By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
AJ Nash’s primary goal as first-year head coach of the McNary High School girls soccer program is to foster a family atmosphere. If the first day of practice was any indication, the Lady Celts might make his job easy.
“Today, we had a senior transfer student come out for the team. She fell behind in our run and two of the returning varsity players ran back a quarter of a mile to meet her and run with her the entire time until she caught up with the team,” Nash said. “It was awesome to see what it did for the three that did it, and for the team. They didn’t know who she was when they got here, but they do now.”
As tryouts progressed this week, Nash planned on weighing displays of character as a quarter of the overall factors in judging who will make the teams, but he said it will be even more of an element as the season unfurls.
“I want to listen to the assistant coaches and listen to the girls and allow them to make this program as fun as they want to make it. If we can have the reputation of having the most fun extra-curricular program, I think it will translate into wins on the field,” he said.
Nash takes over the program from longtime coach Miguel Camarena, who is continuing to lead the boys soccer programs, but demands of a larger nine-team conference forced him to take a step back. Nash has coached the Lady Celt junior varsity team for the past four years.
“Miguel leaves big shoes to fill, but it wasn’t feasible to do both with the travel,” Nash said. “Aside from creating a family, my only other goal is to carry on the legacy he has been building.”
Nash will start the season with a young team. The Lady Celts will field only one returning senior and a few juniors.
“I’m very excited about some of the freshman talent we have coming into the program, but all of them have an exemplary attitude that is going to help so much in being able to grow,” he said.
Nash, a Montana native and graduate of Willamette University where he played soccer for the Bearcats, hopes to impart some of what the sport gave back to him when all is said and done.
“Soccer gave me more life skills than any other single influence on my life: confidence, leadership, responsibility, accountability and the ability to work with others. I want to create a vehicle for these young women to learn the skills that make them a good student, a good friend, a good employee or even, one day, a good mom,” he said.