NAUGATUCK — Lisa Mariano found out quickly what is required to be a high school soccer varsity head coach.
In 2010, Mariano drove to the field for her first practice as head coach at Watertown High only to find there were no soccer balls.
“We had no equipment,” Mariano recalled with a chuckle. “I had to figure out how to run a practice with 62 girls and no soccer balls.”
Mariano, 35, said it was a “double-session” practice that day. After the first session, she drove to get soccer balls and ran a successful practice later in the day.
“It truly gave me an understanding of how much I had to do and what I was responsible for,” Mariano said.
She caught on fast. Her Watertown teams won five straight Naugatuck Valley League titles.
Now, she’s returning home to coach at Naugatuck High School. Last week, the Board of Education appointed Mariano to be the next girls varsity soccer coach.
A week after the announcement, Mariano talked about her coaching experience and how life comes full circle. A 1998 Naugy grad, Mariano was an All-State and All-New England soccer player, and went on to play collegiately at Stony Brook.
Her coaching career has spanned all levels. She started as an assistant coach with a premier team, then became a volunteer assistant at Naugy under Pat McGinley. She became junior varsity head coach at Naugatuck when Jose Sendra took over the program.
She remembered her first few experiences in the huddle with her team listening intently.
Mariano built her knowledge base coaching freshmen, junior varsity and varsity players. Each level brought a “diversity” of teaching moments, she said.
“It was a little scary,” Mariano said. “You have to make sure you can explain something in a way they can understand and make it a driving force to make someone succeed.”
Mariano’s teams have succeeded. During her five seasons as head coach of Watertown, the Indians compiled a 78-19-6 record to go along with their five league titles.
She spoke highly of Watertown’s administrative staff and players, who in her words “were supportive from day one.” However, when the opportunity to return to Naugatuck and run the varsity soccer program surfaced, Mariano seized it.
“I was sad to leave Watertown,” Mariano said. “But, it was time to go home.”