Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Kate Dirkse controls the soccer ball during a Chattanooga Lady Red Wolves practice Wednesday at Camp Jordan in East Ridge. The team, which debuted in 2019, will begin its first season as a member of the USL W League with Friday's opener against South Carolina United at CHI Memorial Stadium.

In a down moment, Kate Dirkse takes herself to a stress-free place, to an activity that helps take her mind off the crazy world of sports: reading.

The most recent book she finished, "The Body Keeps the Score" by Bessel van der Kolk, speaks to the need to do just that. In the New York Times best seller, van der Kolk shows how areas of the brain can be reactivated through "innovative treatments" and "offers proven alternatives to drugs and talk therapy — and a way to reclaim lives," according to promotional material for the book.

So how does that translate to Dirkse, a defender for the Chattanooga Lady Red Wolves, and the world of soccer?

"The different things and activities you can do can create stress relief and an ability to create extra happiness, like a rush of serotonin in your body," the former Chattanooga Christian School and current Lee University standout said. "I think soccer has definitely been that for me."

She said the book has helped her gain a level of self-confidence, as well a security and knowledge of who she is.

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Lady Red Wolves defender Kate Dirkse

Dirske has played soccer since she was young but really started taking the sport seriously in middle school, when she joined the Chattanooga Football Club Academy. She played basketball as well, but she knew soccer was going to be her sport of choice, and so she tried to work on perfecting her craft. But she knows her limitations, too.

"Reading has made me more self-assured as a player," Dirkse said. "You know where your level is, I know where I'm at, and I can tell even if my level may not be the same as some of the girls, I still know who I am as a player. So as I've grown, I just know better about who I am and it's easier for me to play."

So who is she now as a player?

"I would say I'm a hard worker. A very aggressive player," said Dirkse, who has started 59 games for Lee's Lady Flames in three seasons and scored a career-high three goals in 2021. "I don't often quit, and I think those are qualities that have carried me through my career. I think I'm a player that is constantly growing, and there are a lot of things I can still get better at."

Dirkse will have more opportunities to do that with a Chattanooga team that has enjoyed early success but is in transition.

The Lady Red Wolves, who debuted in 2019 but did not play in 2020 as the Women's Premier Soccer League suspended competition amid the coronavirus pandemic, have won two Southeast Conference championships in the WPSL. But starting with Friday's 7:30 p.m. season opener against South Carolina United at CHI Memorial Stadium in East Ridge, the Lady Red Wolves will be competing in the USL W League.

The schedule on the Lady Red Wolves' website lists a dozen matches through early July, so there are a busy few weeks ahead for Dirkse and her new teammates.

"Kate is one of the best center-backs that has ever come out of Chattanooga," Lady Red Wolves general manager and president Gretchen Hammel said in a team release announce Dirkse's signing in March. "As she has made her way through the youth system here in Chattanooga and with our women's team and her college team, we have gotten to see Kate's game evolve into a professional quality. It has been so fulfilling to see her become more important to the team every year.

"What sets her apart is her physicality and ability to play out of the air. We are fortunate to have Kate and can't wait to see her product on the field this summer."

Contact Gene Henley at Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.


All matches at 7:30 p.m. Eastern

May 20 — vs. South Carolina United

May 25 — vs. Tennessee SC

May 27 — at Peachtree City MOBA

June 4 — at Southern Soccer Academy

June 8 — at Tennessee SC

June 12 — vs. South Georgia Tormenta

June 17 — vs. Tennessee SC

June 19 — vs. Peachtree City MOBA

June 24 — at Southern Soccer Academy

June 28 — at South Georgia Tormenta

July 1 — vs. Southern Soccer Academy

July 8 — at South Carolina United