NAUGATUCK — With 11 Naugatuck Valley League titles in the last 15 seasons, the Naugy boys soccer team has developed a winning tradition. It has also attracted All-American athletes to come back to the program.
Brian Mariano, now in his sixth season as the team’s assistant coach, and Ryan Kinne, who spent time with the team this fall, have both mentored the Greyhounds as they prepare to make another run in the NVL and state tournaments this year.
“It’s been invaluable to the team,” said Naugatuck head coach Art Nunes, now in his 18th season. “The experience that they have, as a player you have to trust them that they have the right plan, and know that they’ll get you where you need to go.”
Mariano has been back with the Greyhounds since 2007 after earning All-American honors as a diver at Indiana University. Kinne, an All-American soccer player at Monmouth University, returned to the borough this fall after playing professionally with MLS’ New England Revolution.
Kinne, who set the school record with 79 goals at Naugy, continues to train to get back into professional soccer, and attended several games and practices, Nunes said.
“It was great to have Ryan around the team,” Mariano said. “He’s played at the collegiate and professional levels and he sees soccer on a whole different level.”
Nunes said the team appreciated Kinne’s instruction.
“He’s been very positive and reinforces the good things,” Nunes said about Kinne, who scored 35 goals in 77 games in college. “Ryan also showed them the things that weren’t working. He got his points across to them and they listened.”
Mariano was an All-NVL, All-State and All-New England player for the Naugy soccer team as well during his senior season in 2001. After earning a diving scholarship to Indiana, Mariano collected All-Big Ten, Big Ten Diver of the Year and All-American honors.
“He’s very intelligent when it comes to process of preparing for a game and working to become better,” Nunes said of Mariano.
Mariano caught the coaching bug while working an Indiana summer camp for young athletes. After college he connected with Nunes, who offered him an opportunity to coach.
Perhaps the first step to becoming a good coach is understanding that one doesn’t know everything, which is something Mariano admits.
“Coming out of college, I thought I knew quite a bit about coaching,” Mariano said. “And when I finally got into coaching I realized that I didn’t know a darn thing.”
Mariano now coaches tennis and diving, as well. He said he appreciates Nunes, who has offered plenty of coaching guidance.
“Every day I learn something new around Art,” Mariano said.
Nunes said that both Kinne and Mariano have provided another perspective to players during an important time in their lives.
“That experience that you have at 15, 16, 17 years old, you don’t realize how it important it is until you sit back and think about it later in life,” Nunes said.
The Greyhounds finished the year 11-3-2 overall, 11-2-2 in the NVL and 6-2 in the Copper Division after a 2-1 loss at Torrington Wednesday. The win earned Torrington the Copper Division championship. The NVL tournament starts Saturday.