Goodyear native Nicole Acosta is bringing her championship resume to Yuma, as the Millennium High School graduate was named head coach of the Arizona Western College women’s soccer team in June.
Acosta, who has helped guide teams to championships at the high school and collegiate levels, seeks to have a positive impact on the lady Matadors.
“Being able to get girls to next level and help them accomplish and reach the dreams they might have,” is among her goals, Acosta said.
“I’m excited to be their resource and help them make connections wherever they plan on going afterward.”
Acosta’s previous coaching stints include assistant positions at Millennium, Paradise Valley Community College and Scottsdale Community College. She has also served as head coach at Banat, a youth soccer club, and, last season at Phoenix’s Maya High School.
As a member of PVCC’s coaching staff in 2012, Acosta helped the team go undefeated and win a national championship. Last year, she guided Maya to the Canyon Athletic Association state title. And she did so in an unusual way.
Acosta coached the men’s and coed team, the latter of which won the state title. She said it is uncommon for a woman to coach a men’s team, and that it presented its own difficulties.
“I feel like soccer is soccer, but earning respect from males was a little more challenging,” she said.
She earned the respect she sought by spending a significant amount of time playing with them during practices. And she said she believes those experiences will ultimately improve her coaching of females.
“After that, I feel more confident coaching women wherever, especially at a college level,” she said.
Acosta’s experience and success has led her to the young, but improving, program at AWC. The coaching position unexpectedly became open after Alexia Poon departed for another coaching position despite coming up just one game short of reaching last year’s women’s national tournament.
AWC Athletic Director Jerry Smith hired Acosta because he believes she can take the program to the next level.
“We’re looking for someone who can move our soccer program forward,” he said. “We felt that she’s at a point in her career where she’s ready to do that. I think people are really looking forward to having her join our family.”
Before Acosta began coaching, she played prep soccer at Millennium and then collegiately at PVCC and ASU before spending a couple of seasons on a semipro team. She demonstrated versatility by playing three positions: center fullback, midfielder and forward. She believes her varied experiences as a player translate into coaching.
“I played at almost every level previously,” she said, enabling her “to say been there done that, here’s how I did it, and help the girls to do that.”
Perhaps the greatest obstacle Acosta will face at AWC is not something that can be diagrammed on a blackboard or drilled on a field. More than transitioning to a new position, she is transitioning to a new community.
“The most difficult part of (the relocation) is leaving my family because I’ve never left them,” she said.
With recruiting underway and players reporting on August 2, the professional and personal adaptations will have to come soon.