Cyclone soccer coaches share passion, love for game


Courtesy photo: Eric Bentzinger

Married partners Wendy Dillinger and Chris Sellers serve as coaches for the women’s soccer team.

Cory Weaver

Some stories start exactly where you think they should.

“You could probably say that soccer is the thing, because we both had a mutual friend that we got set up for, on a blind date for her wedding, and that was the end of that, or the beginning of that,” said Chris Sellers, assistant coach for the soccer team. He also doubles as the husband of coach Wendy Dillinger.

The duo has been coaching together at Iowa State since Dillinger arrived in 2008, but it wasn’t the first time they were on the sidelines together.

“We coached together for six years at Washington University and St. Louis, and before that coached together for a couple years in club at Indiana, so it’s kind of like an old shoe,” Dillinger said.

Prior to coaching with Dillinger, Sellers did some coaching on his own, not only in soccer, but other sports as well.

“I coached high school in Bloomington, Indiana, for six years, and then I coached high school in St Louis for six years,” Sellers said. “I coached a lot of swimming in both St. Louis and Indiana as well.”

When it comes to coaching the Cyclones, the married partners have different roles that are equally as valuable to the team.

“I do more of the Xs and Os, where he does more of the team managing and administrative stuff,” Dillinger said. “He is very good though about organizing and streamlining information that we give the players.”

“He’s a teacher, so he does a very good job of taking everything we’re teaching in training and putting it on paper in a way that’s easy for them to read, understand, and just sticks with them better.”

Sellers is a science teacher at Hoover High School in Des Moines and said that makes him that much better of a coach.

“I think the best teachers are the best coaches,” Sellers said. “You look at who the successful coaches are and they are also good teachers, and you look who the good teachers are and they are the great coaches, because I think it’s just a different subject.”

Senior co-captain Jordan Bishop has played under Dillinger and Sellers since their arrival, and said the teaching aspect allows Sellers to relate soccer to other aspects of life.

“[Sellers] kind of brings in this academic style, because he’s a teacher, and how you can apply it into the world and makes it relate to us a little differently,” Bishop said. “[Dillinger] just has so much knowledge about the game, and passion. They both have a ton of passion.”

For spectators at Cyclone soccer matches, Sellers can be easily spotted walking up and down the sidelines full of energy.

“On the field, [Sellers] is a lot more lively and intense with his emotions on the sideline during games, and in practice as well,” said freshman forward Jennifer Dominguez.

Along with the different coaching styles, Dillinger and Sellers have different areas of expertise, too.

“I think [Sellers] helps out with Ben [Madsen] a little with the keepers and defensive side, and [Dillinger] has more of the attacking kind of mindset, so they kind of balance each other out that way,” Bishop said. “He’s definitely the one who’s up in your face and tells you how he sees it.”

Whether it’s soccer or swimming, reading or writing, Sellers said it is important to have passions in common for a relationship to work, and that is one of his favorite parts about coaching as a pair.

“The best thing about it is being able to share that passion, and I think that’s something that, in order for a relationship to be successful, you have to have similar passions,” Sellers said. “I have X amount of passion, and I can spread it over teaching and chemistry and math and soccer and swimming, and hers is pretty much family and soccer, so it’s nice to be able to share that passion.”

Dillinger and Sellers have two children, Braydon and Kayla, and with a pair of collegiate college soccer coaches so passionate for the game, their children might have a career in soccer as well.