Building for the future: Q&A with Moffat County soccer coach Nathalie Boelen |

Building for the future: Q&A with Moffat County soccer coach Nathalie Boelen

Nathalie Boelen and daughter Ellaclaire stand with the uniforms that will be used by the Moffat County High School boys soccer team this fall. Boelen will coach both the boys and girls teams in the sport, as well as teaching math at MCHS.

The faces of Moffat County High School sports teams continue to change this fall, and the newest coach for the Bulldogs is Nathalie Boelen, who will take over the school soccer program.

Boelen, originally from Georgia, will coach both the girls team in the spring and the boys this fall, replacing Rusty Cox as the head of both Bulldog teams. She has coached at multiple levels most recently living and working as a paraprofessional in Steamboat Springs.

Boelen is a single mother with a daughter named Ellaclaire and also will join MCHS as a math teacher. She has already begun hosting open practices, with official sessions starting Monday as all fall sports get into full swing.

Craig Press: What drew you to coaching and teaching for Moffat County?

Boelen: I moved to Colorado last year from Georgia, my brother lives in Steamboat, and we decided it’s better for my daughter for us to live in Colorado than Georgia. I had gotten out of coaching after she was born and was coaching rec ball when she was 3. I haven’t done any high school coaching in a while, but I can now that she’s 5. I was a para at Steamboat for Kristin O’Connor who used to teach here, and she told me I should apply for the teaching job. I heard the coach wasn’t coming back, and I told (Principal) Kyle York I really wanted to get back into it. I applied for the girls job and found out the boys job was open too, so I was offered both of them since I’ve coached boys and girls before.

I really want to build up this program. I heard there’s been a lot of turnover, and there’s no feeder programs here. Kids play rec ball until they’re in middle school and then there’s this gap with no ball unless they’re playing travel ball in Meeker or Grand Junction. If you’ve watched the World Cup, that’s the only time soccer is popular in this country, and I’ve played it since I was a kid, I got my daughter into it, and I want to build a program here. Since I’m still brand-new to Colorado, I know it’ll be a little different with rules, and I’ve never coached fall ball before. In Georgia, the boys and girls both play in spring, and I’ve done that before where I had to coach both at a school.

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What kind of experience do you have playing and coaching in the sport?

I played when I was in high school in Thomasville, Georgia and went to college early and played club ball since there wasn’t a college team there. For college, I started at Florida State and finished at Valdosta State, they have a really good education program. I played club ball at both since neither had a collegiate team. My senior year of college, I was doing my student-teaching at Thomas County Central and helped the soccer program there as a volunteer, and the athletic director offered me the head coach position for the girls when I graduated. I also built their middle school program since they didn’t have one then.

We went from being third or fourth in the region and then the first year I was there, we pulled them up to the final eight in the state and first in the region, so I got Coach of the Year. I didn’t stay there very long, because they wouldn’t let me teach high school. I was coaching high school but teaching middle school because I was 20 when I graduated and the high school kids were 18 or 19.

What do you believe is the most important step in rebuilding the Moffat County soccer program?

I think that if I get players onboard and parents onboard, that we can build a program here. I’ve heard there’s a lot of talent here, and it’s just getting them together to play as a team that’s what’s going to be important. I already talked to the boys, had a meeting with them, and told them yes, I’m a female, but I know the game. I might not be able to outrun you, but I might be able to out-school you with the ball, my ball skills are still pretty good. I just think the program needs somebody that’s going to be here. We’ve had coaches come in and out, in and out, and you can’t build a steady program if you don’t have somebody here.

What do you look forward to most about the teaching part of the job?

I’m a teacher at heart, I’ve tried to leave teaching, and I can’t. I’ve taught 17 years. When I was a para in Steamboat, it was a totally different ball game, but I’m glad to be back in the classroom, have my own class, my own kids and the soccer program to build.

What are important elements to emphasize for teenage players?

The most important thing is teamwork. At the rec level, kids play “me ball.” Yes, when you put “team” backward you can get “me,” but that drives me crazy. Yes, we might miss some scoring opportunities because I’m not setting you up front, but we’re playing as a team. Responsibility and grades are big, too, and I’ve always been a firm believer that if you can’t hack it in the classroom, you can’t hack it on the field. I don’t want to take you away from class. Some of the boys have said, “Oh, you teach math! We need tutors!” And I thought, “Well, good.” On the way to a game on the bus we might be doing homework so we can keep their grades up. I definitely want to do study hall for soccer players to come to at least once a week. Soccer and sports can get you out of your community and into college, but grades are more important than that.

Any other commentary on the start of a new era?

I’m brand-new to this here, but I’ve been in soccer for years. I love soccer, it’s done a lot for me, kept me in shape. It’s a great team-building sport not an individual sport. The win goes just as much to the goalie as it does the person who scored the winning goal. I want to build that here, build a community and show the soccer program is something to be proud of and something to support.