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Former Western soccer standout brings winning touch to collegiate coaching
J. P. Sousa '98

J. P. Sousa built a reputation as a skillful and successful soccer player during his career at Danbury High School and WCSU during the 1990s, and for more than a decade he has been sharing his experience, knowledge and passion for the sport with a new generation of youths engaged in club and collegiate competition.

From the beginnings of his coaching career with youth soccer clubs in Connecticut and northern Virginia, Sousa has relished getting back to the basics and gaining a deeper appreciation for the sport he has played since his own childhood in Danbury. The 1998 alumnus, who emerged as a top goal scorer and standout forward during his two seasons on the Colonials, received his first taste of coaching with the Eastern Football Club in Greenwich while he was completing his studies for a bachelor’s degree in political science at WCSU. Since 2004 he has directed the women’s soccer team at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., compiling the highest winning percentage of any CUA coach in the history of the team.

“I found that I loved teaching simple skills and tactics to young players, and enjoyed seeing them grow as players and people each season,” Sousa observed. “I’ve taken that same approach to my teams at Catholic over the past eight years. Soccer is a simple game: I challenge the young women at CUA to do the simple things well, to become better athletes physically, and to understand the game so that they can adapt to anything another team tries to do against us.”

During his eight seasons as head coach, Sousa’s CUA Cardinals have achieved a combined record of 96 wins, 48 losses and 12 ties, including bids to compete in the NCAA Division III national tournament in 2005 and 2009. CUA’s qualification to compete in the Landmark Conference championship game in November marked the Cardinals’ sixth post-season appearance in the past seven seasons.

“The greatest challenge is always being able to get all 26 players on the roster to get on the same page for a successful college season, but I’m proud to say that we’ve been able to do that at CUA every year,” he said. “Making it to the conference championship game in three of the past four years has been a lot of fun, and conference title wins that took us to the NCAA tournament in 2005 and 2009 were great highlights.”

Sousa traces the spark that ignited his love of soccer to his play for youth clubs in his hometown, from his start with Danbury PAL soccer to fiercely competitive league play with Eastern FC in Greenwich.

“Danbury was always a great soccer community, and I was fortunate to be part of some very good Danbury High School teams from 1990 to 1993,” he recalled. A three-year varsity starter, two-time all-conference team selection, and area-wide top goal scorer during his senior year, Sousa contributed to Danbury High School teams that won three consecutive conference titles, reaching the state high school soccer finals in 1991 and semifinals in 1993.

After transferring from George Mason University to WCSU in 1996, Sousa became a scoring leader for the Colonials and during his senior year played a key role in the team’s drive to the Eastern Coast Athletic Conference New England region tournament. But what he treasures most from his playing experience at Western are the lessons he learned from two role models for his future coaching career:  Wayne Mones, men’s soccer coach from 1988 to 2003 and now a member of the WCSU Athletic Hall of Fame;  and Joe Mingachos, Mones’ coaching assistant during Sousa’s junior year and head coach of the Colonials women’s soccer team since 1997.

“Playing my junior and senior years at Western made me appreciate the game more, and showed me the value of sharing my passion for soccer, and sports in general, with younger players on my team and youth players in the area,” he remarked. “I got the itch to coach while I was at Western, and I can thank Wayne Mones for that. He let me see how a college program operates, and I always knew I could do things to help a soccer team improve both on and off the field.”

Sousa attributes a special debt of inspiration to Mingachos, his forerunner in pursuing a coaching career.

“I have tried to emulate what Joe Mingachos has done over the years as a college soccer coach,” Sousa said. “We both grew up in Danbury from similar family backgrounds, and we both played at Danbury High and Western — even though he was a much better player than I ever dreamed of being!

“Then he took over the women’s team at WCSU during my senior year, and he has turned it into an amazingly successful program,” he noted. Mingachos’ lifetime coaching record of 243 wins against 64 losses and 21 ties includes nine NCAA tournament appearances and qualification in 2007 for the NCAA Division III Final Four.

“When I was offered the chance to coach the women at Catholic University in 2004,” Sousa recalled, “Joe was one of the first people I contacted for advice.”

Sousa has maintained diverse roots in pre-collegiate youth sports, serving over the past 12 years as a coach for girls and boys soccer clubs in several youth leagues in northern Virginia. He holds a master’s degree in education with a concentration in school counseling from George Mason University, and an advanced regional coaching diploma from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. He resides in Fairfax, Va., with his wife, Suzanne, and son, Cameron.

Drawing from his own experience as a player and a coach, Sousa advises young athletes that their participation in a sport will yield benefits far beyond their success in competition.

“The lessons learned from being on a team will help them to become better people as they enter adulthood,” he observed. “They will find that it’s valuable to keep a balance between academics and sports throughout their high school and college years.

“The experiences with teammates are what you will always remember,” he added. “Trust me, you don’t remember all the wins and losses. Sure, you may remember a great goal scored or a big win for a championship. But it’s the everyday experiences of being with friends and colleagues on the team that make the overall experience that much more meaningful down the road.”

 

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