Sports

Eastern Iowans find success, family connection at Yale

Kylie Stannard is men's soccer coach; Mary Berdo is Deputy Athletics Director

Former Cedar Rapids Washington prep Kylie Stannard (front) is the head men's soccer coach at Yale. He recently reconnect
Former Cedar Rapids Washington prep Kylie Stannard (front) is the head men’s soccer coach at Yale. He recently reconnected with this cousin, former Washington (Iowa) basketball star Mary Berdo, who the school’s Deputy Director of Athletics. (Yale athletics)
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Kylie Stannard and Mary Berdo have a family reunion almost every day.

That’s because the two work together at Yale, where Stannard serves as the head men’s soccer coach and Berdo is a Deputy Director of Athletics.

In high school, Stannard excelled in soccer at Cedar Rapids Washington and Berdo starred in basketball at Washington (Iowa).

Despite the fact both went on to play in college before beginning their professional careers, the two didn’t really know each other. And they’re third cousins.

While Stannard and Berdo now hold positions at one of the most prestigious schools in the country and have connected more, it all started with a different story in the heart of America.

“Who would think a couple people from Eastern Iowa would end up at Yale that are relatives working in the same athletic department?” Stannard said. “It’s fascinating.”

Stannard and Berdo only heard about the other’s athletic successes from time to time growing up.

Stannard earned a spot on the Creighton soccer team as a recruited walk-on. Berdo played basketball at Iowa after a record-setting high school career.

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Many years have passed since their high school playing days, but the two only recently found out how they were related, realizing their grandparents were cousins.

“As a kid and young adult, I really only spent time with my immediate family in Washington, so although I was aware of Kylie’s side of the family, we didn’t cross paths,” Berdo wrote in an email. “His mom recently found a picture of him and my siblings together, and I was maybe 3 years old, and that’s really my only memory of ever hanging out with him.

“So, needless to say, we really connected for the first time when I started at Yale.”

During the days when Stannard and Berdo didn’t know each other well, they learned plenty about sports and life growing up in the Midwest.

Stannard’s grandfather grew up in Washington, farming and teaching. Stannard said that, to him, epitomizes Iowa.

When Berdo went to Iowa, she found mentors in former Iowa associate athletics director Jane Meyer and Dr. Christine Grant, who guided her through the steps of finding a career in athletics.

The lessons they learned in Iowa now play a key role in their professions.

“To me, it shows the great foundation that is built in Iowa,” Stannard said. “The work ethic, the motivation — you can go anywhere from there.”

That foundation plays a key role in Stannard’s everyday life.

He earned Ivy League Coach of the Year and New England Soccer Journal Coach of the Year honors this past season after leading the Bulldogs to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005.

The program wasn’t always like that.

Stannard said Yale was one of the worst programs in Division I when he took over. The Bulldogs won only one game in 2014 and matched that mark in Stannard’s first season in 2015.

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Since then, Yale has improved every year, amassing a 13-3-2 record in 2019 en route to an Ivy League title.

All it took was a little Iowa toughness and a chip on the shoulder.

“That DNA and how I grew up and how I kind of had to work with that underdog mentality has been a huge part of my coaching philosophy and how I try to build a culture,” Stannard said.

Stannard instilled a hardworking mentality within the Yale program. In addition to being elite students off the field, he wanted his athletes to become elite on the field.

The results have shown.

“He tries to instill that mentality in us, and it makes us have a chip on our shoulder,” Yale junior midfielder Mark Winhoffer said. “I feel like every time we go out to the field, we have something to prove because, as he says, Yale before wasn’t given a lot of respect, and he instills that motivation in us. We’re trying to gain respect throughout the NCAA.”

Berdo also utilizes her Iowa background.

After excelling at Washington, where she became the first Iowa prep player to score 2,000 career points in the five-player era, Berdo transitioned to a career at Iowa. There, she helped usher in a new era of Hawkeye women’s basketball.

In Berdo’s senior season in 2001, then-new head coach Lisa Bluder pushed Iowa to a Big Ten tournament title and a victory in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

Berdo set career-highs in nine statistical categories that season and averaged 8.1 points per game. She also continued to ring in awards for her play in high school, earning an induction into the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union Hall of Fame.

In the end, Berdo’s experience playing basketball in Iowa helped propel her to where she is now.

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“My experience playing high school basketball in Iowa was everything,” Berdo wrote. “It provided so much for me — not only later in my life, but basketball taught me life lessons.”

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