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From the Pitch - Take a Chance

By Staff, 04/05/22, 1:30PM EDT


Take a Chance

Author - Julie Carlson
Nicole Lukic
Head Coach, Minnesota Aurora FC
April 5, 2022

There is a saying that goes “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” As I reflect on the last 10 years of my career, I think about all the amazing opportunities I’ve been lucky enough to have. More importantly, I think about how grateful I am for my many wonderful peers, colleagues, and mentors who prepared me along the way.

My coaching career started while I was playing collegiately at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Once my on-field career ended, continuing to coach felt like the natural progression. When coaching, I remember thinking how cool it felt to be on the 'other side'. Coaching never felt like work to me, which led me to think - maybe I should do this.

So, I took a chance. I took an assistant coaching position with the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

When I arrived at La Crosse, I was disappointed to learn that only recreational soccer was offered in the area. Of course, I was happy that kids were playing soccer, but I wanted to coach competitively while also making an impact on the local youth.

In 2015, the soccer gods blessed me by dropping a soccer club in my lap. Not only did they give me a recreational club to turn competitive, they gave me a Rush Soccer franchise and a 52-acre soccer complex. Talk about luck. Of course, these so-called soccer gods were actually the people who I would work tirelessly with to build what is now the Rush Wisconsin West Soccer Club.

From 2015 to 2018, every second of my life was spent focused on soccer, I even completed my USSF B License. In 2017, a level of sanity was reached. UWL and Rush WI West put together a unique partnership to form one combined position. I would stay on as 51% Assistant Coach/Assistant Director of Athletic Facilities and 49% Director of Coaching of Rush WI West and be eligible to receive those banging UW system benefits. ‘I made it,’ I thought!

Also in 2017, I was introduced to Rush Soccer’s Rush Select Program. The Rush Select coaches were experienced, thought differently than I did, and pushed me to see the game in a different way. A few would become lifelong mentors and friends, having greater imapcts on me than they will ever know. Eventually, they would give me a chance have a leadership role in the program - so I took it.

After six seasons with UWL and over four years as Director of Coaching with Rush WI West, everything came to a halt. Both entities approached me and offered me full-time jobs respectively. I did it. Two full-time positions were established. The future of soccer in La Crosse was bright - but what about my future? Ultimately, I chose the club because I felt my work was not done yet, there was still too much left to accomplish.

During 2019 with my focus narrowed down to Rush WI West and Rush Select, I started accomplishing club and personal aspirations quicker than ever before. I completed my US Grassroots Instructor License and found a new passion for mentoring beginner coaches. I started feeling satisfied with the progress the club was making. We were a real competitive club I thought, we have a rhyme and a reason. Now instead of building, I can focus on improving quality.

I then realized I had experienced everything in La Crosse that I possibly could have and needed a change to continue to grow and develop. I loved the Rush system and did not necessarily want to leave. So to put it briefly - Twin Cities Rush was born and thus my adventure back to metropolitan soccer began.

Like most of us, I am most successful when I am passionate about what I am doing. It wasn’t long after the move that I learned of the Minnesota Women’s USL W League Team. I constantly watched the website for updates on the coaching staff until one day the position was posted. I read the head coach listing over and over. I convinced myself I was a good fit for this position. I love building and this needed to be built. The opportunity spurred so many hopes and thoughts on my mind.

This position is perfect for me.

Too good to be true.

How lucky would I be.

These thoughts continued for months while I waited, and I did interviews, and I waited. I called my mentors over and over who told me to relax until one day my phone rang and Minnesota Aurora FC was calling me.

I am a builder. I am excited to have the opportunity to build youth and pre-preprofessional soccer in the Twin Cities area. I am looking forward to all the new experiences I will gain in the USL space. And all the new connections I will make. I know I am here today because of the people who have helped build me. And I know my journey of building soccer in the Twin Cities is just beginning.

From The Pitch aims to provide a platform for individuals within the USL to share their thoughts on things that matter most to them – at the crossroads of life and the beautiful game. USL partner Bellevue University is committed to empowering motivated students to explore their passions, impact change in their communities and chase their dreams.

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