the Terps went on to make their first NCAA semifinal appearance since 1969.
Both Cirovskis figure they'll be able to offer each other more input now that they work in the same building.
"As far as great soccer minds go, [Shannon] is among the best in the country, male or female, so I know she will see things about my team that I don't," Sasho said. ". . . George Washington's team was not fully funded and did not really have a practice or game facility. It humbles me when I think of what she accomplished there."
Said Shannon: "If I have any questions about how things are done here, I know I can call him and he will know the answer. Even if they are stupid questions, I can ask him and he won't think I am an idiot."
The Cirovskis are the second husband-wife tandem to coach separate Division I soccer teams at the same school. Steve and Michele Cornish have coached the men's and women's teams, respectively, at UNC Asheville since Michele was hired in 1994.
"It has worked out well for us because we don't take it home with us," Steve Cornish said. "We are parents when we are at home, and I don't presume to give her any advice on how to run her team. . . . At school, we often bounce ideas off of each other but it never comes to the point of telling each other what to do."
Surprisingly, Shannon's change in jobs hasn't brought the Cirovskis much more time together. They rarely even commute to work together.
"In the past seven weeks, because of recruiting trips and things, we have had no more than two consecutive lunches together," Sasho said. "During the season, one team travels while the other one is home, so I think we'll only have two weekends together at home. But just knowing she is down the hall will help a lot."