Play It Forward

Making it work

Felician alums and former soccer teammates bring their experience to the high school varsity coaching level.

Brittany Lohman of Nutley and Amanda Mottola of Secaucus first met nearly a decade ago, when they were teammates on the Meadowlands United Soccer Club. They went on to play together for two years at Felician College, where they were a part of the renaissance of that school's women's soccer program.

This fall, Lohman, 25, and Mottola, 22, again made soccer news together. The pair of Felician graduates is among the youngest varsity high school head coaches in northern New Jersey. Lohman is beginning her second season as the girls' soccer coach for the Becton-Wallington co-op squad, while Mottola recently ascended to the same position at her alma mater, Secaucus High.

Both former four-year starters on defense for the Golden Falcons, Lohman and Mottola have received much praise from their soccer mentors for their potential as coaches. As fall practice heats up, they are looking to take advantage of the rare opportunity they have been afforded. 

'Motivated and upbeat'

Former Felician women's soccer coach Erin Fitzgerald recruited both Lohman and Mottola for the Golden Falcons. She says Lohman showed the characteristics of a successful coach early in her college career.

"Brittany was always a curious player," Fitzgerald said. "She would always ask questions and seek options as to how a situation could or should have gone differently. She is competitive and wants to win, but is also motivated and upbeat about soccer and will instill that in her players."

Lohman, a 2009 Felician graduate, credits her Nutley High experience for fueling her passion and tactical and technical ability as a developing player. In college, however, her inspiration and her first opportunity to coach came from a unique source – Patrick Snyder, the Felician men's coach at the time. Snyder hired Lohman as a club coach, which led to eventually being tabbed by Wallington as a boys' assistant after graduation.

Lohman obtained an elementary special education teaching position at Gavlak School in Wallington, and an opening emerged on the boys' soccer staff. Wallington High director of athletics Jim Branick has no regrets about hiring her for that position or recommending her for her current coaching job.

"You don't see too many women coaching boys' JV soccer," Branick said. "There are always concerns on how the boys will react to a female coach, but that was never an issue with Brittany. Right from the start you could see that the players respected her. Brittany inspired the players to work hard in practice, play as a unit, and enjoy being on the soccer team. So once the Becton/Wallington head girls position became open, it was clear she was the best person for the job."

'Hard-nosed and coachable'

Mottola, who graduated from Felician in 2011, did not see coaching in her future when she left the Rutherford campus. But after helping with the Rutherford youth travel program, she landed the JV and assistant varsity girls position at The Dwight-Englewood School for the 2011 season.

Fitzgerald believes that, while coaching may not have always been in Mottola's blood, she could easily see Mottola having success in her new role.

"Amanda was a hard-nosed player who always gutted it out," Fitzgerald said. "She was also very coachable. She will teach her players to be tough and work hard."

Mottola was part of the growth of the Secaucus High program, as the team went from 0-18-1 her freshman year to reaching the state tournament as a senior. She continued to follow the program during her college years, and when the varsity position became open, she says a handful of her former administrators and teachers convinced her to apply and recommended her to new athletics director Charles Voorhees.

Apparently, Voorhees did not need much convincing.

"Amanda was one of the best student-athletes that ever graduated from Secaucus," he said. "She had the passion, dedication and work ethic that set her apart from the rest. We are lucky to have her as our coach."

Link to the original story on the athletics website.