Soccer player, coach and teacher has much to juggle


Nicole Rodriguez has acquired the ability to balance all the activities going on in her life.

Rodriguez is a 27-year-old World Language teacher at Castle View High School who will be starting her fourth season as the girls soccer coach this spring.

And she's on the national women's soccer team for Puerto Rico and is now spending time training to be ready when called.

“Playing is fun, but I have to work,” said Rodriguez. “Balancing the training and the working and all that is hard at times.”

Her parents were born and raised in Puerto Rico and Rodriguez has aunts and uncles who still live on the island.

Rodriguez was born in Connecticut; attended Notre Dame, where she played soccer; and then she played international soccer for GC Honka in Finland and for Durham in England, where she received a master's degree in intercultural communication.

Players on Puerto Rico's national team have been working to improve poor conditions for women, and there is a new president of the Puerto Rico Football Federation. However, the organization is still disorganized, and no friendly matches have yet to be scheduled for this year.

The next World Cup will be in 2023, and World Cup qualifying is set for 2022. Olympic qualifying was held four months ago but Puerto Rico did not qualify.

“There's six or seven who have been playing together since we were 19,” said Rodriguez. “That core group wants to make it as far as possible in World Cup qualifying. They are extending the groups for the next World Cup and at that time I will be 29. So that will kind of be our last go-round.

“We want to make sure that we leave soccer in a really good state when we are done so that the girls who are growing up won't have to go through what we went through.”

World Cup qualifying was held in 2018 and Rodriguez missed a couple Castle View games, but her assistant coach Madison Atherton stepped up to help.

“I was gone for 2 1/2 weeks and I missed our first two rounds of playoffs,” recalled Rodriguez. “My assistant coach is really awesome. The girls never complain and they understand that I probably only have a couple years left and I want to make the most of it.”

Besides teaching and preparing for the upcoming Castle View season, Rodriguez trains with Renee Balconi and practices four times a week with the Real U19 Development Academy team.

“My teammates and I always joke that we have to be ready and we are always training,” added Rodriguez.

She is also anxious for the spring season for the Castle View girls team to start.

“They know I have really high expectations and I also think they respect those because they know I am not asking them to do anything that I can't or won't do,” said Rodriguez.

“For example, I run a lot of their fitness with them. They know I am not asking them to do something unreasonable that isn't going to help them. I'm willing to do that with them and Maddie does too. We both run all the fitness and jump into drills and show them how to it. I have a lot to learn but right now I'm allowing my playing to be the teacher for me.”

Honor roll

Each week, performances of South Metro athletes and teams will be highlighted. This week's performances were selected from games, matches, meets held between Jan. 3 and Jan. 9.

Ty Doan had a goal and assist as the Heritage hockey team built a 3-0 lead and held on for a 3-2 win over Battle Mountain on Jan. 6.

Cherry Creek had five players score in double figures, led by Jana Van Gytenbeek's 19 points, in a 78-47 girls basketball win over Cherokee Trail on Jan. 8.

Landon Boyd had a goal and assist while Simon Herz collected two assists in Chaparral's 4-1 hockey victory over Valor Christian on Jan. 6.

Payton Muma and Taylor Ray each scored 12 points to help Highlands Ranch post a 50-24 girls basketball win over Pine Creek on Jan. 7.

Douglas County senior Tim Broom scored 25 points, had six rebounds, six assists and seven steals in a 83-58 boys basketball triumph over Chatfield on Jan. 7.

Jim Benton is a sports writer for Colorado Community Media. He has been covering sports in the Denver area since 1968. He can be reached at jbenton@coloradocommunitymedia.com or at 303-566-4083.

Jim Benton


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