Just like any soccer player, Andres Pedraza’s feet were his main tool for playing soccer, and, now, he uses them while coaching the game.
Pedraza, the new women’s assistant soccer coach, started out playing soccer in the streets of Colombia.
“I started playing soccer in the street, and that’s how I started loving the game and getting pretty close to it,” said Pedraza.
Pedraza’s first opportunity was presented to him at the age of 15 when Argentinian coach Mario Vanemerak saw him playing and asked him to practice and play with his team.
“I practiced with his team in a club on a regular basis, and I went with him to Argentina and played there for a few months,” said Pedraza. “None of the clubs there gave me sponsorships, so I went back to Colombia, and I played in Brazil as well.”
Following this new experience, Pedraza was unable to play for a while because of an injury. That was when he had the chance to come to the U.S. and play four years of soccer at the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky, while he pursued degrees in journalism and Spanish.
When he finished his journalism degree, he applied for different graduate assistant jobs. His first job was at Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where he led goalkeeper sessions and coached the field players over an 18-month period.
“There was a lot of progress there,” said Pedraza, as he helped guide the team to their first-ever regular season conference championship.
As a player-turned-coach, Pedraza found it difficult to transform from athlete to coach at first. He made sure to always present himself to the players in a way that they could trust.
“When you’re a player, you’re a little selfish sometimes as you always seek self-improvement more than team improvement,” said Pedraza. “But as a coach, you make sure the team works more as a unit, and you want all your players to improve and do well.”
Pedraza made sure he utilized his journalism degree while he coached. He took advantage of social media to build a connection between the team and their families and friends.
“I always posted photos and videos, which are an important part of journalism, to create that bond,” said Pedraza. “In the future, I hope to somehow combine his journalism skills with his love for soccer.”
Pedraza’s next opportunity was at NSU. Although he has only been at the school for a month, Pedraza feels that his experience with the women’s team has been positive so far.
“I truly believe that they’re a great group, and I’m looking forward to seeing them play in the fall,” said Pedraza.
As a coach, the concept of teamwork and being successful is extremely important for Pedraza. The way he accomplishes both of these points is through respect and being positive.
“This always proves to be effective because you can always tell them what you think, but you have to tell them in a respectful way,” said Pedraza.
His constructive feedback works hand-in-hand with his positive coaching style.
“I give them advice so they can get better because our goal is not to criticize them in the end. You can’t just go negative on them,” said Pedraza.
Although there are many similarities between coaching men and women, Pedraza was able to explore both worlds and discover the differences through his experiences.
“Men are always in their own little world, and they’re all about themselves, but with women you can see that the relationships are definitely better,” said Pedraza. “You can see that how they try and push hard just for the team and for the coaches.”
Through his positive work ethic and equality with the players, Pedraza tries to establish a stronger relationship with the young women on the team and be their role model as a coach.
“I’m always trying to find a way so that everyone has a role in the team,” said Pedraza. “I show them that I value their time, and I respect their efforts.”
Being a superior motivator is an important part of being a coach. That is why coaches get together sometimes and play with the athletes to transfer the positive energy vibe to them on the field.
“I motivate them by giving them examples and good arguments,” said Pedraza.
On his part, Pedraza gets his motivation from his goals in life and by reminding himself constantly of why he chose this career.
“My goal is to become a better coach each day and to expand my knowledge and apply that knowledge,” said Pedraza.
Pedraza mainly lives with the philosophy of following his dreams and expanding his knowledge to achieve his goals.
One of the main things he had to learn as a coach is dealing with different kinds of people and their personalities.
“Communication is key between the coach and the players, and the next big thing is being able to motivate them,” said Pedraza.
When Pedraza is not running on the soccer field, he likes to spend his time off reading news from around the world.
“Other than that, I’ve been able to go to Colombian restaurants down here, which I haven’t had the chance to do before because there wasn’t much diversity like there is here,” said Pedraza.
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