From frontlines to sidelines: Minatta’s leadership translates through coaching

Soccer coach Tony Minatta stands with his dog tags and his Navy achievement medal at the Iowa State Soccer Complex Tuesday Oct. 7. Minatta served in the Marines before taking the coaching job at Iowa State.

Trey Alessio

With uncertainty out of high school, Tony Minatta didn’t know what he wanted to do after he graduated.

As a kid, Minatta always enjoyed playing with army men and playing “war” with the other children in Fort Collins, Colo. He was always drawn to the military.

“I ended up, in a very roundabout way, enlisting, and went to the Marine Corps the spring after my senior year of high school,” Minatta said.

He spent four years as an Infantry Marine, 13 months of which he spent at sea. When Minatta got back to America, his father, who was the head of the soccer club at Fort Collins, asked him if he wanted to coach a soccer team.

“For me, I missed the camaraderie and the leadership of being in the Marine Corps,” Minatta said. “I was an infantry squad leader, so I was to train my team to go out and fight in combat, so [soccer] was a great outlet because I was now training a bunch of kids to be able to play soccer to take the field and compete.”

Minatta used soccer as a way to remain in a leadership role. He said one thing led to another, and he kept climbing the ladder and ended up at Iowa State. Minatta served as an assistant coach for the Cyclones for the past two years, and this year he took the reigns as head coach.

As head coach, Minatta wanted to implement some qualities that were instilled in him during his time as a Marine. Toward the beginning of the season, Minatta took the ISU women’s soccer team to Camp Dodge in Johnston, Iowa.

Camp Dodge is a military installation and also serves as the Iowa National Guard headquarters. During its time at Camp Dodge, the women’s soccer team was put through a series of activities involving obstacle courses to focus on leadership and communication.

“While we were there, we were given kind of an obstacle course and a set of parameters, and we had to figure out how to get past the obstacle,” said sophomore Koree Willer. “Sometimes only one person could talk, so there was a focus on that and problem solving as a team. I really enjoyed it.”

Sophomore Madi Ott said Minatta’s military background affects his coaching in a positive way.

“He’s tough and hard on us, which you’d expect out of a Marine, but he knows the right buttons to push to bring us together — the ones to motivate,” Ott said. “We all have a lot of respect for the things he did while he was in the Marines.”

Willer and Ott are both from Fort Collins, Colo., so they have been associated with Minatta for a long time, and they both have been shaped as soccer players through his leadership.

“I think his truthfulness is really what has helped me grow — honesty about where I’m at, if I played well or if I didn’t and knowing what he’s telling me is going to be how it is. I think that’s helped me grow a lot,” Willer said.

Minatta still teaches some military techniques that he learned in boot camp in his practices. He said it’s a lot about discipline, structure and being regimented.

“For me, the structure, discipline, all of those things lend to you being successful, so I implement a lot of that into what we do as a team,” Minatta said.