Former YC Soccer Player Is A Champion On And Off The Field
Written by Nancy Schafer
Yavapai College’s former defender from 2002 and 2003 was just inducted into the NJCAA Hall of Fame.
The young man from Oregon wasn’t quite sure what he was going to do after high school. His strength and talent revolved around a black and white ball, which he hoped would bring him a college education. Having played soccer from the time he was 4 with the support of his parents, Mark and Karen, and his two brothers Corey and Matt, he continued to excel in his sport throughout high school in Oregon. With his excellent playing, Josh Westermann assumed that he could nail a good scholarship to pay for his college years. However, only partial scholarships had been offered until that fateful day when he was approached by Mike Pantalione and Hugh Bell from Yavapai College who could offer him close to a full ride at Yavapai College.
Those two years in Arizona gave Josh the opportunity to nurture his passion for soccer while discovering his passion for Jesus Christ. As Josh tells it, through the professional program and high standards required of the YC players by Pantalione and Bell, the team was able to capture two national championships (2002 and 2003). He recounts that those years were “two of the best years of my life.” Not only was it an exciting time with the back-to-back championships, he also enjoyed the community support and the academic environment in which faculty, teammates, and coaches made him feel at home in Prescott, Arizona.
Yavapai College became the stepping stone in the continuing pursuit of his two passions. As Josh puts it: “God was leading the way.” He went on to play soccer for Gonzaga University in Washington and graduated in 2006. During his junior year summer, he played for AIS, Ambassadors in Sport, a Christian organization that sends soccer players around the world. And, indeed, since graduating, Josh has played around the world from Cleveland to Nairobi, from Salem, Oregon, to South Africa. And everywhere he has gone, he has been able not only to play professionally but also to reach out to local youth and communities through the soccer ball. He has played soccer in the streets and in prisons. He has coached, lead clinics for youth, and prepared prisoners for success outside of prison walls. All of this came about because of two special years in the Yavapai College soccer program. He recounts that he experienced some incredible adventures in Africa both on and off the field. With the passion for soccer running high in those nations, he has seen riots on the field, and he has seen lives touched on the streets filled with poverty and sometimes violence. “Something as simple as a soccer ball breaks down all cultural barriers.” Josh has seen that sports can be a powerful tool to overcome adversity and to communicate love.
While Josh was playing soccer professionally in Kenya in 2010, mutual friends introduced him to his future wife Amy, who was teaching at an international Christian school. Theirs became a whirlwind romance when Josh blew out his knee and had to return to the US for surgery. After they married, they settled back in the States, and Josh began to coach soccer in various venues and at various levels, from high school to youth clubs to community college. While coaching the women’s team at Cochise College in Arizona in 2011, he began pursuing his Masters in Sports Management online from Liberty University. At this time, he was offered the job as assistant coach for the men’s and women’s soccer teams at San Diego Christian University. Once he and Amy settled in the San Diego area, he also took up opportunities to support soccer in the local area. Now he is not only the head coach for the women’s team and assistant coach for the men, he is also the assistant director for the Liverpool Soccer Club, overseeing 30 local teams and coaching boys. Amy is teaching kindergarten at a local school, and they are expecting their first child in July.
As a fulltime coach, Josh pulls from his experiences both in Africa and in Arizona. Following Pantalione and Bell’s example, he views coaching as an opportunity to pour into the lives of his players. He leads by example and wants to promote character development, determination, and faith in his players. His wife Amy says he has a soft heart but expects the best from his players. When asked about his advice for Yavapai College players, he replied, “Yavapai College is a “fantastic opportunity.” He thinks future players shouldn’t take their opportunity for granted: “Give it everything you’ve got. Stick with what matters and don’t get distracted.” He feels players should pursue their academics with just as much dedication as their sport. He added, “Don’t get discouraged at first while honing your skills if you aren’t getting the playing time you hoped for. The work, time, and patience will pay off in all areas.”