Kylie Bechard explains how she got into soccer
Kylie Bechard cringes, then laughs when she remembers the time she brought her dad to school when she was young.
Parents were supposed to come talk about their jobs, how cool said jobs are, and what it’s like working in different industries.
Typically, parents talk about their office job. Maybe one happens to be a firefighter or a police officer. Perhaps a government official.
But Jerome Bechard is no typical parent. He’s a professional hockey player-turned-coach who’s been passing on his sports knowledge to his standout soccer player daughter.
In front of the class that day, he reached into his mouth and pulled out his front teeth, much to the disgust — or amazement, depending on who you ask — of those in attendance.
“I was like, ‘oh my gosh.’ … Some of (the kids) were into it, I guess” Kylie said. “Some of them freaked out a little.”
Jerome had lost four teeth, including his two front ones, at age 17, playing hockey in Saskatchewan, Canada. A teammate hit a slapshot, one of the quickest types of shots in hockey. The puck took a deflection and smacked Jerome right in the mouth.
He said he played until the third period, doing his best to keep his mouth shut to hide the damage.
Bechard has played hockey in several different leagues, but became somewhat of a local celebrity at the now-defunct Columbus Cottonmouths. He eventually became the coach, and was recently named an associate head coach of the new local hockey team, the Columbus River Dragons, a position he’ll hold along with his primary Realtor job.
Kylie, now a freshman and soccer player at Auburn University, was too young to remember her dad’s Cottonmouths days, but she’s seen videos.
Jerome’s nickname before arriving in Columbus was “‘Get off my yard’ Bechard.” It eventually became “Boom-Boom,” due to his intense and physical playing style, and a bit of marketing magic by the Cottonmouths organization’s higher-ups.
That playing style translated to his coaching days with the Cottonmouths, which earned him local-star status.
“There were a handful of games where he’d rip his tie off, his jacket off,” Kylie said. “He threw a water bottle across the ice one time. You just saw it on film, a water bottle rolling across the ice. It was really funny.”
Kylie, though, shares little athletic similarities with her father. Jerome said she’s a “much better athlete” than he, and the sports they specialized in are very different: A cross-check in hockey will only land a player in the penalty box for a few minutes. In soccer, it likely results in a red card.
Still, there are some tactical similarities between the two. That helped Jerome give his daughter advice while she was younger, since he admits he was originally “not a soccer guy.”
“Soccer and hockey are a lot of the same concepts,” Jerome said. “You don’t always have to stay in your lane. You can drive (toward the goal) and come across the field, and you’re trying to open up space.”
It took some time for Kylie, the youngest of two children, to enjoy the game. Jerome and his wife, Rhonda Bechard, let her play when she was three years old. She enjoyed practices. The games? Not so much.
She sat at midfield and cried.
“The whole game,” Jerome said.
Jerome and Rhonda did not take her back that season, but let her play the following year. It’s unclear what clicked, but Kylie suddenly enjoyed the game. She was a “little spitfire,” her dad says, and was “quick, fast and great from that point.”
Kylie was the Ledger-Enquirer’s All-Bi-City player of the year in 2017 and 2018, scored 73 goals her junior season with Harris County and played for Alabama F.C., a division of Birmingham United Soccer Association, within the Elite Clubs National League (a national development program for soccer players in the U.S.).
She scored 78 goals in three seasons with the ECNL club, and finished her Harris County career with 130 total goals in two seasons as a 5-foot-2 forward.
Kylie signed with Karen Hoppa’s Auburn Tigers in November 2018. It’s unclear how much she’ll play this season, as she’s a freshman and arrived on campus less than two months ago. She will miss time with an injury, according to a team spokesperson. The extent of the injury is unclear.
Kylie won’t be knocking any teeth out as a forward for the Tigers. She was notorious for fainting during class readings of “Soul Surfer” while attending Harris County, her father said, so opposing defenders can rest easy.
But that doesn’t mean she’ll ease up.
“Where she gets it from me is, she’s fearless,” Jerome said. “... It doesn’t matter who she’s going against, she wants to beat that person, and she’s going to do whatever it takes.”