As SFA rings in a new decade this semester, it also welcomes the addition of new head soccer coach Tony Minatta. This change in staff comes after former head coach Wally Crittenden made the difficult decision to step back from coaching and accept a role in athletic administration.
Minatta, who previously spent six years as head soccer coach at Iowa State University, was chosen for the position in December after a nationwide search headed by Crittenden. He will have the spring to prepare his team for next season beginning in August 2020.
Minatta has been involved with soccer since childhood. Growing up in Fort Collins, Colorado, his father was the director of the Fort Collins Soccer Club, and he played on a club team throughout high school, planning to play in college as well. However, Minatta’s college plans changed when he felt the call to serve his country, so he joined the United States Marine Corps.
After spending four years in the armed forces, Minatta returned to Fort Collins and began to coach soccer there while attending college. He later transferred to the University of Nevada in Las Vegas and earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 2003.
After college, Minatta took up coaching again and eventually became the assistant director of coaching at the Fort Collins Soccer Club, gaining recognition as success as his teams grew. He also traveled to several different countries, including Brazil, Italy, Portugal, Belgium and Iceland, to hone his craft and learn more about the sport. Minatta went to Iowa State to work as an assistant coach and two years later, in 2013, was offered the position of head soccer coach
He spent a few years at Iowa State and enjoyed a fair amount of success with his team early on; but after that, the pressure to continue winning set in. Feeling that it was time for some changes in his life, Minatta decided to move on from Iowa State. He wasn’t sure what the future would hold, whether he would remain in the college soccer world or return to club soccer, but that uncertainty disappeared when he received a call from Crittenden, then- head soccer coach at SFA.
“I knew I needed a change from Iowa State, and then I got the call from Wally,” Minatta said. “We talked about it, I ended up putting my hat in the ring, and here I’m sitting.”
The call from Crittenden was by no means random. The two coaches have kept track of each other’s soccer careers for several years, and even earned their A License for coaching together in 2005. For Crittenden, after meeting with Minatta for the position, the choice was obvious.
“I just felt, and our search committee just felt that, when you met him, you knew who he was within five minutes of conversation,” Crittenden said. “By the time he left the room, you knew what he was about. It’s so important that you have an identity, and he certainly has that. I think his identity will fit in very well.”
For Minatta, accepting the position of head soccer coach at SFA was also a fairly easy decision. He believes that the timing was right, and all of the pieces fell into place for his transition from Iowa State. He is excited to start a new chapter by adopting the SFA Way.
“I felt like going into an environment like this where there’s a very strong tradition of soccer [and] would hopefully reinvigorate me,” Minatta said. “It really has. There’s been a lot of positive energy from everybody I’ve talked to. It just seemed like there were a lot of connections here for me, which is odd I guess, but then I don’t think anything happens by accident.”
Crittenden agrees that the timing of this transition couldn’t have been better. He had known for a while that he eventually wanted to step back from coaching and fulfill a different role in sports administration. He decided that 2020 was the year to make it all happen. His confidence in the program rests with both Minatta and the experienced players returning for next season.
“When you look at some things we’ve done in the budget, when you look at the facility, when you look at the returning senior class, we’re leaving the program in a better spot,” Crittenden said. “The coach in me wants to stay and coach another ten years, but the administrator in me says, ‘You know what? If there was ever a time
that we could really give this transition the best chance to be successful, it’s now.’” As someone who played for Crittenden and will continue to play under Minatta’s leadership, sophomore environmental science major from College Station and midfielder Ryka Shea is excited about the new perspective Minatta will bring to the team. She’s also anticipating the chance for growth and development as an athlete in the months ahead.
“I’m looking forward to a new start, a new challenge and the opportunity to prove to someone new the things we as a team can do,” Shea said. “I think that a new coach can really challenge us and set everyone straight on working hard.”
Though they all have different roles within the soccer program, Minatta, Crittenden and Shea definitely agree on one thing: the success of a team depends more on hard work than anything else. More than anything, he’s excited to show off the product of teamwork and perseverance next season.
“I can’t wait to get on the field to let everybody see the work ethic and the SFA way that we’re going to instill in the team over this spring,” Minatta said, “When they come watch us play, they’ll see a team that doesn’t quit, that works hard and is doing things the right way.”