Originally published in the March/April 2020 issue of Soccer Journal, this is a short Q&A with Nicole Hercules, Chair of the Black Coaches Advocacy Group.
Tell us about your coaching history.
I started working with “Flower City Soccer,” an inner-city soccer program while I was in high school. A coach in the league asked me to come out and work with a group of kids because it was important for them to see someone who looked like them, who was being recruited to play in college and played for the local W league team.
After working with a group of kids, I spoke with the players. One of the girls, with a vibrant personality, was curious about how I could be black, play soccer, and be offered a full scholarship to play soccer in college. She asked me where I was from, since in her mind I was from Canada “because black people in America don’t play soccer.” As one of the only persons of color on most of my soccer teams, I understood why she would think that. It resonated with me and I made a promise that I would create a program for inner-city youth after college.
After college, I was playing for the Rochester Rhinos when my assistant coach asked me to work with a local girls’ high school team. I formed the Rochester City Soccer League (RCSL), doing what I promised I would all those years ago. The RCSL is a league established for the purpose of providing a holistic enrichment to the lives of Rochester City youth programming including academic support services, tutoring and mentoring, college visits, and soft skills that are designed to enhance success in pursuit of higher educational goals. I am fortunate to have the support of our Mayor, City Council, City Recreation and the school district for my RCSL.
I own NMH Consulting where I work with Relevant Sports and BRC group on the “Champions Rise Here” clinic. Our mission is to provide access for black communities nationwide to first-rate soccer programming. Relevant Sports fully funded our program in 2019. I am blessed to have professional relationships with people who have allowed me to do meaningful work with communities that I love and want to impact.
I have been heavily involved in United Soccer Coaches; we started a Black Women’s Mastermind Group. I serve on the Election and Nominations Committee, and work with an amazing Advocacy Council. I have spent four years in the Vice Chair position under Daniel Gordon and Kendall Reyes, two of my mentors, and former Chairs for the Black Soccer Coaches Advocacy group. I am the Assistant Coach of the Rochester Lancers women’s team. I work with Caribbean soccer programs and serve on the United Soccer Coaches Foundation’s Urban Soccer Committee. I love that I get to create programs that I believe in and I stay energized in creating soccer environments where change can happen. I have too many mentors to mention, but I will start with my University of Albany Coach Keni Banda, Fierce female advocate of the Off the Bench Organization Earlina Yoder, United Soccer Coaches Foundation Committee member Michael Curry and Philadelphia Union Foundation Board Member Robert Smith. I am surrounded by brilliant people who also want to make a difference.
How did you get involved with United Soccer Coaches and the Advocacy Council?
The owner at an academy I was coaching at was telling me about the Convention and he asked if I had ever attended. At the time, I had never attended. We all went to the last Baltimore Convention in 2011 and as I was registering, I met the existing Chair, Daniel Gordon. He invited me to the Black Soccer Coaches meeting where he and Lincoln Phillips got everyone so fired up, that I got involved and haven’t stopped since. I was in that Vice Chair position through Daniel’s term and continued into Kendall Reyes’ term.
I enjoy working with every person on the Advocacy Council. There is an amazing energy when we all get together. The board has also been supportive. This association is invested in our group and we love and appreciate that demonstration of support. While there are things very specific to each individual group that must be addressed, we all recognize that we are a part of a much bigger puzzle.
What are your goals for this group and what are you currently working on?
We are concerned with the challenges that black coaches face in the sport of soccer, but recognize our strength and power as we work together as a solidified, supportive, and active group. In order to do so, we have established five strategic initiatives: 1) Improve our ability to get things done; 2) Increase representation of Black coaches in leadership roles; 3) Improve the actual and perceived value of our group and its members; 4) Increase the engagement and participation of our members; and 5) Improve communication frequency, delivery and impact. Our immediate efforts are focused on leveraging the momentum of the successes from last year and moving forward with improving our results. We want to create a pathway to leadership in our community.
What would you say to someone wanting to get involved?
Now is the time to join, our Advocacy Council is united like never before and there is strength in numbers.
Is there anything else that you would want to say to United Soccer Coaches members?
I am a proud member of United Soccer Coaches and would like more people to get involved. We had 100 people of all colors sign up to join our group at the convention. Our group is a family. Our mission is to promote the awareness of issues and opportunities for improving the participation of people of color in the game of soccer. We will continue to help identify, educate, develop, promote and support people of color into leadership positions within the soccer community.
We encourage United Soccer Coaches members to get involved with our advocacy groups. It is a wonderful opportunity to share ideas and cultural experiences, and learn from each other.
To learn more about United Soccer Coaches Advocacy Groups or to join a group, visit UnitedSoccerCoaches.org/Advocacy_Groups