Being the head coach of one college team is already quite the feat. It is a role that brings a lot of pressure for success, both on and off the field. As the head coach, you are largely held accountable for your teams’ achievements as students and athletes.
For Las Positas College men’s soccer team head coach Andrew Cumbo, being in charge of one team was not quite enough. Still hungry and up for a challenge, Cumbo did not think twice as the opportunity arose to take on the role as the head coach of the women’s team, late in the fall of last year.
“I have experience with this coaching model. I did it at the NCAA Division II level at Humboldt State (for five seasons),” Cumbo said. “I still very much love the game and I love being a coach. So, after a couple of weeks of research and talking to my family, I decided that I was up for the challenge.”
Cumbo was in charge of both of the Humboldt State Jacks soccer teams for five seasons, from 2004 to 2008. In that time, he coached both teams for a total of 200 games and won 88 of those, while also breaking program records and guiding multiple of his student-athletes to individual accolades.
During his tenure in charge of both teams, Cumbo led the men’s team to three top-six regional rankings, while personally picking up the Conference Co-Coach of the Year award in 2005.
On the women’s side, in 2006, his team tied the program record for most wins in a season (13), which was initially set under Cumbo’s watch back in 2003.
In addition to the on-field team accomplishments, Cumbo has also guided a total of 60 players to All-Conference selections and 15 student-athletes to receiving All-Academic honors.
If there was ever any doubt that Cumbo was the right choice to take both program’s forward, those statistics should be of some reassurance.
But what exactly is it that makes Cumbo a suitable fit for coaching both teams simultaneously and at a high level?
He puts it down to the balance that he has been able to find between his coaching style and his personality off the field, something that he was able to take from his SUNY-Plattsburgh coach and mentor, Chris Waterbury.
“He (Waterbury) is one of the most successful soccer coaches in the country, but more importantly he is one of the most likeable and funniest people I’ve ever met,” Cumbo said. “He showed me it’s possible to be extremely competitive but also be able to care about the people around you.”
“So, now personally, I am a player’s coach. I am honest, approachable and I really do care about my players, on and off the field,” Cumbo continued.
“I take my craft seriously. I like to teach and present a vision of teamwork and discipline, but I also like to laugh. I also like to work directly with players and it’s important for me that they know that I care about them as people.”
Cumbo’s wife, Susan, who is also a part of the kinesiology faculty at Las Positas, credits her husband’s ability to manage both teams to his passion for the sport and his players, as well as being able to separate his life as the coach from being a husband and father.
“He’s very knowledgeable about the game, he is very organized and he really cares about all of his athletes,” she said. “With that being said, when he’s at home, he is a great husband and father. He is very laidback, thoughtful and funny, and helps out a lot. So, I’m excited for him to be coaching two teams again.”
Cumbo realized early in his playing days that he enjoyed working with young people and helping them to get better. And so, he has been working towards perfecting his craft from a young age, beginning in high school.
“We had the chance to work with younger kids in our community during different sport clinics and camps,” Cumbo said. “Through these experiences, I was pretty sure that I wanted to be some type of a teacher or coach once my playing career was over. I always enjoyed giving back to the game and the youth.”
Cumbo has managed to achieve both of those goals, as besides reaching the playoffs three times in as many years in charge of the men’s soccer team, he also holds a master’s degree in kinesiology and teaches classes at Las Positas.
In his three years as head coach of the Hawks men’s soccer team so far, Cumbo has continued developing Las Positas as a winning program, compiling a record of 35-19-14.
And just like at Humboldt State, Cumbo has also been doing his fair share of guiding players to off the field successes as he has overseen three All-American selections and six transfers to the NCAA level in his time at Las Positas so far.
One player who has the most recent experience of what it is like to play under Cumbo is sophomore Ali Amin, a former two-year player at Las Positas.
Amin saw himself go from an All-Conference second team selection in his first season, to being a leader and one of the first names on the team sheet last season under Cumbo. In an interview with the Express, the forward had nothing but praise for Cumbo’s impact on his overall development and his college career so far.
“He (Cumbo) is a great coach, and you can feel that he truly cares about us and our success, not just in soccer but in life in general,” Amin said.
“On the field, he has really helped me with the mental aspect of the game. If there is one thing I can take away from him, it is to never give up and to always play each game as if it’s your last.”
While looking back at his time under Cumbo, Amin also looked ahead to his former coach taking on the dual role next season.
“I’m super excited for him,” Amin said. “I know that he will bring his knowledge and ability to read the game to the women’s team and continue to be successful on both fronts next season.”
Cumbo is currently in the middle of spring training with both teams as he makes the transition back into dual coaching, and Hawks women’s freshman forward, Araceli Hinojosa, took a moment to reflect on how the preparations for the upcoming season have been going under the new head coach.
“Practice has been very helpful under him,” Hinojosa said. “He is very clear on what he wants and is very good with constructive criticism that is meant to benefit the way we play.”
The Hawks women’s soccer team were a regular season powerhouse under former head coach Paul Sapsford, who stepped down at the end of last season. But despite the coaching change, Hinojosa believes that the team will be able to continue their success in the fall.
“I am personally very excited for the new season,” Hinojosa said. “From what I have seen at practice, we will be a strong, well rounded team that plays with a lot of heart.”
The next step for both Hawks soccer teams now, is to make a push in the playoffs after solidifying themselves as strong regular season performers.
But despite a couple of first round exits the last time around, Cumbo is confident that both teams are on the right track to improving in the post-season in the near future.
“We just need to be good enough to beat teams when it really counts,” Cumbo said, looking ahead to the fall. “So, the day to day work on our fitness and quality is really important, and constant improvement will be our ultimate goal.”
“I have scheduled the best opponents I could find for our non-conference play, and the conference schedule gives us a chance to secure automatic berth and the experience of competing for something before the post season begins,” Cumbo continued.
“All of those factors should help us prepare and be more likely to be successful in the playoffs and make it deeper into the tournament.”