By Nancy Cawley Zugschwert, ’19 M.A.
Colette Montgomery, head coach of North Central University’s women’s soccer since 2018, has been promoted to a full-time role on the Rams Athletics staff as Manager of Soccer and Head Women’s Coach. Her new responsibilities will begin July 1.
According to Athletic Director Travis Whipple, M.S., creating the Manager of Soccer role was a strategic decision to enhance the student-athlete experience and at the same time continue to grow enrollment for North Central University. “The Senior Leadership Team and the Department of Athletics have been working collaboratively on this plan for months,” Whipple said. “All involved realized the tradition of soccer at NCU and the potential that both teams had to grow enrollment, connect with the community, and serve as a rallying point for all constituents.”
Whipple is enthusiastic about Montgomery serving in this new role. “It was clear that Colette was such a great fit to continue as our head women’s coach and also manage soccer operations for both programs,” he said. “She is an outstanding leader, a great administrator, and someone who goes above and beyond to enhance the student-athlete experience.
According to Whipple, Josue Hurtado has been tapped to step into the men’s soccer role following Brian Li’s departure to focus on his role as CFO at North Central. “Colette and Josue make a great team,” Whipple said, “and will effectively advance the mission of NCU soccer.”
Love of the game
A native of England, Montgomery brings an abundance of coaching and sports administration experience to her new position. She has served as Director of Coaching for the Edina (Minnesota) Soccer Club since 2004 and as a Program and Development Leader for the Edina Soccer Association during that same time frame. She pursues soccer excellence through training and has attained advanced levels of coaching certification through the U.S. Soccer Federation and United Soccer Coaches. Montgomery is a U.S. Soccer Grassroots Instructor, credentialing soccer coaches across the region with the U.S. Soccer Grassroot Licenses and the U.S. Soccer D License.
Montgomery’s love of soccer began in her own backyard. In the community of Doncaster where she grew up, girls’ sports soccer options were not readily available, so she didn’t play on an organized team until the age of 14. Her next-oldest brother (she is one of seven children) likes to take credit for her soccer skills. He was a good player, and they constantly played in their yard.
A global, accessible sport
One of Montgomery’s favorite aspects of the sport, to this day, is that soccer can be played anywhere and is a sort of universal language. “It doesn’t matter where you go. Soccer is a language; it’s a culture; it has so many varieties,” Montgomery observed. “There are so many ways and styles that you can play it, be involved in it. But I could go to any country and put a soccer ball out there, and we’d have that instant connection through the game. It’s a sport that’s accessible to many because there’s not like a one size fits all—you can be tall, you can be small, you can be fast—and really encapsulates a lot of different types of people.”
After she began playing on teams between the ages of 14 and 16, Montgomery knew that soccer would be a lifetime sport for her. Before coming to the United States, she was serving as a sports development officer at a sports college when she received a call out of the blue one day inviting her to do a coaching internship in Rochester, Minnesota. Thrilled at the opportunity to go overseas, Montgomery spent the summer of 2003 in Minnesota, having no idea that within months she would receive an invitation to return to Minnesota and oversee coaching for the Edina Club. She served in that role for 17 years and just recently resigned to accept the new position at North Central.
Montgomery’s journey to North Central also came unexpectedly. The previous men’s head coach from NCU, who she knew from the soccer community, shared her background information with the NCU Athletic Director, who reached out and encouraged her to apply for the women’s coaching position. While she was still thinking about it, she got a call from the North Central Athletic Director, who also encouraged her to apply for the job. Feeling like her background might not be “academic” enough, Montgomery was hesitant, but she put her hat in the ring and landed the Head Women’s position in 2018—and she has loved it.
Part of the reason Montgomery loves her North Central role is because of the spiritual emphasis of the school and the athletics program. “I am a member of an [Assemblies of God] church and passionate about the Holy Spirit,” she said. “A Spirit-filled, Bible-believing environment is just a perfect fit.”
Montgomery’s eyes light up when she speaks of the players she has worked with the past three years at NCU. “We have amazing young adults at North Central,” she said emphatically. These young women come from many different backgrounds and experiences, and we’ve had a lot of fun together.” She believes it’s important to encourage players to enjoy the game. She explained, “If someone is not enjoying playing, then I’m not sure why they’re playing. It doesn’t matter what level you play at; the enjoyment factor has to be there.”
Beyond just having fun, Montgomery pointed out that ultimately the goal is to experience joy. “We’ve tried to create a culture of joy, knowing that our circumstances are not what we focus on. But it’s the joy in the Lord that’s going sustain us and maintain us through the ups and downs—and we need the adversity to grow and be challenged.”
Back to normal
After the highly unusual season of 2020–21 due to COVID-19—a partial fall season that was cut short and a handful of games played in the spring—Montgomery and the coaching staff are looking forward to a return to regular play, as well as re-entry into the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA). “Our men’s team were NCCAA national champions in 2018,” Montgomery said, “and our women’s team were the North Central Region champions in 2015. “Competing in the NCCAA is part of our history and legacy; our student athletes are looking forward to returning to that level of competition.”
Players will return to campus in early August. Schedules will be available soon at ncurams.com.
From the time Montgomery started coaching the women at North Central University, she felt that part of her job was to lay a foundation. “The last three years have been really just a laying of a foundation for what’s to come,” she said. “At the beginning, I was having a conversation with the Lord about this. I said to Him, ‘I know I’m supposed to lay a foundation, but what if I’m not here?'” She perceived His answer was clear: “That’s not your job right now; just lay the foundation.”
She is now seeing tremendous maturity and growth in the team and is anticipating great things for the women’s team and the soccer program as a whole. “I believe we’ve had the most success because the character development and forming in these young adults’ lives have been absolutely amazing,” Montgomery said. “I’m excited to see where God’s going take them in the future.”
One of the themes Montgomery has identified for the entire program—men’s and women’s—is the word “victorious,” quickly adding that it’s “Kingdom victorious. Now we have built such a firm foundation; we’re rooted and grounded in who we are and who God is. I believe we’re going to be able to carry the weight of success in what that looks like, on the field and off the field, too.”