New head soccer coach Tony Minatta is no stranger to the Iowa State soccer program.
Minatta served as an assistant coach for the last two seasons, helping the Cyclones to their first 10-win season in 2012 and serving as the interim head coach during the team’s first Big 12 Tournament appearance since 2007 in 2013.
For many collegiate coaches, the path to becoming a head coach is, well, solely through coaching. However, Minatta’s path had a few more detours than most. Detours where he managed restaurants, visited 23 different countries and even became an infantry squad leader in the Marine Corps, but we’ll get to that shortly.
Minatta, who grew up in Fort Collins, Colo., was immersed in soccer throughout much of his life. His father is listed in the Colorado Youth Soccer Hall of Fame and the Fort Collins Soccer Club bears his family’s name on the entry way. With soccer being the family sport, Minatta was an avid player his whole life.
Upon graduating from high school, Minatta embarked on a path outside of the soccer world and decided to join the United States Marine Corps at age 19. In the Marines, he would go out at sea for six months at a time as a member of the Marine Expeditionary Unit. The stint at sea allowed him to see 23 different countries by way of the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Pacific Ocean.
He was appointed to be a squad leader after a short time and attained the rank of sergeant, a rank that he affectionately named his pet English bulldog after, who he says “is pretty famous around Ames.”
“I would say that’s where I really learned about leadership, was being in the military,” Minatta said. “I was an infantry squad leader so I understand what it is to have a regiment-disciplined training ground to get a group of individuals ready tactically, understanding what they need to do individually and as a unit to attack an objective.”
After wrapping up four years of service in the military, Minatta returned home and enrolled at UNLV to pursue a bachelor’s degree in English. Minatta spent time working at restaurants. It wasn’t long after he began working in the restaurant business that he was promoted to managerial roles.
Shortly after college, he returned to Colorado to coach at the Fort Collins Soccer Club. For about seven years Minatta led club teams and coached for the Colorado Olympic Development Program (ODP). Minatta was the head coach for seven Colorado state girls’ teams during his five years as a part of ODP and was a member of a regional coaching staff from 2010-11.
He also helped place nearly 40 former players on Division I college soccer teams across the country, including seven on the Iowa State roster. Minatta was also the club coach for five of the 11 starters on the 2013 Cyclone team.
When Iowa State was looking for its next head coach they didn’t have to look far, as Minatta, who was named the interim head coach, fit the bill for what they were looking for. If you spent any time with the soccer team it was clear to see Minatta had earned the respect of the team, respect which he gained through his leadership and people skills.
The new position left Minatta thrilled that he and Sergeant are able to continue to call Ames home. After all, Sergeant is “pretty famous around here.” But, don’t get too excited Cyclone fans Sergeant still won’t be attending any soccer games, citing a ‘No Dogs Allowed’ policy at the Cyclone Sports Complex.
On a more serious note, with Minatta now holding the reins of the Cyclone soccer program, he may have one of his greatest leadership tasks before him, but he says he is up for the challenge.
“Over the past two years, getting to know the players on the team and seeing how hard they work and what they can accomplish, in addition to the support that’s provided by the administration, the athletic department, and the fan base, it is just an incredible opportunity to be able to hopefully give something back to all of those people,” Minatta said.
One of his early goals is to establish a sense of consistency across the board in training, practicing and in the expectation level for the program.
“Ultimately for the program I want us to have a level of consistency where we’re able to achieve success year after year, and one year doing well isn’t necessarily an aberration,” Minatta said. “I want us to be a team that year in and year out is considered for postseason play.”
It may be safe to say we haven’t seen the best the Cyclone soccer program has to offer, the only downside is we have to wait all the way until August to see them in regular season action.