By Josh Beavers
Minden High School has announced the hiring of Melissa Escalante as its new girls soccer coach.
Escalante is from Costa Rica and will also teach Spanish. A former college soccer player, Escalante speaks three languages fluidly and will be an asset to the Minden staff.
As we have done with many new coaches this summer, the Journal sat down the Escalante for a one-on-one interview.
1. What motivated you to become a high school coach? Can you share a little about your background and previous coaching experience?
Soccer has always been a major part of my life. Coming from Costa Rica, a country where soccer is very big and important in the culture, it is hard not to love the sport. I began playing with my cousins when I was 4 and eventually joined the school team when I was 6. I played all throughout preschool, elementary, middle, and high school, participating in 6 international tournaments representing Costa Rica. Not only did I play for my school, but I also played for the biggest club in the country, Deportivo Saprissa. There, I had the opportunity of playing professionally.
In 2019 I came to the USA with a soccer scholarship to attend college. My experience as a student athlete was highly rewarding, and I even had the experience of winning the conference tournament with my team.
After graduating I knew that I wasn’t ready to leave behind something that means this much to me, and that’s where my desire to become a coach began growing. As I previously mentioned, I was a student-athlete all through high school so, I know that there’s a lot of experience that I can bring to the team – and most importantly, I will understand the players because I was in their position not too long ago.
2. What is your coaching philosophy, and how do you plan to implement it with this team?
I am committed to helping my players grow and develop skills that will be useful beyond soccer. Also, building team unity and a safe environment where the girls can love the beautiful game.
3. What are your primary goals for the team this season? Are there any specific areas or skills you plan to focus on developing?
My primary goals for the team this season include building a family, increasing the soccer IQ of the players, and creating both a safe and fun learning environment. I am a firm believer that team bonding activities are extremely important, because at the end of the day, a team that is not united and doesn’t see each other as family, will have a harder time becoming successful.
I plan to focus heavily on conditioning and passing too. The tiki-taka is my favorite style of play due to its effectiveness, and that’s where the importance of accurate passing comes in play.
4. How do you plan to build a strong team culture and foster a sense of camaraderie among the athletes?
Team bonding activities are vital for a successful team. Also, I want my team to have values and behaviors that align and to maintain an open line of communication. Finally, respect will be extremely important as well. One of my favorite quotes reads, “The greatest feeling in the world is when you’re on that soccer field, and you know that your team is going to succeed because you look around and see your 10 best friends playing beside you” and I want the players to feel this way.
5. How do you plan to balance academics and athletics for the student-athletes under your guidance?
I am aware of how important balancing academics and athletics is. Luckily, during all the years that I was a student-athlete, my coaches always encouraged me and my teammates to put as much effort to school as we put in school. Personally, as a coach, I want my players to put school first because they are firstly students and then athletes. Creating and maintaining a safe space with all the players is highly important because I want them to open to me as a coach if they’re struggling in a certain class so that this way we can, together, find resources to help them boost their grades up.
6. How do you handle the pressure of coaching and the expectations that come with it?
Firstly, by trusting my coaching abilities and the knowledge I have in the sport. Secondly, it is important to not let that pressure affect my work or affect me – I understand that it is hard for everyone to agree fully with a coach and their decisions, so I won’t let that affect me because I know that at the end of the day, I’ll be coaching to the best of my abilities. And lastly, I like maintaining an open line of communication so that the school, the parents, and the community can know that this is a team that will be working hard to meet expectations and excel during the season. My door will always be open if someone has a concern regarding the team.
7. How do you plan to involve and engage parents and the wider community in supporting the team?
It is important to give them a good show so that they can enjoy of a high performance from the team. This will, hopefully, make more people come to watch our games. We also want more visibility, and this can be achieved by engaging in community service as a team.
8. How do you plan to measure success for the team beyond wins and losses?
Soccer is a sport that allows us to grow as individuals, it helps develop skills that are not measured by victories or defeats. If my players can develop camaraderie, this will be a win. We must also develop resilience to fight harder after losing games, which can affect us, players, enormously. Being resilient is a very important life skill that I want my team to develop so that it can help them beyond the sport and beyond the wins and losses.