Marleigh (far left) and Sally Schackow (third from left) pose with two members of the student cheering section who created a sign to support the sisters during the Blue Wave's 2022 playoff run. Photo by Ethan Eibe.

A Family Affair: The Schackow Dynasty of P.K. Yonge

Five years ago, Rebecca Schackow stood on the sideline of P.K. Yonge High School’s Booster Field, watching intently as her three daughters practiced with the rest of the girl’s varsity soccer team.

Sixth-grader Marleigh had just joined her older sisters Gracie, a sophomore and Sally, an eighth-grader, to continue their life-long love of soccer together with the Blue Wave. Three sisters on the same team.

Marleigh’s arrival at P.K. Yonge came at a turning point for the girl’s soccer program, which was seeking a new head coach. Rebecca had spent the previous few seasons watching Gracie and Sally represent the Blue Wave and became acquainted with the P.K. Yonge staff.

Following former head coach Marshall Blair’s departure from the program, Schackow seemed like an obvious candidate to take over. Schackow played two seasons with the Florida Gators women’s soccer program, appearing in 19 games after helping lead The Bolles School (Jacksonville, Fla.) to a 3A state championship in 1994.

Immediate Impact

Heading into the 2017-18 season, P.K. Yonge became a Schackow super-team.

“It was amazing to be on the same team as my two sisters with my mom as the head coach,” Gracie said. “There was certainly a lot of family time. It was really fun, especially because Sally and Marleigh are such great players. I loved playing with them.”

In Rebecca’s first season at the helm, the Blue Wave sported a 20-1 record, winning their first district title in six years and making their first regional final appearance in 14 years. Schackow was named the All-Area Small Schools Coach of the Year by the Gainesville Sun.

“That was a very special kick-off moment to her coaching career,” Marleigh said. “I think that set the bar really high and it was an amazing experience.”

The ensuing years brought similar success with trips to the state playoffs each campaign, but the Blue Wave have not yet been able to reach the state final four. Their 2022 season concluded with a 3-2 defeat to the Providence Stallions in the regional final on Feb. 16. It was P.K. Yonge’s third regional final appearance in Schackow’s five seasons leading the program.

The playoff loss was also Sally Schackow’s Blue Wave swan song. Sally was one of six seniors on the 2022 squad and now joins Gracie (Class of 2020) as a “Schackow School of Soccer” alumnus.

“I cannot imagine playing without my sister,” Marleigh said. “It will be hard to transition, but the rest of these girls [on the team] have become my sisters so I still feel like I have a family here even without my biological sister.”

The Schackow Effect

Rebecca said she takes on an extra level of pride knowing that she is working overtime to shape her daughters’ high school experience and future.

“To coach my daughters is one of the greatest honors and privileges of my life,” she said. “I love the sport and they love it, too.”

“As a mom, you would just be happy to see your children happily playing a sport they love, but the fact that I get to be such a big part of it and share with them anything I know about soccer so that they can improve and get better – it’s just amazing.”

Sally spoke to the culture her mother has helped foster as a key to the program’s recent success.

“I think [my mom] really challenges us, but she challenges the whole team,” Sally said. “[Marleigh and I] are just two more players. I think it makes her treat the rest of the players like her own daughters and that creates a family environment which makes us so connected.”

Even with a past in Southeastern Conference soccer, Rebecca found that transitioning to the coaching side unlocked a fresh spark in her love for the game.

“I have learned a lot about the game because I was not a soccer coach before, I was just a teacher, a mom and a former player,” Rebecca said.

“I learned a lot about what it means to lead a group of girls and a ton about this sport from a coaching perspective,” she said. “It’s a whole different game when you are coaching versus when you are playing. I did not expect to find that I could enjoy soccer even more because I was learning the strategy side of it.”

Passion and Pride

Rebecca’s core-four passions are working with children, preaching physical fitness, playing sports and enjoying the outdoors. Soccer provides an outlet for each of these to collide in an infectious wave of dedication and intensity that has spread like wildfire amongst the Blue Wave players. There is certainly a reason why Rebecca is convinced she has the best job in the world.

“We all get tired at the end of a long week, but it is so rewarding and fulfilling to see [my players] improve, develop and start to strategize the way they take care of each other as a team. The whole team effort is amazing,” Rebecca said.

Sally believes her level of play stems directly from the devotion her mother shows towards the team.

“My mom is my role model in everything. She is always so brave and courageous, so I try to carry that over to the field. She is smart, kind, and very hard-working,” Sally said.

The most important aspect of leadership to Rebecca is the responsibility she has placed on herself to become a mother-like figure to each of her players.

“I get the lucky job of being able to help them become young women of great character,” Rebecca said.

“Soccer is a neat tool to be able to do that, but it is not just about our soccer success, it’s about these young ladies growing up into becoming young women and being out in the world,” she continued. “It’s neat that I might be able to have a little, tiny influence on how they grow into that.”

She feels that by creating this tangible environment of trust, the team is better equipped to handle challenges.

“It seems like our best memories are when we face the tough challenges and overcome adversity,” Rebecca said. “If we have had any personal challenges amongst our team, whether it’s school, social stuff or family, just to be able to watch us support each other and get through hard challenges in life is incredible.”

A Shared Legacy

Now that Sally’s time at P.K. Yonge has come to a close, it will fall to Marleigh. As a rising junior, she will need to utilize the lessons of leadership she has picked up from her family.

Sally’s future in the game is still up in the air. Rebecca mentioned that a few options are open for her middle daughter to play college soccer. She said the family will evaluate the schools to see which would be the best fit for her educational needs.

Despite the so-called Schackow Squad being down to just two, the future remains brighter than ever for P.K. Yonge and the young talent the team has waiting in the wings.

About Ethan Eibe

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