German-native Nicolas Reinhard looks to steward a new era of DWU women's soccer
After a successful playing and coaching career at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Reinhard looks to add his stamp to the Dakota Wesleyan womens soccer program
MITCHELL — Dakota Wesleyan’s new women's soccer coach, Nicolas Reinhard, is not someone who shies away from a new opportunity, no matter what is or where it takes him.
Like many children that grow up in Europe, Reinhard, a native of Heiligkreuzsteinach, Germany, grew up with a dream of playing professional soccer, and after a successful youth career, eventually playing in the highest German youth league for the German Bundesliga U19 team, he was closing in on an opportunity to do just that.
But after finishing high school, Reinhard had to make a difficult decision.
“I had to decide whether to go to school or play soccer because in Germany it is not combined,” Reinhard said. “I decided to come to the United States so I could do both.”
Reinhard decided to come to the United States to play for the Trevecca Nazarene University mens soccer team, an NCAA Division II program in Nashville, Tennessee. After a successful career there, he joined the Trevecca coaching staff as an assistant coach for the next three seasons.
Now, his next role will be as Dakota Wesleyan’s womens soccer coach, taking over the Tigers' head coaching role for the 2022-23 season.
“I am really excited to be a part of the Mitchell community and get to submerge in it,” Reinhard said.
Coming to America
As mentioned, Reinhard always wanted to be a professional soccer player. However, once that dream came closer to being a reality, the real-world implications of the decision to pursue a professional career weighed on him heavily.
“Once you finish high school, you have to decide ‘am I going to study or am I going to go pro?’ ” Reinhard said. “For me, it was too risky to go pro, get injured and then not have a degree.”
That led to Reinhard weighing his options on how to come to the United States to play for a university on scholarship. He connected with an agency that helps European players connect with coaches in the US, and he said that led to several offers across all three NCAA Divisions and NAIA programs.
He eventually landed at Trevecca Nazarene, joining the men's team there. And while he was a successful player in Europe, Reinhard said the American soccer competition was nothing like he expected.
“There is a stereotype in Europe that American soccer is not as good,” Reinhard said. “That’s not the case, it's just different.”
Reinhard said he expected to come in and dominate like many Europeans do, but the physicality that American soccer players bring to the game was a big adjustment for him.
Over his four years in the program, however, Reinhard would find his stride. He ended his career in Nashville with 17 career assists, tied for the program record, along with 61 career points and 22 career goals, both the second-most in program history.
Transition to coaching
After the completion of his college career, Reinhard transitioned into an assistant coach on coach Danny Leavy’s staff. That made for an interesting dynamic as Reinhard was now a coach to many of the players he had played with for years, but he said that familiarity helped him out.
“They thought it was really enjoyable to play with me and that I played at a really good level, so they actually wanted to listen to what I had to say.”
As his former teammates started to leave the team, that dynamic changed, and Reinhard would eventually accept more roles on the coaching staff, eventually taking over as the head coach of the TNU reserve team.
Reinhard said he really enjoys the responsibility of being someone that young soccer players can look to for guidance, and sees himself more as a steward than just a coach.
“All of those players that I will coach, they all have a family that loves them a lot, and I am the only person they can trust to take care of them,” Reinhard said.
Landing at DWU
According to Reinhard, the Dakota Wesleyan job opened up at just the right time as he started looking for a new role. He had a previous relationship with DWU’s mens soccer coach, Brady Van Holland, as the two had met when Van Holland was a coach at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. When Reinhard saw the women's soccer job had opened at DWU, he contacted Van Holland, who helped set up the interview process.
There were plenty of things that impressed Reinhard about DWU. He had really gotten along with athletic director Jon Hart, which put him in the right mindset to pursue the opportunity. He was also impressed with the state the women's soccer program is currently in.
“Usually as a coach, when you transition into a new program, its because the previous coach wasn’t that great or the atmosphere was toxic,” Reinhard said. “I have the honor of taking over a program that’s completely healthy
Even the rural atmosphere was a plus for Reinhard and his family. His hometown in Germany is very small, while his wife had grown up on farmland in East Tennessee her whole life.
“We are kind of ready to transition back from city life to a little more calmer area,” Reinhard said.
Most importantly, Reinhard is looking forward to meeting his new players and getting to work with them. He has spoken with most of the returning players and the incoming players, but he is really looking forward to getting to implement his style at DWU.
“I’m not going to come in there and completely change the program because it was already healthy before I was there,” Reinhard said. “I will just take the good parts and add some of my parts to it.”